By Howard Meyerson
Trout anglers headed out for the 2015 fishing season can now keep 7-inch brook trout caught on any of Michigan’s Type 4 trout streams. The Natural Resources Commission approved a new regulation in April reducing the minimum brook trout size limit from eight inches to seven inches on those waters.
“The change was more of a housekeeping regulation for simplification,” said Troy Zorn, a research biologist at the DNR’s Marquette Fisheries Research Station. “These Type 4 streams are often the lower reaches of rivers that are too warm for trout. They are primarily streams with Great Lakes runs of fish, and brook trout and brown trout fishing is a minor component.”
The change affects 130 Type 4 streams where the brook trout MSL will now be consistent with Type 1 streams, the majority of trout waters in Michigan.
It was one of several changes approved by the commission for trout waters. The NRC also gave the nod to more restrictive brook trout regulations for nine Upper Peninsula streams where efforts are underway to restore coaster brook trout populations. It approved establishing “adfluvial brook trout restoration areas” on these Marquette, Houghton and Baraga county rivers: Big Garlic, Big Huron, Little Huron, Pilgrim, Ravine, Silver and Slate. The Portage/Torch Lake system in Houghton County is also included.
Anglers fishing those waters can catch and keep brook trout from the last Saturday in April to September 30, but the minimum size limit for brook trout, splake and lake trout was increased to 20-inches, with daily possession limit of one. Anglers have been able to catch five, eight-inch brook trout until now. The restrictive rules were modeled after those tried in Minnesota, which protected brook trout and allowed them to grow to trophy size.
“We’ve had very positive feedback about the rules,” said Zorn, who authored the proposal for more restrictive regulations on those waters. “Now we hope we will have good compliance by anglers and tribal anglers.”
Coasters were once abundant in Upper Peninsula streams. They are lake-run brook trout that can grow to 25-inches. They disappeared by the late 1800’s due to overfishing, logging and habitat loss, according to a Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s plan for rehabilitating Lake Superior brook trout. Michigan and other Lake Superior states and provinces have been working to restore the populations.
“Minnesota put those regulations in place in 1997,” Zorn said. “After five years they didn’t see much, but after 10 years they started to see larger brook trout. They had coasters by 2007. By 2013, they had legal 20 inch fish they never saw before – and it was exciting. “
Splake and lake trout were included in the regulation to simplify enforcement, according to Zorn. Neither species typically swims into the streams.
“The splake and lake trout size limit was 10 inches,” Zorn said. “In the fall they can look very similar to brook trout. We don’t anticipate that anyone will catch a lake trout or splake in these rivers, but an angler (keeping a 10-inch brook trout) can say he thought it was a splake and the ticket would be thrown out of court. This is strictly an enforcement thing.”
Anglers can also keep 10 brook trout on three new waters that were added to the state’s list of Upper Peninsula experimental brook trout streams. The daily limit for brook trout on each was doubled from five per day to 10 per day. The streams are part of the ongoing DNR Fisheries Division experiment to determine how 10 brook trout limits affect Upper Peninsula brook trout populations and fishing pressure. Those waters are: Bryan Creek in Marquette and Dickinson counties; Presque Isle River and its tributaries in Gogebic County; and Rock River and its tributaries in Alger County.
© 2015 Howard Meyerson
This story appears in Michigan Outdoor News.