DNR proposes to liberalize fishing on Lake Gogebic and other waters

Anglers will be able to keep smaller walleye on Lake Gogebic. Photo Skye Marthaler, Wikimedia Commons.

Anglers will be able to keep smaller walleye on Lake Gogebic. Photo Skye Marthaler, Wikimedia Commons.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, MI – Anglers who enjoy fishing for walleye on Lake Gogebic in the western Upper Peninsula, will be able to keep some smaller ones if proposed rule changes are approved by the Natural Resources Commission in November. Anglers could keep two 13 to 15-inch walleyes as part of their daily bag, under the proposal. The current rule is five 15-inch walleyes.

“This is going to allow anglers to keep a couple. It satisfies those who want to fry up the skinny ones,” says Phil Schneeberger, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Lake Superior Basin Coordinator. “They can fish and come in without being empty-handed.”

The change was requested by anglers and resort owners, according to Schneeberger. The say Lake Gogebic doesn’t produce many 15-inch keepers. The 13,300-acre lake in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties is popular for perch, walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass.

But Lake Gogebic is also “unique” Schneeberger said. Its geography and geology, essentially a stone basin filled with water, “makes it very unproductive.” Walleye abundance varies greatly from year to year.

Stocked in past

Lake Gogebic was stocked by the DNR in 1979 with 600,000 walleye fry. Private parties have since stocked several hundred thousand fathead minnows, according DNR records. Allowing anglers to keep a couple smaller fish daily will reduce “the biomass,” Schneeberger said, in turn leaving more food for those that remain. The proposed change is not expected to have any detrimental effects.

“That’s been a problem since the early 1900’s when walleyes were first put in there,” Schneeberger said. “There isn’t a lot of food produced for them to eat and grow on…“People were catching a lot of walleye and were not able to keep them. That frustrated anglers and resort owners who were trying to promote the fishery as part of their business.”

Thin them out

The NRC is expected to act on the proposed rule change in November. The Lake Gogebic change is one of 11 proposed for warm water species on select waters. Each is designed to allow anglers to take more fish home and reduce the number in the lake.

“The goal is to thin them out,” says Tim Cwalinski, senior fisheries biologist for DNR’s Northern Lake Huron Management Unit. “We want to liberalize harvest where with pike, for example, the 24 inch size minimum size limit and two-fish bag is not appropriate.”

Other proposed warm water rule changes include:

  • Reducing the minimum size limit for muskellunge in the Tahquamenon River and its tributaries in Luce County from 42 inches to 38 inches. DNR surveys show pike are very abundant but few reach the legal size.
  • Adopting a 24 inch to 34 inch protective slot limit for northern pike on Sand Lake in Montcalm County. Anglers will be able to keep pike smaller than 24 inches and larger than 34 inches. The current minimum size is 24 inches.
  • Removing the regular 24 inch, two-fish minimum size and possession limit for Northern Pike on Lake Lavine in Branch County. Anglers will be able to keep any pike they catch.
  • Allowing anglers to keep up to five northern pike daily with only one allowed over 24 inches on the following waters: Paradise (Carp) Lake in Cheboygan/Emmet counties; Pickerel, Kimball, Emerald and Sylvan lakes in Newaygo County; Susan Lake in Charlevoix County; and Orchard Lake in Presque Isle County.

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© 2015 Howard Meyerson

Appears in Michigan Outdoor News.

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