MADISON -- A new, 10-year panfish plan that focuses on habitat improvements, predator management and revised bag limits to boost panfish management across Wisconsin is up for public comment and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has set three meetings statewide in early February to encourage feedback.
Panfish are the target of more anglers in Wisconsin than any other group of fish. The 10-year management plan aims to improve panfish opportunities for anglers including restoring size structure on lakes where smaller fish have become more prevalent in recent years, improving habitat, engaging anglers and supporting research on panfish. The draft 10-Year Strategic Plan for Managing Wisconsin's Panfish was developed with extensive public input, data analysis and review of existing literature and is now up for a final round of feedback before being implemented, said Max Wolter, a DNR fisheries biologist and panfish team leader.
"We've received substantial input from anglers and listened to their concerns ranging from the role of predators to fishing pressure to habitat changes on some lakes," Wolter said. "To make sure we're addressing anglers' concerns in the plan, we're scheduling a final comment period and series of public meetings for Hayward, Waukesha and Waupaca."
To date, the draft plan has been shaped by more than 3,500 responses to surveys, more than 30 public meetings and multiple questions on two spring hearing questionnaires for the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. Wolter said the panfish team focused on meshing the technical side of panfish management with common themes that emerged during the public input process.
"Ultimately, we produced a plan that blends background, technical information, and a strategic framework for better managing panfish over the next 10 years," he said.
The plan pays extra attention to improving and protecting habitat and discusses the use of predators in managing panfish, two areas anglers consistently supported. Support for statewide regulation changes drew mixed responses from the public but most anglers supported using regulations to improve underachieving lakes, a strategy that is laid out in the plan.
Given the timing of the regulation cycle and support for improving underachieving lakes, a set of experimental regulations on 94 lakes was proposed on the 2014 spring hearings and supported. These regulation changes will go into effect April 1, 2016. For a complete list of lakes that will be governed by the experimental regulations, check out the factsheet [PDF]. The experimental regulations will be evaluated over the next five years.
The public meetings are set for:
DNR also welcomes written comments, which will be given the same weight as comments presented at the public meetings. Send comments by March 18 to Max Wolter, DNR fisheries biologist, 10220 State Highway 27 S., Hayward, Wis., 54843 or email Max.Wolter@wisconsin.gov.