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June 14, 2011

MADISON -- Starting June 14, anglers fishing in permitted tournaments can cull, or sort, smallmouth or largemouth bass under a new law signed last month by Gov. Scott Walker.

The new law allows culling in Wisconsin but limits the practice to participants in a Department of Natural Resources-permitted bass tournament in which the bass are caught, held in a live well, and released to the water, according to Jon Hansen, the DNR fisheries biologist coordinating the tournament permit system. In an earlier pilot study in 2005 and 2006, culling bass was allowed in seven tournaments on an experimental basis. The new law does not allow culling for any species other than bass.

Culling is defined as the practice of releasing a live fish from an angler's possession and replacing it with another fish. The released fish does not count towards the angler's daily bag limit after it is released if the angler is participating in a permitted bass fishing tournament. The number of fish held by the tournament angler at any one time cannot exceed the daily bag limit authorized for that water, even if the fish are later released. Any released fish must be able to swim away under its own power. Anglers who are culling must have a functioning live well.

To minimize delayed mortality caused by stress of holding fish in live wells at warmer water temperatures, bass tournaments occurring between the first Saturday in July and the second Sunday in August will generally still have a three-fish daily bag limit, unless the DNR has data that shows the water temperatures will be below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Only DNR authorized fishing tournaments can cull, so small tournaments that do not now have a permit but want to be able to cull bass must seek a permit to gain that privilege, Hansen says.

A tournament permit is needed if any of the following apply: the tournament involves 20 or more boats, or 100 or more participants; targets any trout species on waters classified as trout streams; is a catch-hold-release tournament with an off-site weigh-in; or has a total prize value of $10,000 or more, or the participants will be culling largemouth or smallmouth bass during the tournament.

In 2010, there were 211 permitted bass tournaments in Wisconsin, and so far there are 207 permits for bass tournaments in 2011, Hansen says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon Hansen (608) 266-6883

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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