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April 7, 2015

MADISON -- A proposal to pump up panfish populations on 100 lakes statewide will be put before attendees at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Spring Fish and Wildlife Public Hearing on April 13.

A bluegill in the hand
WDNR Photo

The proposal, which will be presented at hearings held in conjunction with the Wisconsin Conservation Congress annual meetings, focuses on lakes that show high growth potential for panfish but may be suffering from heavy harvests. Jon Hansen, DNR fisheries biologist, said the proposed regulations represent one important element of a larger panfish management plan now under development.

"Anglers and other stakeholders who attended a series of statewide meetings over the last few years indicated they do not wish to see sweeping changes to panfish regulations statewide, but there is support for improvements on select lakes," Hansen said. "Anglers have expressed concern about the declining size of their catch on some lakes. We're focusing on about 100 of those lakes where we know stunting from limited food is not the issue. Instead, populations of bluegills, crappie and other panfish are most likely suffering from concentrated harvest of the largest fish."

Panfish experience a rapid increase in size up until age 6 or 7, when they typically measure about 8 inches. Bluegills 9 to 10 inches can be as old as 13 or 14 years.

However, concentrated fishing pressure on some lakes currently prevents most panfish from surviving beyond age 4, when they measure between 5 and 6 inches. For anglers interested in a meal, the difference of a few years and a few inches means a significant difference in fillet weight. It takes 25 6-inch fish to produce a pound of bluegill fillets but only six fish that are 8 inches long to produce the same meal.

As a result, within a few years of implementing the proposed rules, anglers could expect to see disproportionately large gains in fillet weight that would increase the amount of fish for the pan even with reduced bag limits.

Hansen said the department is asking spring hearing attendees to approve use of three regulatory options, which will be evaluated on different lakes over the next seven years to optimize biological effectiveness and angler satisfaction. Attendees will be asked their opinion on the overall idea but also will be asked to provide more detailed input on specific lakes.

The daily bag limit regulation proposals are:

The proposed rules follow three years of angler surveys, focus groups and more than 30 public meetings. The package up for consideration also includes a detailed evaluation plan with the rules set to end in 10 years (2026) after which bag limits on the 100 lakes will return to 25 panfish per day unless permanent changes are made. If the proposed rules move forward, they would take effect for the 2016-2017 season.

To learn more about the proposal, search the DNR website,, for keywords "Spring Hearings." The website provides a list of proposals for consideration including the panfish package. For those who cannot attend the spring fish and wildlife public hearings, written comments on any proposals may be submitted before April 13 to Kate Strom Hiorns, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 or

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT : Jon Hansen, DNR fisheries biologist, 608-266-6883,; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 07, 2015

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