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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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April 25, 2019

4/13/2019 7:28:00 AM
Annual DNR spring hearings and WCC meetings held Monday

The annual spring fish and wildlife public hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) county meetings were held all across the state Monday night.

The hearings and meetings, held in conjunction with one another, are a chance for county residents to offer input and voice concerns to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on a variety of proposed rule changes and advisory questions related to fish and game management in Wisconsin. They are also an opportunity for citizens to present prospective resolutions and rule changes to be considered by the WCC.

County delegates to the Conservation Congress, which advises and makes recommendations to the governing Natural Resources Board, were also voted upon at the meetings.

In Vilas County, Ken Anderson from Eagle River was re-elected to a three-year term on the congress. Colin Crawford of Phelps was re-elected to a two-year term.

DNR changes and questions

After an update from the Vilas County Deer Advisory Council, proposed DNR rule changes and advisory questions were voted upon.

These were resolutions that had made it all the way through the Conservation Congress and had been supported by the DNR staff experts and forwarded to the Natural Resources board which places them on the DNR side of the annual questionnaire.

Some questions of local impact concerned bass and musky fishing.

There was a proposed change to extend the Northern Zone musky fishing season, on open water only, to Dec. 31. There were also propositions to change the opening of the musky season on Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters from May 15 to June 1 as well as increase the minimum length limit on those waters from 40 to 50 inches.  

There was further push for consistency with Michigan on the boundary waters concerning bass fishing as well. One question proposed changing the opening date for largemouth bass season on boundary waters from the first Saturday in May to the third Saturday in June, with a catch-and-release only season in between.

There was also a proposition to establish a year-round, state-wide open season for bass - both largemouth and smallmouth - however, harvest would be allowed only in the traditional open season. The remainder of the year would be catch-and-release.

To increase the amount of lakes that can host bass fishing tournaments, there was a proposal to allow for temporary five-fish bag limits and 14-inch minimum length regulations on lakes that currently have much stricter harvest laws. As part of the proposal, all fish would be released back to the lake hosting the tournament.

And specific to Vilas County, there was a proposal to eliminate a minimum length for bass on Smoky Lake and establish a 14- to 18-inch protected slot limit which allows one bass at least 18 inches to be harvested.  

WCC advisory questions

After the DNR portion of the questionnaire was voted on, the WCC advisory questions were presented. These are resolutions that passed their introduction, were turned into questions, and were supported by both an advisory committee and the District Leadership council. If supported in the voting, these resolutions would get forwarded to the DNR.

Two hot-topic WCC advisory questions concerned the state's deer herd. One question gauged favor for offering payment to hunters for harvested deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease and another proposed a ban on all baiting and feeding of deer, statewide.

There was also a question asking if there would be support of a ban on all lead ammunition and fishing gear in the state.

To accommodate the growing sport of high school trap shooting, there was an advisory question proposing the legal establishment of temporary, non-toxic shooting ranges for schools that don't currently have access to one for their trap team.

There were also six local citizen resolutions presented to the WCC to be voted upon. These are resolutions, in their infancy, authored by county residents with hopes of getting on next year's questionnaire.

In order to help local businesses and guides, Elmer Jensen of Eagle River, authored a resolution to change the opening date of the musky season in the north to the first Saturday in May, which would coincide with the opening date for other game fish. Currently the musky season starts the Saturday nearest to Memorial Day.

"Years ago our fishing openers used to be really busy," Jensen said. "With the walleye bag limits we have today, a lot of walleye guys don't bother to come up here for the opener anymore to fish. So opening up the season three weeks early I think it would help out our businesses up here a little bit north of Highway 10. I think it would bring a few people up here. It would stop some people from going down south of Highway 10 to fish musky. They would stay here."

Pete Stoltman of St. Germain was also concerned with musky fisherman heading to waters outside of Vilas County, in particular, those in search of trophy fish. Therefore, Stoltman presented a resolution to change the minimum legal length limit for musky on Presque Isle Lake to 50 inches. The current limit is 40 inches.

Stoltman would like to see Presque Isle Lake become managed as a trophy lake like other county waters such as Big Sand, Long Lake, Trout Lake, and North and South Twin Lakes. The more trophy lakes in the county, Stoltman said, the more appealing Vilas County becomes to trophy musky anglers.

"Years ago in Wisconsin, we were the game in town," he said. "DNRs all throughout the country have started introducing muskies. They've got them in New Mexico now. They've got them in Virginia. West Virginia. Just all over the place. A lot of these states have gone with very progressive, or what I would call, aggressive regulations so now the guy who was maybe an accountant in Chicago that used to come up here, he's going 'to heck with that I'm going over to Michigan and fish right out of Detroit and fish where I have a shot at a giant fish.'"

Stoltman chose Presque Isle Lake because of its size, depth, and forage create ideal conditions for big fish production.

As far as smaller fish, Anderson wrote a resolution to reduce the legal size limit on brook trout in Elvoy Creek to eight inches rather the current 10-inch limit.

According to Anderson's resolution, the 10-inch brook trout are only prevalent in the part of the stream in which substantial habitat work was conducted.

"All of a sudden a 10-inch size limit for the whole damn thing," Anderson said. "The other side is that you've got a 10-inch size limit, it used to be eight, and now you got all these guys worm fishing and got hooking mortality like you wouldn't believe."

Anderson also introduced a resolution to offer senior deer hunters a hunter's choice tag for the gun deer season.

"Just an incentive to keep people hunting," Anderson said.

Additionally, John Uecker of Conover wrote a resolution proposing an elimination of size limits for largemouth bass on the Buckatabon Lakes due to an overpopulation of that fish on those waters.

And George Prudent of Arbor Vitae proposed a resolution to prohibit gray wolf hunting if, in the future, they are removed from the endangered species list. Prudent believes the wolves will hunt sick and wounded deer and keep CWD in check.

The results of the 2019 spring hearings will be available online as soon as they are compiled. To view them visit and keyword search "Spring Hearings."

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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