People will not be able to catch as many lake trout in Grand Traverse Bay this year. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says recreational fishers harvested an extra 15,800 pounds from the bay in 2018. As a result, the harvest limit has to be reduced by around 30,000 pounds this fishing season.
Harvest limits are determined by treaty tribes, the federal government and the state.
"When either the state or the tribes exceed harvest limits by more than 15 percent, there is a penalty the following season," DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter said in a press release.
Why the harvest limit was exceeded:
Catch limits are set for individual anglers to keep the state's harvest in line with an 1836 tribal treaty agreement. Last year, sport anglers could take home two lake trout a day, says state biologist Scott Heintzelman.
He says over-harvesting in the bay last year happened for a couple reasons. More anglers went fishing than expected, but Heintzelman also points to catch and release practices.
"Catch and release has become more and more popular each year," says Heintzelman.
Lake trout released by fishers do not have a good survival rate. The DNR had estimated that 15 percent of released lake trout die, but a recent study found it was actually around 41 percent. The state began using that higher percentage for harvest estimates in 2016.
When the DNR calculates total annual harvest, they're not weighing every fish that's caught. Instead they come up with an estimate based on things like charter boat catch numbers, information from angler interviews and estimates of the trout that were realeased and died.
Exploring ways to limit harvest:
Heintzelman says anglers are just finding out about the new harvest limit in the bay.
"I would say generally people are not real happy," he says. "Lake trout are a large component of what people like to fish for there."
Heintzelman says over-harvesting like this is not typical and anglers were used to fairly consistent regulations in recent years.
The DNR is exploring a number of options to reach a smaller harvest limit in 2019:
Allow the Grand Traverse Bay fishery to be open June 15-Sept. 2 with a 15-inch minimum size limit and a two-fish daily possession limit. (Estimated reduction: 30,900 pounds)
Allow the Grand Traverse Bay fishery to be open July 1-Sept. 30 with a 15-inch minimum size limit and a two-fish daily possession limit. (Estimated reduction: 31,400 pounds)
Allow the Grand Traverse Bay fishery to be open May 25-Sept. 2 with a 15-inch minimum size limit and a one-fish daily possession limit May 25-June 30 and a two-fish daily possession limit July 1-Sept. 2. (Estimated reduction: 27,400 pounds)
Heintzelman says the state is open to other suggestions.
DNR officials will present these options in Traverse City at a public meeting March 6.