Wednesday evening in Traverse City there was a meeting held by the MDNR to discuss the over harvest of Lake Trout in Grand Traverse Bay of management unit MM-4.
In the 2000 Consent Decree allocations of Lake Trout in Decreed waters in Lakes Michigan and Huron are split between the tribes and state licensed anglers. Each management unit has a different percentage of allocation of shared lake trout harvest. If the tribes or state anglers go over the set quota in lbs and a 15 percent cushion a penalty is assessed. The tribes have gone over in the past and have shut down their fishing. In 2018 in Grand Traverse Bay the state went over quota and the 15% cushion and has to reduce harvest in 2019. Much of the problem occurs from catch and release of lakers.Lakers experience a high mortality when hooked fought and released of 41%.
Solutions are partial closure of the Lake Trout season, or reduction in creel limits, or a combination of both.
A vote was put on the table and the strongest position was the season would be open from Jan 1st thru Sept 2nd with a creel limit of 1 lake trout.
Conversation also involved the idea of making it illegal for catch and release. The GLSI spoke up against this idea! The point is that we should be promoting fishing. If you are targeting smallmouth and catch a lake trout you would have to keep it even if you don’t want to harvest it. You would have to stop fishing because if you accidentally caught another trout you couldn’t keep it but it would also be illegal to release. This would be a management nightmare and in a sense take our right to fish even if targeting other species. It also
negatively impacts the economy of this region, definitely something no one wants
Other problems arising from this situation are the MDNR has done a good job in rejuvenating interest in Lake Michigan angling. Bait is increasing, other salmonines are big and healthy but the increased fishing pressure is impacting harvest limits set in decrees to encourage rehabilitation and restoration of lake trout. This has to be addressed in the 2020 consent decree and is very complicated! Focus should change to Whitefish restoration? The State, Tribes, United States should agree that rehabilitation and a self sustaining lake trout population is impossible to achieve with the combination of commercial and angling efforts! Trout are slow growing and have to be at least 6-7yrs old to reach sexual maturity and the ridiculous point of the
current situation is as the population gets larger and ave size of trout gets larger we are not able to harvest.
Current fish community objectives have created a “Look don’t touch Fishery”