The statement of scope for this rule, SS 023-21, was approved by the Governor on February 19, 2021, published in Register No. 783A1 on March 1, 2021, and approved by the Natural Resources Board on May 26, 2021. This rule was approved by the Governor on November 18, 2021.
ORDER OF THE STATE OF WISCONSIN NATURAL RESOURCES BOARD
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board proposes an order to amend NR 20.20 (73) (n) 2. and 3. relating to lake trout harvest and season in Lake Michigan.
Analysis Prepared by the Department of Natural Resources
1. Statutes Interpreted: The department has interpreted sections 29.014 (1), 29.041, and 29.053 (2), Stats., as authorizing this rule.
2. Statutory Authority:
Sections 29.014 (1), 29.041, and 29.053 (2), Stats., grant the department the authority to set size and bag limits and other regulations to conserve fish populations and maintain opportunities for good fishing, on inland, outlying and boundary waters in whole or in part.
3. Explanation of Agency Authority:
Section 29.014 (1), Stats., directs the department to establish and maintain any bag limits and conditions governing the taking of fish that will conserve the fish supply and ensure the citizens of this state continued opportunities for good fishing. Section 29.041, Stats., provides that the department may regulate fishing on and in all interstate boundary waters and outlying waters. Section 29.053 (2), Stats., authorizes the department to regulate fishing in the state as a whole, in counties or parts of counties, and in lakes and streams or parts of lakes and streams.
4. Related Statutes or Rules:
A companion emergency rule, FH-29-20 (E) / EmR 2119, was promulgated prior to this permanent rule.
5. Plain Language Analysis:
SECTION 1 would restore the continuous open season for lake trout on outlying waters of Lake Michigan and Green Bay, as well as remove the 2021 sunset on the daily bag limit of five for lake trout so that a daily bag limit of five in total for trout and salmon (where all five may be lake trout) will be in place long term. No changes will be made to the lake trout regulations in the Mid-Lake Reef Complex, which has a closed season for lake trout.
6. Summary of, and Comparison with, Existing or Proposed Federal Statutes and Regulations:
No federal statutes or regulations apply. States possess inherent authority to manage the fishery and wildlife resources located within their boundaries, except insofar as preempted by federal treaties and laws, including regulations established in the Federal Register.
7. If Held, Summary of Comments Received During Preliminary Comment Period
and at Public Hearing on the Statement of Scope:
During the preliminary public hearing and comment period, the department received five spoken or written comments. All comments indicated support for maintaining a continuous season and daily bag limit of five for lake trout. Some commenters expressed consternation that the rules were not extended prior to the 2021 sunset, given that recreational lake trout harvest has not adversely affected the fishery, and having the regulations revert to a daily bag limit of two and March to October season for lake trout causes confusion for anglers, businesses, and law enforcement. Other comments related to the benefit the more liberal regulations provide for sport anglers by adding value to the fishing license and Great Lakes trout and salmon stamp through additional fishing opportunity. This fishing opportunity also translates to benefits for the local tourist industry.
8. Comparison with Similar Rules in Adjacent States:
Individual state or provincial agencies are responsible for managing fisheries within their state boundaries, and each jurisdiction has its own decision-making process. However, all states and provinces that border a Great Lake are signatory to the Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries and have collaboratively developed Fish Community Objectives for each of the Great Lakes through their individual Lake Committees.
State agencies work together through the Lake Committee process to ensure that Great Lakes management actions are communicated and discussed among the state and provincial jurisdictions. The Lake Michigan Committee has the following membership: one representative from each state (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana) and one representative from the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority.
Lake trout harvest, seasons, and refuges were established by each agency to maximize the chances that the lakewide rehabilitation objectives set for lake trout were achievable.
9. Summary of Factual Data and Analytical Methodologies Used and How Any Related Findings Support the Regulatory Approach Chosen:
This rule provides good harvest opportunities for lake trout that will benefit recreational anglers while helping to keep lake trout and salmon populations in balance with the alewife prey base. While recreational lake trout harvest remains below safe harvest limits, a continuous season and daily bag limit of five allows anglers to keep more lake trout when they encounter areas with high densities of lake trout, or when salmon fishing is slow.
Lake trout assessment metrics have been set by Great Lakes agencies (A Guide for the Rehabilitation of Lake Trout in Lake Michigan, Great Lakes Fishery Commission Miscellaneous Publication 2008-01, 2008). Based on these metrics, the lake trout population is moving toward rehabilitation in Wisconsin waters of southern Lake Michigan (see Table 1). Most lake trout fishing occurs in southern Lake Michigan because the habitat of Green Bay is not as suitable for lake trout.
Table 1: Lake Michigan lake trout assessment metrics
Lake Trout Metrics
Southern Lake Michigan
Important for wild lake trout populations to be self-sustaining
Spring Survey Catch Numbers
Important for assessing lake trout population density
Below target in most locations but above target on the Mid-Lake Refuge
Fall Survey Catch Numbers
Indicates levels of juvenile recruitment into the population and densities of spawning adult lake trout
% Females in Fall Survey
Indicates the proportion of females able to contribute to the breeding population
At target in some years
10 Age Groups over Age 7
Indicates how many age classes are reaching reproductive maturity
Lamprey Annual Mortality
Important for determining the impacts of invasive sea lamprey predation on the growth of the lake trout population
Egg Thiamine Levels
Indicates egg and embryo viability and impacts fry survival
At or near target