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Michigan DNR Proposal to Modify Trout Regs

Proposal as of May, 2009

All trout-chasers should be aware that this is in the works. It is designed to simplify the existing regs….

MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

FISHERIES DIVISION

Proposal to modify Michigan’s Trout Stream Regulations

May 2009

Proposal to modify Michigan’s Stream Trout Regulations

May 2009

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A new suite of trout stream fishing regulations was implemented in April 2000.  At that time, the Fisheries Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources made a commitment to evaluate the effects of these regulations on trout fisheries.  Trout population data collected from various Michigan rivers before 2000 were compared to population data collected after 2000 to evaluate the effects of selected new regulations.  Population data collected from numerous additional streams during this period also increased our understanding of trout growth and survival in Michigan streams.

As a result of these analyses, Fisheries Division proposes several changes to the existing suite of trout stream regulations.  These changes include eliminating Type 2 regulations, modifying size limits for Type 1 streams, modifying splake size limits to match lake trout size limits, and combining the current Types 5-7 and some research waters into one category designated as Gear Restricted Waters. These changes would simplify trout stream fishing regulations, ensure adequate protection of trout and salmon populations, and provide diverse fishing opportunities for Michigan anglers.

BACKGROUND

From 1995 to 1999 the Fisheries Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reviewed recreational fishing regulations applicable to coldwater fisheries in Michigan’s inland waters.  As a result of that review, a new classification system for trout waters was implemented in April 2000.  Specifically, the new classification system for inland trout streams and lakes accomplished three objectives: (1) it simplified regulations by placing streams and lakes into categories, (2) it accounted for differences among systems in their biological potential to support coldwater fish populations, and (3) it accommodated the variety of angling goals expressed by Michigan’s trout anglers.

In reaching a final proposal, the regulations review process entailed four primary activities.  First, comments on fishing regulations were solicited from the public.  Notices requesting feedback were published in the Michigan Fishing Guide in 1995, distributed at most major fishing shows and many fishing club meetings, and published in most major newspapers in the State.  Second, the Division initiated a series of focus group discussions about fishing regulations, which provided direct feedback from randomly selected licensed anglers.  Third, Fisheries Division research biologists used computer models to simulate changes in fishing regulations for key species.  Such models have been used for over 20 years to help evaluate fishing regulations, predict changes in fish populations, and estimate angler catch for various fishing regulations.   Finally, Division field personnel undertook an extensive internal review of the proposed regulation package.

In fulfilling its commitment to evaluate the new regulations the Division collected population data from Michigan rivers and compared them to pre 2000 populations. The Division focused their evaluation efforts on Type 2 streams because this regulation was applied to about 600 miles of streams that formerly had more liberal regulations.  The Type 2 regulations were the most substantial change in regulations enacted in 2000.  Seven Type 2 streams were selected as index streams to represent all Type 2 waters (Figure 1).  Other factors such as sediment removals, streambank stabilization, and other instream improvements were taken into account as part of the evaluation.

In 2005 the Division formally began discussing findings from our evaluations on trout streams.  These data and ensuing analyses resulted in several proposed changes to the existing classification system.  In 2008, the Division’s Trout Committee conducted additional review and formed a subcommittee to further evaluate the classification system.  Information from these evaluations was presented at statewide Biologist Conferences in 2007 and 2008.  During the March 2008 meeting, attendees broke into groups to discuss specific proposed changes to existing regulations.  The goal was to have each group develop a will-live-with consensus recommendation on what change (or no change) they would make to existing regulations.

A survey was then developed by the subcommittee and distributed to all Management Unit staff.  The survey contained options for specific changes to the inland stream trout regulations and requested survey respondents to select their preferred options (or provide others).  The survey results were tallied and a draft regulations package was submitted for internal review.  Following review, a final package was developed and presented to the Fisheries Division Management Team.  In March 2009 the Management Team supported moving the package forward to receive public comment.

PRINCIPLES OF RECREATIONAL FISHERY REGULATION

The principle types of recreational fishing regulations are creel limits, fishing and harvest closures, size limits, and gear or fishing method restrictions.  In this section we describe the general principles which govern the use of these types of regulations, particularly the ways in which such regulations should vary between species and waters.

Creel Limits

Creel limits require anglers to release fish if they continue fishing after achieving the creel limit. Creel limits are not very effective in reducing harvest unless they are set low enough that many anglers will achieve the limit.  Although creel limits are not biologically powerful, they are still useful and important. Fish are a public resource, held in common by all citizens of the State, and current creel limits reflect general public sentiment of a sufficient harvest for one angling trip.

Even though most anglers interviewed by the Fisheries Division in the 1990s understood that creel limits are less powerful regulations than closures or size limits, they considered violations of creel limits the most objectionable form of violation.  Many letters were received by the Fisheries Division at that time in response to publicity about our review of fishing regulations suggesting reducing creel limits, but many others strongly opposed reduced creel limits.

