La Crosse, WI-
Close to 200 experts in the trout fishing community attend the 5th Annual Driftless Area Symposium held at the Radison Hotel on March 27 and 28.
Experts from the US Fish and Wildlife, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, stream restoration contractors, and students from various universities gathered to discuss various issues and current industry trends that face the trout fishing community of today.
Topics included the impact of frac sand mining in Central Wisconsin; new approaches to designing an effective trout stream; monitoring climate change; invasive species; and the social and economical impact that trout fishing has on the driftless region.
Various officials of the Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also gave reports of results of different studies conducted on trout anglers and the impact of rules and future proposed rule changes.
One presenter, Scott Stewart gave a presentation on the status of Wisconsin trout regulations, a current hot topic for a lot of anglers and groups.
The current model for Wisconsin trout regulations was formed in 1990, where the panel decided to develop a set of regulations on 3 principles: physical nature of a stream, biological needs of a stream, and the social needs of the people fishing it.
The panel then based regulations on a 5 point category system: 1) northern based streams with slow growing brook trout, 2) Sand based creeks, 3) southern based streams with a population of 9 inch brown trout, 4) higher quality fishery containing 12 inch brown trout and 8 inch brook trout, and 5) the social characteristics of the people fishing a certain body of water.
Because trout angler habits, climate, and fish behavior on a stream change; the panel decided to review the policies every 5-10 years.
Over the past year, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has been conducting surveys on a multiple of spectrums: web based , drop out (people that hasn't purchased a license recently), random (active license holders), and statewide (mail in surveys). The results are still trickling in, but Steward indicated that he was impressed with both how receptive people were with the survey and the response he's been seeing from the surveys.
From 1950 to present Trout population has increased; brown trout size has increased to greater than 12 inches average, and brook trout size has increased to greater than 8 inches average. This success is contributed to improvement with land management, changes in precipitation and ground temperatures, catch and release tactics, habitat improvement, and stocking wild strain trout.
The survey results show that anglers prefer to catch wild trout; anglers want a chance to catch a trophy size fish; have public access to streams; have medium sized streams; and have streams designated for catch and release and artificial baits only. Anglers were then asked on what they thought of how trout fishing has changed over the years and the response was that they (anglers) felt that there are more opportunities to fish and more size to the fish.
Lastly, anglers was asked on what they thought of the trout fishing season. The response was: anglers are satisfied with the current season, the like the early catch and release season, anglers are receptive towards having longer season; especially if harvest is not a factor.
What's next for this round of rule and regulation review? The Wisconsin DNR wants to complete the survey analysis; work with a biologist to incorporate public decisions; and lastly, hold another round of surveys. The biggest issue they face with this process is how to simplify boundaries. When the rules are formulated, they want to make sure social considerations are in place. They want to give people different experiences on the same stream.