The seven-member Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) approved and signed Fisheries Order 215.15, during their April 9 meeting, which establishes a year round catch-and-immediate-release bass season for all Michigan waters where angling is permitted. This Order also set seasons and harvest numbers for several other cool water species, representing the first time the NRC has exercised its new exclusive authority to set sport fish regulations as granted by the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 2014.
A change to the Michigan bass season began in early 2014 when SB 869, sponsored by Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus member Senator Geoff Hansen was signed into law by Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) member, Governor Rick Snyder. This law removed the bass season previously outlined in statute (Saturday before Memorial Day to December 31), handing the baton to the NRC to set the season. The NRC capitalized on this opportunity to expand the season and worked diligently with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Division staff, statewide sportsmen’s groups, and concerned citizens to reach last week’s decision.
“The Fisheries Division is committed to providing as much angling opportunity as we can, and it was time to look at the state’s bass fishing opportunities, which had been restricted for so long,” said Jim Dexter, DNR Fisheries Division Chief. “Thursday’s decision was a great outcome for bass anglers in Michigan, who no longer have to worry about accidentally catching bass out of season, and can now just relax and go fishing whenever they would like, for this valued species. I am excited that the changes took place immediately and that the Commission seized this opportunity to expand bass fishing opportunities without further delay.”
Michigan’s 1.7 million anglers spend $2.5 billion per year pursuing their passions out on the water, and 70 percent of those anglers self-identify as primarily bass anglers. This means that an expanded catch-and-immediate-release season could generate substantial economic activity in the communities surrounding Michigan’s water bodies, as anglers are now able to head to the water in pursuit of bass all 12 months of the year.
“After almost two years of meetings, legislative action and hard work, Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation is happy the Michigan Natural Resources Commission voted unanimously at their April 9th public meeting to approve a new year-round, statewide catch-and-immediate-release bass season. Anglers can now fish for bass in Michigan 365 days a year except on a few limited waters closed to all fishing. The change took immediate effect, so anglers are already out there bass fishing, boosting Michigan’s critically important natural resource-based economy, buying fishing licenses and becoming better stewards of our outdoors,” announced Dan Kimmel, Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Director.
The DNR Fisheries Division has also vowed to create an early season ‘catch-and-delayed release’ pilot program in 2016 that would enable tournament anglers to host events on select Michigan lakes earlier than ever before. Bass tournaments create a substantial economic ripple effect throughout the local communities in which they are hosted. This pilot program will give the DNR Fisheries Division the opportunity to assess the impacts, if any, that an early ‘catch-and-delayed release’ season has on bass populations, informing future fisheries management decisions in the Great Lakes State that benefit both the fishery, the anglers, and the economy.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?