Since creel limits are not biologically powerful and cannot be used to achieve subtle changes in harvest from particular fisheries, we recommended setting creel limits that are relatively uniform across all waters in the State and which reflect reasonable limits and expectations for daily harvest by any one person.  We continue to support the most restrictive limits on those species that are most heavily fished and combination limits for those species that are similar both in their ecological roles and in public values.

Fishing and Harvest Closures

Michigan, like many states, prohibits fishing for various species at certain times of the year.  These seasonal closures generally coincide with spawning periods and are often referred to as spawning closures.  Many anglers and managers tend to think of these regulations as providing specific protection to spawning fish and the timing and length of closed seasons are generally related to the timing and duration of spawning seasons.  Anglers often argue for closing certain fisheries simply because ripe fish may be harvested.  Conversely, fishing for many lake-run fish is concentrated in the spawning season.  Steelhead and other Pacific salmon are commonly sought during spawning runs.  Some anglers think that steelhead, in particular, should not be harvested except during their spawning run in rivers.

In fact, for most fisheries spawning closures are not especially important.  Fish which are harvested before the spawning season are just as incapable of contributing to reproduction as fish which are harvested during the spawning season.  There are, however, three conditions that may make spawning closures useful:

¨ When harvesting spawners may prevent saturation of habitat with eggs;

¨ When fish populations are subject to heavy fishing because of vulnerability during spawning concentrations, such as mature brook trout in clear, shallow streams;

¨ In regulating multiple-species fisheries where the goal is to protect spawning resident trout in streams open to fishing for anadromous species such as steelhead and salmon.

As long as the number of spawning fish is high enough to saturate the habitat, the number of spawners does not significantly affect spawning success.  In general, if spawners are not abundant enough to saturate habitat, size limits or harvest closures should be used to increase survival to spawning size, but these regulations need not be related to the time of spawning.  However, in species like steelhead and stream trout, which disperse in small numbers into various small habitats to spawn, harvest in the spawning area during the spawning period may deplete these small habitats of spawners and prevent them from being saturated with eggs.  Thus it may be desirable to prohibit harvest during spawning season for such species and in such circumstances. For species which spawn in large aggregations and are not subject to depletion from small habitats during spawning, spawning closures are not necessarily needed.

Some species of fish are highly concentrated in certain places during spawning and are vulnerable to heavy fishing in such circumstances.  In Michigan, the most obvious examples of this problem occur when migration of lake-run fish is blocked or slowed by a barrier or when resident trout are clearly visible on their spawning beds.  In these circumstances it may be desirable to prohibit fishing when no other regulation will effectively protect the population.

Size Limits

Size limits require anglers to release fish which do not meet the limits. Size limits are intended to allow anglers to keep fish whose harvest value is greater than their value if returned to the water and to require release of fish which will be more valuable if released than if harvested.  In these instances, small fish should be released to take advantage of future growth potential.  Some anglers and managers argue for releasing larger fish on the grounds that these are the mature spawners.  However, careful analysis has shown that more gain in spawning is achieved for a given loss of harvest by increasing minimum size limits than by protecting the largest fish.

The best minimum size limit for any particular fishery depends on the intensity of the fishery, the growth and survival rates of the fish population, and whether protection is needed to assure that there are enough spawners to saturate the habitat.  We therefore focus almost entirely on selecting appropriate minimum size limits for each species in each water.

Since the factors that influence optimal size limits vary between waters within species, we considered the need for variation of minimum size limits between classes of waters.

Gear or Method Restrictions

Recreational fishing gear and methods are generally restricted for one of three reasons:

¨ To enforce principles of fair chase by assuring that fish are captured individually and with sufficient difficulty;

¨ To prevent the spread of bait species into waters where they may be undesirable;

¨ To reduce mortality of fish which may not be legally harvested.

The significance of hooking mortality for trout stream fisheries has been known for many years, and gear restrictions for these fisheries are common.  The most common regulations applied are restrictions on the use of bait, number of points per hook (treble vs. single hooks), and hook barbs.  Given the right set of circumstances, gear restrictions can significantly reduce hooking mortality and result in “exceptional” fisheries that cannot be realized under all-tackle regulations.  The Division is committed to the long term protection of valuable resources and to identifying those streams that can produce “exceptional” fisheries.  It is generally accepted that some combination of gear restrictions, season restrictions and reduced possession limits are critical to the success of these efforts.  Special regulation waters are not only popular, they can significantly increase the public value generated from Michigan’s outstanding array of trout streams.  However, the response of trout populations to special regulations will be governed to a large degree by a set of key biological conditions.  If gear restrictions are applied to streams that do not possess these conditions, improvement in trout size and abundance may not be realized and the public will likely be frustrated. Only certain streams possess biological conditions favorable for significant improvement in trout size and abundance.  The biological criteria that need to be considered are common to nearly all animal populations. They include rates of reproduction and recruitment, growth, and mortality (both natural and fishing).

