MADISON, WI. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is preparing for its annual Spring Hearings, including proposed rules and regulations concerning the state's fisheries and wildlife populations. The DNR plans to offer 28 fisheries rules change proposals, one fishery advisory question, and nine wildlife rules change proposals.
The Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) usually releases its ballot of advisory questions ahead of the hearings in January but has decided to delay until February this year. Kari Lee-Zimmerman, the DNR's liaison to the WCC, said this was done due to the current pandemic.
The management of walleyes has been a problematic issue for the DNR for many years due to natural recruitment declines and high levels of exploitation.
In 2015 there was a regulation change that implemented a three walleye daily bag limit in ceded territories - essentially, northern one-third of the state - followed by another regulation change for Winnebago System that adopted a three walleye/sauger daily bag limit across six southeastern counties (Kenosha, Racine, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha). However, other areas still have five walleye daily bags with 15-inch minimum length limits since 1949.
Recent public opinion surveys by the DNR suggest great concern about increasing angling pressure on walleyes in regions where bag limits remain at five per day. This has led DNR staff to propose a three-fish daily bag limit of walleye, sauger, or hybrids on all inland waters except Lake Michigan (including Green Bay), Lake Superior, or the Mississippi River. Thus they create consistent statewide regulations for sport fishing enthusiasts.
In addition to this rule change, DNR wants to extend the muskellunge season from May 1st through December 31st to provide additional opportunities for anglers in northern Wisconsin while reducing delayed mortality due to exposure during ice fishing.
It also seeks to apply musky trophy regulations - 50-inch minimum length limit with a daily bag of one musky - on several sections of Wisconsin River; Turtle-Flambeau Flowage; and several Waukesha County lakes including Pewaukee, Okauchee, Oconomowoc, Fowler and Lac LaBelle which currently have a 40-inch minimum length limit on muskies.
Despite all these proposals being released ahead of Spring Hearings 2023, it is important not to assume any rule changes are inevitable as they still need approval from authorities before being put into practice.
The DNR encourages people who care about these issues to participate in upcoming hearings so their voices can be heard and considered during decision-making. As such, this year's spring hearings input will likely be a step along the way towards potentially many new rules and regulations affecting the fishing industry in Wisconsin state.