Hoping to get some clarity (especially from DNR experts or those who study or have studied in the field of fish conservation etc) on how big tournaments such as Battle on Bago affect the fishery. Do fish populations suffer? What is the affect on the overall fish reproduction- are they still able to reproduce at a fast enough rate to overcome the burden of so many fish being caught/killed in one window of time (like a weekend tournament) or have been seen a slow decline in fish populations since the start of Battle on Bago? From a conservation perspective, my initial reaction to these huge tournaments is usually one of disgust but that's because I am ignorant to how it affects the fisheries so I am looking to learn more. With that said, I understand Battle on Bago also donates a ton of money for all sorts of youth programs and conservation efforts, so I understand the benefit that comes out of it. I am not trying to make any debate or argument, rather just trying to better understand the effects that Battle on Bago has on Lake Winnebago as a fishery.
General Fishing Discussion
Battle on Bago- Does it hurt the fishery?
Talked to a fisheries biologist who spends majority of his work on Winnebago. The person I spoke with seemed very intelligent and well-educated. Long story short, the big weekend tournament like BoB doesn't have as near of an affect on a fishery's ability to sustain itself over a long period of time than the harvesting that comes from recreational fishing. We also discussed the Spring walleye harvesting and although the harvesting from it has a big affect on the acute fish population, there's no reason to believe, based on data they've collected, that it is so significant that it threatens the long term health of the fishery. Although fish harvesting regulations are one element of keeping a fishery healthy and sustainable, there are also environmental variables that are considered, but since my whole post revolved around harvesting, that's what I wanted to focus on. It's safe to say BoB isn't causing significant effect on natural reproduction and fish population from a long term perspective, which is really what we're striving for- long term and naturally self-sustaining fisheries. That makes me feel better about big tournaments, and with how everything was explained to me, I'm confident the Lake Winnebago system is being closely monitored and maintained by the DNR to keep it a strong fishery for years to come.
I am 72 and have lived in and fished the Bago system since I was a kid including the spring run. More than the tournaments is the gear that is available now days. When I was a kid you took your boat went out and hoped you could find the fish. Now there is such fine tuned electronics and mapping that I can put you in the exact spot you were on them yesterday. Then there are cameras and sonar so I can watch what the fish is reacting to and change it. As much as they like to complain about the Indians spearing, when I was a kid there was a ton of spearing going on in the marshes where the walleyes were spawning. And it wasn't just walleyes that were being speared either.
I think the garbage left on the ice and over harvest by out of towners who dont have a vested interest in maintaining the system does have an effect during tournaments like the battle. More so however, the daily limits of guides and regulars who keep a dozen daily limits in their freezers at all times causes the most impact imo. Spring slaughter of spawners has also got to go. A springtime slot would be a good start. Clearly the dnr thought enough of an issue is present to lower the daily bag limit to 3.
Go-fish I totally agree with the catch/photo/release tourney.
And I felt that way about Bago until the two points below were explained to me. It sounds like the Winnebago system is very robust, and there is abundant spawning areas/conditions and even with that there are still too many fish to even utilize all of that each spring.
I’m sorry I can’t cite any studies but the Battle on Bago winter and summer tourneys plus otter street tourney have been going for 16+ years and the system is still naturally sustaining and some say thriving.
Winnebago is a special case so not applicable to most of the other, if any, Wisconsin lakes.
Battle on Bago.....with almost 7,000 fish weighed in two days in 2022, there is no doubt there is an effect on the fishery. Sure they feed a big chunk of the money back into the community and that's great but there is no doubt, there is less fish for you and I to catch after the tournament is over.
My .02¢ worth on Tournaments in general....I would like to see ALL fishing tournaments in the State run as "Immediate Release" or better known as CPR or "Catch, measure/weigh, photo & release" tournaments.
Understand, I am not a PETA nut, I have no issue with people catching, keeping, eating or mounting fish or signing up for a tournament, I have done all of those things. I have an issue with mortally rates caused by tournaments so someone can walk away with a gift card or fishing pole....
"Catch, Kill & Weigh" Ice Fishing Tournaments are the worst with a 100% mortality rate.
"Catch, hold, weigh & release" tournaments give the fish a chance but still have a high mortality rate especially during the warm water months.
"Catch, hold, weigh & release" early spring tournaments during the spawn months on river systems not only have high mortality rates, they also pull fish off their beds and that leaves the bed open to egg eating predator's.
No doubt "Immediate Release" tournaments using cell phone based formats like FishDonkey, I-Angler, I-Catch or many others.....have the lowest chance of mortality and put a lot less stress on the fish while still providing the opportunity for a successful tournament.
With everyone carrying a cell phone/camera and the strong example of a successful CPR tournament being set by Major League Fishing, it has been proven, it's not necessary to kill all these fish to have a successful tournament. I have a hard time understanding why catch/hold and release open water tournaments or catch and kill ice tournaments are still allowed and haven't been banned.
I have debated the ethics of these Catch & Kill ice tournaments and Catch & Hold open water tournaments with several DNR representatives in the past. They are well aware of the mortality rates and they would also like to see less catch and kill tournaments and more immediate release tournaments and they say that right on the permit application on the DNR website but they have told me their hands are tied when it comes to forcing Immediate Release tournaments or changing the rules for fishing tournaments.
I think it just another one of those "We have always done it this way" kind of things and a couple of voices just don't make much difference.......
Again, this is my .02¢ worth, sorry for the long post, Go-Fish
Specific to Battle on Bago, I don't think tournament harms the fishery that much more than a regular weekend for two main reasons.
One, you have to buy a $40 ticket for each fish you want to register so it's not like other tournaments where you pay an entry fee to try to catch the heaviest bag limit and then that winner get's the biggest prize. I think most people buy one or two tickets and treat it like a normal weekend of fishing plus a raffle. And there minimums/slots for entered fish:
You can weigh 1 fish per fishing ticket of any of the following species:
* Walleye (minimum length 14-18” & 22” or longer)
* Panfish (perch, bluegills, crappies) (minimum length 8”)
* Whitebass (minimum length 8”).
Two, the Winnebago system is very healthy and from what I've read/heard the system supports more than a enough natural reproduction - to the point that there are more fish trying to reproduce than structure for them to do the reproducing on.
They don't stock the system and the last few years have given some pretty good catches.
Anytime you have 1k - 30k people fishing it could cause damage. Pelican lake always held it in the worst spot, so very few fish were taken. Heck, a 5 in perch took $25k. I would like to see BOB be a 1 day tournament, instead of 2 full days. I would set boundary lines also.
Here is my take on tournaments and guide services....they take from a public resource for their own person gain or profit. It sucks, but the DNR allows it. I wouldnt care if a tournament donated all to a charity, they are still taking from the public for their charitable cause. Guides to me are worse. Most fisherman if they were on a body of water daily, especially Winnebago can dial in fish pretty quickly. It all turns me off. Give that some thought. Its appalling.