CHANGES PROPOSED FOR TYPE-1 STREAMS

We propose changing the minimum size limits (MSLs) for brook trout and brown trout to make stream trout regulations consistent throughout the state.  Specifically, we propose a statewide 7-inch MSL for brook trout and an 8-inch MSL for brown trout.  We further propose a 24-inch MSL for splake, which is the same as for similar-looking lake trout.  Analyses and rationales for these proposals are described below.

Perhaps the most important biological objective of recreational fisheries regulations for stream trout is to make certain that angler harvest does not impair reproduction so that fish populations are sustained and protected.  Important factors to consider are the size and age at which fish mature, and their total mortality rates.  In general, lower MSLs are established for species that mature at small sizes and young ages, as compared to species that mature at larger sizes and older ages.  Virtually 100% of male brook trout in small Michigan trout streams are mature by the time they grow to a length of 7 inches at 1 year of age (McFadden et al. 1967).  Thus, harvest of male brook trout over 7 inches will not jeopardize reproduction because most males will have a chance to spawn at least once.  Approximately 80% of female brook trout in small streams are mature at 7 inches, so even if they are harvested under a 7 inch MSL, there is sufficient egg-laying capacity to sustain populations (McFadden et al. 1967; Alexander 1974).  In a study conducted at the Hunt Creek Fisheries Research Station researchers found no difference in the abundance of young trout between a 17-year period when an experimental section of Hunt Creek was open to angling under a 7-inch MSL (1949-65) and a 27 year period (1966-92) when all fishing was prohibited.  During the period when Hunt Creek was open to fishing, intensive angler harvest removed an average of 265 brook trout over 7 inches long per mile of stream each year (Alexander and Nuhfer 1993).

Brook trout in most Michigan streams have high natural mortality rates, and as a result, few brook trout survive long enough to grow larger than 10 inches, even in sections of streams such as the South Branch and Mainstem of the Au Sable River where fly-anglers are subject to a no-kill regulation, or in Hunt Creek where all fishing is prohibited.  The difference in longevity between stream brook trout and brown trout in Michigan can be illustrated by comparing average abundance for different sizes of trout collected during population surveys of good quality trout streams from 2002-2008 (Figure 2).  In Michigan streams, brook trout rarely survive to be 3 years old, and hence few grow to sizes larger than 10 inches.  By contrast, brown trout have lower natural mortality rates than brook trout and often live to be 4 years old when they are likely to be from 11 to 16 inches long.

We recommend an 8-inch MSL for brown trout throughout the state in Type 1 streams for several biological reasons.  Brown trout have lower natural mortality rates than brook trout and they also mature at older ages and larger sizes. Most female brown trout in MI streams do not mature until they are 3 years old.  Setting a larger MSL provides better protection of brown trout by allowing more of them to grow to reproductive age.  Pounds of brown trout available for angler harvest or release are also higher under an 8-inch MSL because lower natural mortality rates allow more brown trout to survive to larger sizes.  Harvesting brown trout at an 8-inch rather than a 7-inch MSL will provide greater opportunities to harvest or release larger fish in Type 1 streams located in both peninsulas.

Differences in hooking mortality between brook trout and brown trout were also considered during development of new MSLs for Type 1 streams.  Brook trout are far more vulnerable to capture by anglers than brown trout and they also tend to suffer substantially higher hooking mortality (often over 25% of fish landed) because they aggressively attack and swallow baits.  As MSLs increase for brook trout, more fish are lost due to hooking mortality for each legal-sized fish caught (see Figure 2).  For anglers who emphasize harvest on Type 1 streams (as opposed to catch-and-release), the 7-inch size limit on brook trout will allow them to keep more of the fish they hook.  Moreover, revised size limits will be simpler to understand and enforce because they will be consistent throughout Michigan.

The proposed MSL of 24 inches for splake in Type 1 streams will be consistent with the statewide MSL for lake trout.  It is also simpler than current stream regulations, which impose three different size limits for splake depending upon stream regulation type.  A 24-inch MSL for splake will also assure that lake trout will not be accidentally harvested by anglers who identify them as splake.  Few anglers will be affected by this change in MSL because very few splake migrate into Type 1 streams in Michigan.

The bullet list below summarizes some of the major objectives accomplished by the proposed changes in minimum size limits for brook trout, brown trout, and splake in Type 1 streams.

