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April 1, 2014

MADISON - A revised and improved proposal to allow anglers to use the fishing technique called trolling on inland waters statewide is up for a vote at the 2014 Spring Fish and Wildlife Hearings on April 14 around the state.

The trolling rule change is the only proposed specific rule change to be voted on at the 2014 hearings, which will be held in each Wisconsin county starting at 7 p.m. However, people interested in natural resources management have an opportunity to provide their input by advisory vote and testimony to the Department of Natural Resources and the Conservation Congress on many other advisory questions that may affect future fish and wildlife regulations.

The spring hearings cover three major areas: elections for county Conservation Congress delegates; DNR proposed wildlife and fisheries rule changes; and Conservation Congress proposals for possible future rule development.

The list of meeting locations [PDF], the combined questionnaire [PDF], and more information about the Conservation Congress is available for review by searching the DNR website for keywords "spring hearings."

Delegate elections

People who are residents of the county in which they attend the meeting, and are at least 18 years of age may vote for the delegates to represent their county on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. A photo ID is required in order to receive ballots to vote for delegates. Each April, there is one 2-year term and one 3-year term available for each county. Attendees at the annual county meeting have the opportunity to nominate themselves or another resident. Citizens of that county in attendance at the meetings then have the opportunity to vote on the nominees.

Deer herd status meetings

New for 2014, the annual spring deer herd status meetings will be held in conjunction with the Spring Fish and Wildlife Hearings. Herd status meetings provide an early opportunity for hunters and other interested individuals to discuss the current status of the deer herd and ask other deer management questions.

Local wildlife biologists will present information about new deer hunting rules and regulations that were recently adopted as part of the deer trustee report's two-year management review. The herd status updates and new rules for 2014 presentation will follow the Conservation Congress delegate elections and discussion on the proposed fisheries rule change.

Trolling proposal revised since last year's vote on the same

Under the 2014 trolling proposal, anglers on inland waters could troll with one line anywhere in the state without having to consult the regulations booklet for county- or water-specific rules. There also will be many inland waters where trolling will continue to be allowed with three lines per angler and additional areas where three-line trolling would be allowed. "Trolling" means trailing a lure or bait from a boat being propelled by means other than drifting or rowing.

"This is an improved version of the statewide 'three-line' proposal that was voted on last year at the hearings," says Tim Simonson, DNR fisheries biologist and co-chair of DNR's musky team. "After last year's mixed vote results, local biologists and Conservation Congress representatives developed this compromise version with several key opponents and county delegations to gain broader support."

Simonson says that one key goal of the compromise proposal was to allow musky anglers to trail a sucker behind a boat, under power, while casting with another rod.

Under current rules, trailing a sucker or other minnow behind the boat while under power, however briefly, is considered trolling and is allowed in a confusing patchwork of counties and locations. Trolling is currently allowed on all waters in 18 counties; on one or more specific waters in 45 counties (105 total waters); and on the boundary waters with Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan, except on Vilas County boundary waters. Trolling is not allowed on any other waters, except that certain disabled anglers can troll anywhere by special permit, Simonson says.

The compromise was adopted by the Natural Resources Board last May; the Governor's Office on Regulatory Compliance then asked the board to get broader input on this modified rule at this year's spring hearings.

Trolling has no known harmful biological effects where this method is already allowed in Wisconsin or in surrounding states and provinces, Simonson says

Fish advisory questions on trout, bass and panfish

Attendees at the hearings and meetings will also get the chance to help shape future panfish, trout and bass fishing management in Wisconsin. Reviews of panfish and trout management and regulations are underway, and DNR will soon be launching a review of bass management.

"The spring hearings provide another vital avenue to gauge desires from our angling partners attending the hearings," says Jon Hansen, a DNR fish biologist involved in an ongoing panfish management planning effort and a leader of a coming effort to review bass management and regulations.

"Public input has thus far revealed a mixed bag of interest regarding how we manage panfish, but most of the attention has been on statewide regulation changes. The upcoming spring hearing questions build off what we have learned so far by asking attendees whether they want to attempt to manage for larger panfish on individual lakes that are currently not meeting management goals," he says.

Bass questions focus on an increasing interest in using regulations that liberalize harvest but protect larger bass, with one of the questions attempting to get an updated perspective on what anglers consider a "trophy bass," Hansen says. "Responses from the hearings will help inform our coming effort to review what bass regulations we have in Wisconsin and how they are applied to the diverse array of lakes we manage."

Finally, a suite of advisory questions allow anglers to weigh in on ideas for expanding trout fishing opportunities by extending trout seasons.

Wildlife advisory questions

Among the DNR wildlife advisory questions are whether people who fail to apply for limited draw hunting or trapping permits for three or more years to maintain preference points they have previously acquired and whether people who have missed a limited draw permit application should still be allowed to apply for a preference-point-only.

Wisconsin has established limited draw preference systems for bear, bobcat, fisher, otter, wolf, and turkey hunting management. All of these preference systems have slight variations but two rules or laws are consistent between the drawings: people who do not apply for three consecutive years lose any preference points they have earned in previous years when they were not successful in the permit drawing and people must apply for the permits by established deadlines and there are no exceptions, even for people who have missed the application deadline but would still like to apply for a preference-point only.

Other wildlife questions are whether people should be able to transfer a limited draw harvest permit or points by simply allowing transfer to any other person who is legally able to hunt or trap in this state and whether Wisconsin should allow the use of foot cable restraints during the latter potion of the furbearer harvest seasons, beginning on December 1.

Natural Resources Board advisory questions

The state Natural Resources Board has an advisory question on establishing a single hunting stamp which would be purchased by all hunters but would be less expensive, earmarking funds for waterfowl/wetland, pheasants/grassland, and turkey management purposes as in the past and allowing any additional funds to be available for forest management and hunter recruitment. Currently Wisconsin has separate stamps for turkey, pheasant, waterfowl, inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon.

Other Natural Resources Advisory Questions are on restricting deer baiting and feeding 10 days before and during the traditional nine-day firearm season and legalizing the harvest of white and albino deer statewide.

Conservation Congress advisory questions

The Conservation Congress also has a large number of advisory questions from the executive committee and the various study committees. Among the advisory questions are whether to ask the Wisconsin Legislature to give the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources authority to develop a hunting season for tundra swans; whether Wisconsin should offer additional deer registration opportunities to include in-person, phone in, or online; and whether there should be legislation that would allow the owner of a hunting dog the ability to retrieve their hunting dog without landowner's permission.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: on the fisheries questions Tim Simonson, 608-266-5222; on wildlife questions - Scott Loomans, 608-267-2452; on Conservation Congress - Kari Lee-Zimmermann at (608) 266-0580

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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