DNR looks to make changes to lake trout harvest limits in 2019


    Anglers fishing for lake trout on Grand Traverse Bay in 2019 will soon have new regulations to follow. (Photo Courtesy: Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

    MICHIGAN (WPBN/WGTU) -- Changes could be coming to the lake trout harvest limits in 2019.

    The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said the changes are coming due to the fact that the 2018 harvest limit for lake trout in the Grand Traverse Bay was exceeded in 2018.

    Before the DNR is able to propose any changes to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, they are inviting the public to learn about options during a meeting.

    Due to strong public interest in the issue, the DNR changed the meeting location Wednesday, March 6. The public meeting will now take place from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the East Bay Township Hall, 1965 North 3-Mile Road, Traverse City.

    According to the DNR, lake trout harvest limits in 1836 Treaty-ceded waters are determined by the treaty tribes, the United States and the State of Michigan each year.

    Records show the state recreational harvest in Grand Traverse Bay reached 93,000 pounds, which is exceeding the set total allowable catch of 77,200 pounds, in 2018.

    “When either the state or the tribes exceed harvest limits by more than 15 percent, there is a penalty the following season,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “Under this scenario, recreational anglers on Grand Traverse Bay this year will be required to reduce their catch by nearly 32,000 pounds.”

    To accommodate that required reduction for the 2019 lake trout fishing season, the DNR is considering three options:

    • Allow the Grand Traverse Bay fishery to be open June 15-Sept. 2 with a 15-inch minimum size limit, and a two-fish daily possession limit. (Estimated reduction: 30,900 pounds)
    • Allow the Grand Traverse Bay fishery to be open July 1-Sept. 30 with a 15-inch minimum size limit, and a two-fish daily possession limit. (Estimated reduction: 31,400 pounds)
    • Allow the Grand Traverse Bay fishery to be open May 25-Sept. 2 with a 15-inch minimum size limit, and a one-fish daily possession limit May 25-June 30 and a two-fish daily possession limit July 1-Sept. 2. (Estimated reduction: 27,400 pounds)

    Officials said fishing methods have moved beyond trolling and now include casting and jigging.

    According to Heather Hettinger, a DNR fisheries biologist who works out of the Traverse City Customer Service Center, this strong fishery, combined with increased interest in bass and cisco fishing, means more anglers are targeting lake trout.

    “Therein lies part of the problem,” Hettinger said. “Lake trout released by anglers do not survive well. In fact, research suggests that 41 percent of those returned to the water won’t live to be caught another day. That’s why catch-and-release data collected by DNR creel clerks and reported by charter captains is incorporated into ‘allowable catch’ calculations.”

    Anglers can directly improve the state’s ability to stay within lake trout harvest limits in Grand Traverse Bay by targeting other readily available fish species or stopping their fish outing after reaching the daily possession limit of lake trout.

    If you have any questions or suggestions for the changes, but are unable to make the meeting on March 6, you can contact Scott Heintzelman, 231-775-9727 or Heather Hettinger, 231-922-6056.

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