  • Simplification
    • Minimum size limits will be the same for brook trout and brown trout in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
    • Splake size limits will match those for lake trout in all streams of the state.
  • Protection of spawners
    • The 7-inch MSL for brook trout provides ample protection of spawners for this early-maturing species.
    • The 8-inch MSL for brown trout allows more of these later-maturing fish to survive to reproductive age.
  • Angler Preferences
    • The 7-inch MSL for brook trout serves the desires of anglers of Type 1 streams who emphasize harvest
    • It is well understood that fishing with bait increases hooking mortality.  The 7-inch MSL for brook trout allows anglers to retain more of the deeply hooked fish that would likely die upon release under an 8 inch MSL.
    • More pounds of brown trout can be harvested or released under an 8-inch MSL than under a 7-inch MSL

PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE TYPE 2 REGULATIONS

We propose eliminating the Type 2 regulations that have been in effect since 2000.  This regulation included a 10 inch MSL for brook trout, a 12 inch MSL for brown trout, a fishing and possession season extending from the last Saturday in April through September 30, and no restrictions on use of bait.  Streams selected for this regulation type were typically waters where rapid growth rates provided a higher potential to produce more large brook trout and brown trout.  However, almost all evaluations of Type 2 regulations showed that they did not significantly increase the abundance of larger brook trout or brown trout compared to pre-2000 standard trout regulations.

Streams or portions of streams presently managed under Type 2 regulations will be converted to one of the proposed three remaining (and renumbered) Types or placed into the Gear Restricted category.  Efforts are currently underway by Fisheries Division biologists to identify the most appropriate category in which to place the current Type 2 streams.

A summary of evaluations of Type 2 regulations conducted in seven streams is shown below.  The locations of study streams are shown in Figure 1.

Study Rivers

Effects of Type 2 regulations on the upper Manistee River in Crawford County were evaluated based on 18 trout population estimates conducted between 1988 and 2008 and 15 years of angler catch data reported by volunteer anglers from 1989-2003.  Average angler catch rates and trout populations for the period when this river section was subject to pre-2000 statewide regulations were compared to rates measured after 2000.  Extensive management action to control sediment and improve habitat through additions of large woody debris (LWD) have been conducted over the past 3 decades.  The upper Manistee River near Cameron Bridge supports a dense population of brown trout and a modest population of brook trout.

Type 2 regulations were evaluated in the South Branch Paint River in Iron County based on population estimates collected at two locations.  At the Upper Goldmine site, average populations calculated from estimates made between 1990 and 1999 before the regulation change were compared to the average for 5 years after the regulation change (2000-04).  At a habitat improvement site, the average of 7 population estimates collected from 1991-99 was compared to the average for 4 years after the regulation change (2000-03).  Habitat improvement structures (sky booms) have been installed in various sections of the stream for the purpose of narrowing and deepening the stream, stabilizing the banks, and to provide overhead cover for trout.  The South Branch Paint River supports naturally reproducing populations of both brook trout and brown trout.

Effects of Type 2 regulations on brook trout populations in the Iron River in Iron County were evaluated by comparing the average of four population estimates before the regulation change (1996-99) to the average of four population estimates made after the change (2000-03).  Nearly all trout found in the Iron River are brook trout.

Effects of Type 2 regulations on brook trout populations in the Black River (Otsego and Montmorency Counties) were evaluated by comparing average population estimates collected before and after the regulation change at two index stations: Main River Bridge, and Sid’s Landing.  No habitat management such as addition of LWD has been conducted in these stations.  Virtually all trout in these sections of the Black River are brook trout.

Effects of Type 2 regulations on brown trout populations were evaluated in three small streams located in southwest Michigan by comparing populations before and after the regulation change.  Two sites on Silver Creek (Kalamazoo and Allegan Counties) were evaluated.  Stream improvement to improve cover for fish and control sedimentation was conducted in 1995 at the Kalamazoo County site, while only the regulations were changed at an upstream site in Allegan County.  Spring Brook in Kalamazoo County and Brandywine Creek in Berrien County were also evaluated.  Brown trout populations in all three streams are sustained by natural reproduction.

Methods

Differences in average densities of larger trout before and after the regulation changes were tested for statistical significance.  Average abundance was compared for size groups of trout whose density would be expected to change if the regulation change had a significant effect on the size structure of the populations.  For example, if Type 2 regulations were effective at increasing the density of larger brook trout, one would expect density of 7.0 to 9.9-inch brook trout to increase in Upper Peninsula streams.  Similarly, one would expect the density of 8.0 to 11.9-inch brown trout to increase under Type 2 regulations if angler harvest was an important mortality factor before the regulation change in 2000.  Angler catch rates in the Manistee River were analyzed in a similar fashion.

Results

Overall, there were only a few locations where higher abundance of larger brook trout or brown trout occurred after Type 2 regulations were enacted.  Stream improvement work to improve habitat via control of sedimentation and addition of cover for trout had also been conducted in 2 of the 3 rivers where abundance of larger brown trout increased after Type 2 regulations went into effect.

Brook trout

The Iron River RV Park station was the only site where abundance of brook trout increased significantly under Type 2 regulations (Table 2).  In the Iron River populations of 7.0-9.9 inch brook trout increased, but abundance of brook trout over 10 inches long did not change, even though angler harvest was virtually eliminated.  No changes in average abundance of larger brook trout were detected in the Manistee River, the South Branch Paint River, or the Black River (Table 2).

