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Panfish regs take effect

Signs posted at area lakes

By Greg Seubert

Area anglers heading out to their favorite fishing hole this spring might notice something different.

New experimental panfish regulations went into effect April 1 on nearly 100 bodies of water in Wisconsin, including 16 in Waupaca, Waushara, Portage and Shawano counties.

The state Department of Natural Resources recently placed signs at boat landings and docks at affected lakes, which include Shadow, Stratton, White, Allen, Hartman, Mid, School Section and Graham lakes in Waupaca County; Witters, Big Hills, Irogami, Kusel and Porters lakes in Waushara County; Emily and Lime lakes in Portage County; and White Clay Lake in Shawano County.

The regulations are part of a 10-year plan to manage the state’s panfish population, which include bluegill, crappie and yellow perch.

“The panfish plan comes from a lot of interest in panfish overall,” said Al Niebur, a DNR fisheries biologist based in Shawano. “This is our bread-and-butter fish.”

The DNR has conducted several angler surveys over the years and panfish always rate high as a targeted fish, according to Niebur.

“Whether I do it at a local meeting or it’s statewide, panfish always rank No. 1,” he said. “We’ve had some outreach meetings and the one thing we tried to gauge at those meetings is how people felt about panfishing, how they felt about the rules, regulations and management in general. The one thing that kind of came out of those meetings was, ‘We kind of like how panfish regulations are now.’

“They didn’t want to see any big changes, but there were a lot of folks that wanted us to do some special management, especially on waters where there was better potential, where they felt there were some exploitation concerns,” he said. “That’s kind of how these regulations came about. They address some of those types of waters where we think we have much more potentials.”

The plan includes three experimental daily bag limits:

• 25/10: Anglers can harvest 25 panfish, but no more than 10 of any one species. This regulation is in effect on Stratton, White, School Section, Big Hills, Lime and White Clay lakes.

• 15/5: Anglers can harvest 15 panfish, but no more than five of any one species. This regulation is in effect on Allen, Hartman, Mid, Graham, Witters and Porters lakes.

• 15/5 seasonal: Anglers can harvest 15 panfish, but no more than five of any one species during May and June. Anglers will be able to harvest 25 panfish the rest of the year. This regulation is in effect on Shadow, Irogami, Kusel and Emily lakes.

Niebur said the DNR based the list of water bodies on several factors, including past surveys; meetings with local anglers, lake associations and user groups; and past history.

For instance, Allen, Hartman and Mid lakes are located in Hartman Creek State Park, near Waupaca.

“We actually had an experimental study (in the park), I think it was the late ‘70s,” Niebur said. “We had it closed to fishing for a while. We opened it back up to see how the fishery responded. The population, as far as size structure and abundance, went up and it really turned into a nice fishery. Within a few days of being open, over 30 percent of the fish over 7 inches were harvested. That really opened our eyes up to what harvest can do to a population.”

Niebur is expecting to hear feedback from anglers once the weather starts warming up.

“Nothing so far, but it’s kind of early,” he said. “Some are aware, but there are going to a lot of folks that are going to find out. Opening day is traditionally a time when a lot of people get out fishing again.

“I expect to get a few calls on it, but there are a lot of people that are expecting it,” he added. “I had a lake where I started putting some signs out and people came down and were extremely happy that we were doing something.”

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