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Obstacle to science | News, Sports, Jobs


The Michigan Division of Fisheries DNR made a significant change to the minimum statewide northern pike size limit in 1993. Since then, the DNR has not conducted a full evaluation of this major limit change. minimum size. Due to numerous complaints from pike anglers and at the invitation of Natural Resources Commissioner JR Richardson, the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance Fisheries Biologist – a retired Michigan DNR UP Fisheries Biologist – conducted a review extensive Michigan DNR fisheries surveys targeting northern pike. Natural Resources Commissioner Richardson asked UPSA to make a presentation at the NRC meeting regarding the performance of the MSL regulations for 28-year-old pike. Unlike Bill G, which requires the DNR and NRC to regulate state resources based on the best scientific evidence, the NRC refused to allow this review to be presented. By default, they have chosen to continue to follow failing MSL regulations despite major evidence that it does not work in the northern part of Michigan.

It has been well documented in fisheries science that minimum size limits cannot work if most of the waters to be regulated have slow growth rates of the target species, northern pike. Slow pike growth rates were well known to be a widespread problem in northern Michigan. Additionally, further research reveals that fish species with a higher natural mortality rate cannot be stocked to eventually grow. Additionally, other pike research has shown that pike populations without ideal habitat conditions will not thrive and produce significant numbers of larger pike. Despite this well-documented science known at the time, the MNR Fisheries Division moved forward to dramatically increase the minimum size limit for northern pike statewide in 1993. Despite numerous complaints from pike anglers as a result of this change, MNR’s Fisheries Division has not conducted an overall assessment of this major regulatory development.

Lansing’s Fisheries Division constantly touts the growing fishing opportunities. In reality, a high MSL that doesn’t work discourages most anglers if almost no fish ever reach the legal size limit. Most MNR inland fisheries surveys indicate that most male northern pike in the UP do not reach the MSL. In other words, they probably die of natural causes without ever reaching the minimum size to keep if the angler chooses to bring that fish home.

The Fisheries Division established a Great Lakes Survey Protocol in the 2000s to gather information on the Great Lakes that tribal fishing was likely to target. The Great Lakes surveys were considered by the Michigan DNR Fisheries Division to be the “gold standard” fisheries surveys. After reviewing all UP Great Lakes surveys, northern pike growth rates are slow – averaging -2.2 below the state average – in all surveyed lakes. This is considered a slow growth rate for pike by MNR standards. This is much the same as the Crystal Falls Fisheries Unit found in a large data set from their unit pike surveys reported to the Fish Division on the subject of Pike MSL over the course of many years since the adoption of the high pike MSL.

Anglers have been complaining about the current 24-inch MSL for years. MNR’s Western Citizens’ Advisory Committees passed a resolution to drop the 24-inch pike MSL and make it a non-MSL as the default settlement for UP inland waters. The Upper Peninsula Sports Alliance, representing most sports clubs in UP, also passed the same resolution. UPSA representatives on several other MNR advisory committees have also asked their respective committees to discuss a change in inland pike regulations and have been told that MNR does not want to discuss this issue. .

The 24 inch MSL results in only about 10% of pike being legal size in most UP inland waters. That would equate to a deer point restriction of nine points or more, according to an MNR wildlife researcher. MSLs on other game species typically result in around 25% of the waters fish population being present at or above the MSL. Current regulations target all fishing pressure on the faster growing female pike, as in most inland waters very few male fish grow to legal size. Removing these faster growing female fish results in the removal of the only inland pike that has the potential to become a trophy. Of course, in the pike world, female fish grow much larger than male fish.

About 35 years ago, Wisconsin (ecologically similar to Michigan) DNR Fisheries followed Michigan DNR in minimum size limits for popular fish. They adopted a similar MSL on walleye, bass and muskellunge, although they knew from pike fishing research that an MSL would have a negative effect in the northern half of their state. . Their pike fisheries have done pretty well all these years with No MSL all over the northern interior half of their state.

The current catch limit of just two pike was also not developed with fisheries science. It was an arbitrary limit placed in the rules by a Lansing fisheries administrator without peer review. It doesn’t make sense to protect a slow-growing fish population where the target – northern pike – is usually overabundant with a reduced catch limit. The only logical catch restriction would be the reduced catch limit on faster growing females with the reduced catch limit on pike over 24 inches. The bag limit of five best suits the current situation with overwhelming numbers of northern waters with slow growing pike. It also corresponds to the catch limit for other game species, walleye and bass.

The Upper Peninsula Athlete Alliance is calling on the NRC to reconsider its position and change the UP inland pike regulations to No MSL with a bag limit of five as the default regulation for UP inland waters. ‘UP In the very rare cases where the DNR survey documents this pike have a rapid growth rate, an excellent forage base for pike, abundant oxygenated cold water in summer (hypolimnion) and adequate spawning habitat but not overabundant could be considered an exception to MSL-free waters.

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