High natural mortality rates for brook trout, rather than hooking mortality appears to be the primary reason Type 2 regulations were ineffective at producing more brook trout larger than 10 inches.  For example, minimum size limits for brook trout harvest were increased from 8 inches to 10 inches on flies-only sections of the North and South branches of the Au Sable River in 2000.  In these streams, hooking mortality of trout caught on artificial flies was low, yet abundance of larger brook trout did not change.  Small numbers of two-year-old brook trout in some Michigan streams grow to 10 inches, but on average, a stream brook trout needs to live to be 3 years old to grow to this size.  Since few brook trout live that long in Michigan streams a 10 inch MSL is functionally equivalent to a no kill regulation for most streams.

Brown trout

The Upper Manistee River was the only site evaluated where populations of both 8.0-11.9 and 12-inch-or-longer brown trout populations were significantly higher under Type 2 regulations (Table 3).  Volunteer angler catch rates were also higher under Type 2 regulations.  However, the increase in abundance of larger brown trout cannot be fully attributed to the regulation change.  Extensive habitat improvement work has been conducted on the Manistee River over the past 3 decades.  The naturally reproduced brown trout juveniles that produced more big brown trout after the regulations change in 2000 were nearly twice as abundant as they were during the late 1980s and early to middle 1990s.  In other words, higher levels of natural reproduction produced greater numbers of large brown trout over the following years.  We believe that improved reproduction achieved by controlling excess sediment and additions of LWD were primarily responsible for increased abundance of large brown trout in the Manistee River, although the more restrictive regulations may have contributed to the increase.

In the South Branch Paint River in the UP, there were no significant changes in density of larger brown trout at the Upper Goldmine sampling station (no habitat improvement) after Type 2 regulations were applied (Table 3).  Nor were there significant changes in density of larger brown trout at the Upper Sky Booms station where habitat improvement work had been conducted.

In Silver Creek density of intermediate-sized brown trout (8-11.9 inch) increased at a site where habitat was improved by addition of fish structures and control of bank erosion (Table 3).  There were no changes in abundance of larger brown trout in a section of Silver Creek where no habitat enhancement was conducted.  Type 2 regulations were clearly ineffective at increasing density of larger brown trout in Spring Brook and Brandywine Creek (Table 3).  Here, populations of larger brown trout were actually more abundant before 2000 when regulations were less restrictive.

In summary, we believe that the data collected on these seven existing Type 2 streams are representative of the effects that occurred on the majority of Type 2 streams throughout the state.  Our study streams included streams where brook trout were the primary trout species (Iron and Black rivers), streams with mixed brook and brown trout populations (Manistee and South Branch Paint rivers), and streams sustaining primarily brown trout (Silver and Brandywine creeks, and Spring Brook).  Study streams were also well distributed between northern and southern latitudes in Michigan.  Less formal evaluations of Type 2 streams based on information provided by anglers to fisheries managers generally did not indicate improvement in the size of trout after Type 2 regulations were applied in 2000.

The bullet list below summarizes some of the major objectives that could be accomplished by eliminating the Type 2 classification put into effect in 2000.

  • Simplification
    • Elimination of a stream type will reduce the current suite of standard types from 7 to 3 (assuming existing Types 5-7 are reclassified in the Gear Restricted category as discussed below).

  • A regulation that proved to be ineffective at increasing density of larger trout in most streams where it was evaluated will be eliminated

  • Protection of spawners
    • The newly proposed suite of 3 standard stream Types, plus the Gear Restricted stream type regulations all provide adequate protection of spawners if such protection is warranted.

  • Angler Preferences
    • Conversion of many of the current Type 2 streams to streams with less restrictive minimum size regulations will satisfy the desires of anglers who emphasize harvest, without adversely affecting the size structure of the trout populations.
    • Conversion of some Type 2 waters to Gear Restricted waters will satisfy the desires of anglers who believe that such regulations enhance their recreational experience.

NEW PROPOSED TYPES 2 AND 3

We propose retaining the existing Type 3 and 4 regulations although they will be renumbered. If the existing Type 2 regulations are eliminated as proposed, the present Type 3 will become Type 2, and the present Type 4 will become Type 3. This numbering system will be used for the remainder of the discussion.  The only change to these regulations would be the application of 24-inch MSLs for splake (Table 1; see Type 1 discussion).

Both of these regulation types would continue to provide extended season (i.e., fall-spring) fishing opportunities for lake-run trout and salmon, but they also incorporate different mechanisms for protecting resident trout populations. On Type 2 streams, there would be no closed season for any trout or salmon species. The brown trout fisheries in many of these streams are strongly dependent on fall runs of adult fish from Lake Michigan. Thus, ending the brown trout season on September 30 essentially would eliminate the brown trout fisheries in most Type 2 streams. Some Type 2 streams do support resident populations of brown trout, but the population density typically is low. The 15 inch MSL on some Type 2 waters is intended to encourage production of more large brown trout in streams where they grow rapidly. Most lake-run fish are larger than 15 inches, so this size limit does not greatly restrict harvest of lake-run brown trout. Some fast-growing resident brown trout will reach 15 inches, but they will have multiple opportunities to spawn before reaching legal size. Type 2 streams rarely support sizeable brook trout populations, but the proposed 15-inch MSL provides good protection for brook trout moving into Type 2 streams from the Great Lakes or tributary streams.

For Type 3 streams, the possession season for brook trout, brown trout, and Atlantic salmon would extend from the last Saturday in April through September 30. These streams typically support spring and summer fisheries for resident brook trout or brown trout. Natural reproduction and populations of resident trout are typically low in Type 3 streams due to high water temperatures during summer months.  A MSL of 15 inches would provide few opportunities to harvest brown trout except in those streams with substantial populations of lake-run brown trout.  Thus, a combination of lower size limits (8 inches for brook trout; 10 inches for brown trout and rainbow trout) and spawning closures are proposed to allow some harvest while protecting resident trout during critical spawning and incubation periods.  Type 3 regulations provide increased opportunities for anglers to catch larger brown trout and rainbow trout in stocked streams where growth is rapid during the first several months after stocking before water temperatures rise to above-optimal levels.  In these streams, stocked brown trout and rainbow trout often grow quickly to the legal MSL of 10 inches, but few of them survive beyond the year they are stocked.  Allowing harvest under a 10 inch MSL provides for better utilization of stocked fish.  This regulation may also be applied to streams where year-round angling is preferred, while protecting spawning brook trout, brown trout, and Atlantic salmon by making it illegal to possess these species during the spawning and incubation periods.  Type 3 regulations allow year-round angling and harvest of adult steelhead while protecting small steelhead before they smolt and move to the Great Lakes.

NEW PROPOSED GEAR RESTRICTED CATEGORY

Dating back to the late 1960s, Michigan was limited by law to only 100 miles of gear restricted trout streams.  While there have been a few additions and deletions of streams from this list, it remained fairly consistent over the ensuing decades.  In 2002 legislation was passed allowing for an additional 112 miles of gear restricted streams.  Only one gear restricted stream reach (the upper Manistee River), has been added since the new law took effect.

Below is a current listing of the gear restricted streams in Michigan.  By law, Michigan is restricted to no more than 212 miles of gear restricted streams, and currently there are only 10 streams regulated by Type 5-7 regulations representing 97 miles of water.  Additionally, there are  only 3 gear restricted research streams, and it is possible that some or all of these streams may be moved into the new gear restricted category in the future.

Existing Type 5

  • North Branch Au Sable River, from Sheep Ranch downstream to its confluence with the mainstream
  • South Branch Au Sable River, from the Lower High Banks downstream to its confluence with the mainstream
  • Manistee River, from M-72 downstream to the CCC Bridge (T26N, R6W, S26)
  • Little Manistee River, from Spencer’s Bridge (T19N, R13W, S5) downstream to Johnson’s Bridge (T20N, R14W, S24)

Existing Type 6

  • Escanaba River, from Boney Falls Dam downstream to its confluence with Silver Cr. (T40N, R23W, S11)
  • Duck Creek, from the Railroad bridge (T44N, R39W, S16 SE/SE) downstream to its mouth
  • Johnson Creek, from Napier Road (T1S, R7E, S24) downstream to its confluence with the Middle Branch Rouge River (T1S, R8E, S3)

Existing Type 7

  • Pere Marquette River, from M-37 Bridge downstream to Gleason’s Landing
  • Au Sable River, from Burton’s Landing downstream to Wakeley Bridge
  • S. Branch Au Sable River, from Chase Bridge downstream to Lower High Banks

Existing Gear Restricted Research Waters

  • Au Sable River Mainstream (Oscoda Co.) from Mio power line (T26N, R3E, Sec 7) to McKinley Bridge (14.2 mi): Open season is last Sat. in April-Sept. 30; artificial lures and flies only; minimum size limit 15” for brown trout, 12” for other trout; possession limit 2 trout.
  • Huron River (Oakland Co.) from sign below Moss Lake outlet to signs 100 yds. below Wixom Rd. (T2N, R7E, Sec 13)(2mi.): April 1-Friday before last Sat. in April artificial flies only, possession limit 0 trout (catch and release). Last Sat. in April – Sept 30, possession limit 3 trout; bait, lures, and flies may be used.
  • Black River (Otsego and Montmorency Co.) from Tin Shanty Bridge Road downstream to the Town Corner Lake stairs (T32N, R1E, S31 SE/SE): open season is all year; possession season is the last Sat. in April – Sept 30; only artificial lures may be used; it is unlawful to use or possess live bait, dead or preserved bait, organic or processed food, or scented food on any of the waters or onshore; minimum size limit 10 inches for brook trout; 12 inches for brown trout; possession limit (2) trout.

We propose to place these stream sections into a “Gear Restricted” category that can be summarized on one page of the fishing guide.  Initially, existing Types 5-7 and gear restricted research waters would be subject to the same tackle restrictions, creel and size limits, and seasons as they are in 2009.  However, the new Gear Restricted category is intended to be more flexible than the present standard Types 5-7, which may not be the “best” regulations for specific waters.  Combining Types 5-7 and some current research waters into the “Gear Restricted Trout Streams” category will simplify the regulations table (Table 1).  This change will make the trout stream classification maps easier to interpret, as the number of colors (Types) would be reduced from 7 to 4 (Types 1, 2, 3, and Gear Restricted Trout Streams).

One argument against this proposal is that it could result in a category with a patchwork of complex regulations on gear restricted streams.  However, it is important to keep in mind that there are very few streams in this category (10). Given the 212 mile statutory restriction, it is unlikely that many more streams will be added.  The majority of fishing that takes place on current stream Types 5-7 is catch & release.  Consequently, the regulations can be a bit more complicated than on catch/keep streams because anglers fishing Types 5-7 primarily do so for the enjoyment or trophy potential, and not necessarily the harvest, so they are not as concerned with having standard size and creel limits.

NEW PROPOSED CLASSIFICATION OF TROUT WATERS (April 2010)

Optimal management of trout fisheries requires variation in regulations among waters. Spawning closures may need to vary with the timing of spawning (e.g., spring for rainbow trout and fall for brook and brown trout). Size limits may need to vary with differences in growth and survival of the species in various waters. Restrictions on gear type may be impractical in some waters, either because of the particular species mix found there or because streamside vegetation prevents casting. In addition, regulations may need to vary to satisfy different value systems than are served by the regulations applied on most waters. To accommodate this variation, we propose the following suite of trout fishing regulations for Michigan streams (Table 1).


Table 1.–Proposed trout stream regulations table.

Minimum Size Limit

Type

Open Season

Possession Season

Tackle

Daily Possession Limit

Brook Trout

Brown trout

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Lake Trout and Splake

Coho, Chinook, & Pink salmon

Atlantic salmon

1

Last Sat. in April – Sept. 30

Last Sat. in April – Sept. 30

All

5/3*

7″

8″

10″

24″

10″

15″

2

All Year

All Year

All

5/3*

15″

15″

15″

24″

10″

15″

3

All Year

Brown trout, Brook trout, Atlantic salmon Last Sat. in April – Sept. 30 Other trout species all year

All

5/3*

8″

10″

10″

24″

10″

15″

* 5 fish, with no more than 3 fish 15 inches or larger, and no more than 1 Atlantic salmon, EXCEPT: up to 5 salmon (Chinook and Coho) 15 inches or larger may be retained in the daily harvest limit on these waters.

Type 1 Streams

Most of these streams are small with stable flows and cold and stable temperatures. Trout in these streams typically grow at average or below average rates. These are streams in which trout reproduce successfully and in which reproductive success could be impaired by fishing during the spawning season. They may also include streams that are larger and are stocked. Trout growth in these streams is relatively slow, so minimum size limits will also generally be small. These streams can be narrow enough that streamside vegetation makes casting difficult, so restrictions on bait fishing may not be appropriate. Because bait angling can result in substantial hooking mortality these streams will be closed to angling during the spawning season. Most of our currently designated trout streams will fall into this category.

Type 2 Streams

These are typically larger streams that receive substantial runs of anadromous trout and salmon. (Anadromous fish migrate from the Great Lakes or inland lakes into rivers to spawn.)  These streams also may support resident populations of brown trout and rainbow trout, but the population density of resident trout (i.e., those that spend their entire lives in the stream) is usually low. Due to the abundant food resources in these streams, trout growth generally is faster than average. Natural reproduction of brook trout and brown trout in these streams is minimal, although natural reproduction may occur in tributaries to Type 2 streams.

In these streams, most of the fishing effort is directed toward anadromous trout and salmon. These fisheries are seasonal in nature (spring for steelhead; fall for salmon and brown trout), so the streams are open to fishing all year.

These streams are capable of producing large fish for two reasons: growth of resident trout is above average and a large percentage of the fishery is supported by anadromous fish from the Great Lakes (where growth typically is much faster than in stream environments). Thus, the size limits on Type 2 streams are higher than on Type 1 streams.

Type 3 Streams

Streams placed in this category may vary greatly in size. They may exhibit flows ranging from moderately stable to somewhat “flashy”. Summer temperatures in Type 3 streams may frequently be above optimal for trout. Trout in these streams may grow at average to above average rates. Trout fisheries in most Type 3 streams will be mostly supported by stocking, or the fisheries may be supplemented by seasonal runs of anadromous trout and salmon.

These streams will be open all year to allow anglers to fish for steelhead and salmon (except Atlantic salmon). The possession season for brook trout and brown trout on Type 3 streams ends on September 30 to protect these fish during the spawning season. The size limits for trout on Type 3 streams are intermediate between Type 1 and Type 2.

Gear Restricted Waters

As outlined in Fisheries Order 213.04, new stream reaches assigned to this category should meet several criteria.

(1) The fishery is dominated by trout.

(2) Growth of trout is average or above average.

(3) The natural mortality rate is low.

(4) The fishing mortality rate is high.

(5) The stream reach is > 2 miles in length.

(6) Public access is assured.

(7) The public is supportive of gear restrictions.

The goal of gear restrictions is to increase abundance of large fish by reducing harvest and hooking mortality. It is unlikely that this goal will be realized on stream reaches that do not meet the criteria listed above. In addition, gear-restricted stream reaches must be wide enough to facilitate casting with spinning or fly fishing tackle.

Gear restrictions fall into one of two categories: artificial flies only or artificial lures and flies. The open seasons, possession seasons, possession limits, and minimum size limits on Gear Restricted streams are variable and can be adjusted based on the biological and social factors affecting particular stream reaches.

Research Waters

Fisheries Division, other state and federal agencies, and universities conduct a wide variety of research projects on Michigan streams. In some instances, special fishing regulations are established to facilitate these research projects. Research regulations are intended to be temporary. Once research projects are completed, stream reaches will be reclassified into Types 1-3 or Gear Restricted Waters.

References:

Alexander, G. R. 1974.  Trout biology and population ecology study V.  Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration, Job Final Report for Project F-30-R-8, Ann Arbor.

Alexander, G. R. and A. J. Nuhfer.  1993.  Population dynamics of brook trout in Hunt Creek, Michigan, with and without fishing.  Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Research Report 1996, Ann Arbor.

McFadden, J. T., G. R. Alexander, and D. S. Shetter.  1967.  Numerical changes and population regulation in brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis.  Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 24:1425-1459.

Document prepared by: Todd Grischke, Brian Gunderman, Andrew J. Nuhfer

Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division.


Figure 1? Locations of streams where trout population data collected from index stream sections between 1990 and 2008 were used to evaluate whether populations of larger trout changed after Type 2 regulations were put into effect in 2000.  In the Manistee River angler catch rates before and after the regulation change were also evaluated


Figure 2?Numbers of brook trout (Panel A) and brown trout (Panel B) per acre, by inch group at MI Status and Trends Program fixed index stream reaches (2002-08).  Data for brook trout are from 97 population surveys of 31 stream sections and data for brown trout are from 121 surveys of 34 streams.  Vertical bars show bounds of 95% confidence limits for the average numbers per acre.


Table 2.?Comparisons of average density and angler catches of brook trout between periods when they were managed under standard statewide trout stream regulations prior to 2000, to density and catches during years when populations were managed under Type 2 regulations.

Trout populations

Angler catch rates

River

Site

7.0-9.9 inches

8.0-9.9 inches

10.0 + inches

7.0-9.9 inches

8.0-9.9 inches

10.0 + inches

Manistee River

Cameron Bridge

N/A

No change

No change

N/A

No change

No change

S. Br. Paint R.

Upper Goldmine

No change

N/A

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Upper Sky Booms

No change

N/A

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Iron River

@ RV Park

Density doubled under Type 2

N/A

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Black River

Main River Bridge

N/A

No change

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Sid’s Landing

N/A

No change

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Table 3.?Comparisons of average density and angler catches of brown trout between periods when they were managed under standard statewide trout stream regulations prior to 2000, to density and catches during years when populations were managed under Type 2 regulations.

Trout population

Angler catch rates

River

Site

7.0-11.9 inches

8.0-11.9 inches

12.0 + inches

7.0-11.9 inches

8.0-11.9 inches

12.0 + inches

Manistee River

Cameron Bridge

(Steam improvement site)

N/A

Density doubled under Type 2

Density 2.5 times higher under Type 2

N/A

Catches higher under Type 2

Catches higher under Type 2

S. Br. Paint R.

Upper Goldmine

(Unimproved site)

No change

N/A

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Upper Sky Booms

(Stream improvement site)

No change

N/A

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Silver Creek

(Stream improvement site)

N/A

1.6 times higher under Type 2

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Unimproved site

N/A

No change

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Spring Brook

(Unimproved site)

N/A

1.3 times higher under Type 1

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

Brandywine Creek

(Unimproved site)

N/A

No change1

No change

N/A

N/A

N/A

1 The point estimate for mean density was 1.7 times higher under Type 1 regulations than under Type 2 regulations and the difference between means was nearly statistically significant (P = 0.06).


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