Wisconsin under attack




Bass Fishing Under Attack!


Chris Yogerst is a young college student, majoring in English and Minor in Communications. I have know Chris for many years and fished with him a number of times. He is dedicated to the sport of bass fishing and an upcoming tournament competitor, To find out more about this critical issue or to offer support to Chris's drive to repeal this movement, you may email him at: chrisyogerst@hotmail.com  This article deserves a read from all sportsman.

Walt Reynolds


By Chris Yogerst



            In 2004, a law was passed in the state of Wisconsin to check into the potential hazards and citizen complaints revolving around the increasing number of catch and release fishing tournaments that take place on our waters.  The first proposal was aimed at concerns about invasive species (transferring hazardous aquatic plants by transporting a boat from lake to lake), incidental mortality of fish, and costs associated with the tournament permit program.  Most of the issues are directed as bass tournaments, but walleye and musky tournaments fall victim to the same proposed restrictions.

            The concerns with invasive species are directly targeted at tournament fisherman, as they usually travel to many lakes during the course of the season.  Recently, tournaments have been making anglers wash their boats with a provided power washer before they leave the ramp.  Also, tournament officials now check boats to make sure no aquatic plants are hanging from the trailer before boats are launched.  All tournament anglers are aware of the issue of invasive species and are beginning to wash their boats even more religiously than before.

            This summer, I participated in the B.A.S.S. weekend series tournament trail that held large tournaments on the Mississippi River, Winnebago Chain, Madison Chain and the Chippewa Flowage.  All of these events were just 4 of many that were part of a DNR study that monitored fish mortality due to holding fish, then transferring them from the livewell of the boat and up to the weigh in stage.  All boats that participate in these tournaments must reach a standard of livewell quality in order to assure fish will remain healthy.  Many times, fish will be in a livewell for up to 8 hours in the intense summer heat and water temperatures up to over 80 degrees.  Recirculation and aeration systems, required in tournament boats, make sure these fish have the best water quality to remain alive. 

The DNR study proved that tournament anglers keep excellent care of their fish and there were next to no fish deaths in the tournaments I participated in according to tournament director Roy Bragg.  The tournament community has caught a lot of flack, however, due to a misunderstood and misrepresented incident on the Mississippi River.  There were in the ballpark of 500 bass that turned up dead within the week after a tournament a few years back.  This was reported in newspapers as an obvious fault of careless fisherman.  What they failed to report, was that the DNR set up the release site, and did not require a release boat (which is used in all major tournaments).  The fish were all released in a dirty off chute of the main river, over a half-mile from the main river channel.  The fish had a long way to go in order to get clean oxygenated water and thus the reason for the massive fish kill.  What must be noted, is that all bass caught in these tournaments are of legal length (14 inches), and could be legally kept by the anglers.  Therefore, any other tournament would have had all of the fish released successfully.  All of the events recently monitored by the DNR proved that fisherman are very responsible with the fish.

To add to the first proposal, there are now new rule changes that may take place as early as 2008, putting more regulations on fishing tournaments including a ban of fishing tournaments from July 1st through August 31st, that is half of the season!  Last fall, meetings were held all over Wisconsin by Pat Schmalz of the DNR, in order to talk to fisherman about the rules and get their feedback.  I attended the meeting in Fond Du Lac and many friends of mine attended the one in Rhinelander. 

One new concern was crowding at boat ramps, as tournaments generally start at the crack of dawn.  Crowding would only be an issue for the larger tournaments, and for the weekend series I participated in, we only used very large, public ramps that were never completely full when we were on the water.  When Pat Schmalz was asked who was complaining about the crowding, a direct answer was not given.  We all assumed it was angry lake associations; most of them I know in southern Wisconsin are not friendly to fisherman.  Also, as there was an upcoming election at the time (October 30th), when asked multiple times which politicians supported these changes, the question was completely avoided. 

Another issue was the concern of fish mortality during the hot summer months.  This issue was obviously solved when the DNR study proved that fish mortality was not an issue.  On the handout given at the meeting it states, “Wisconsin studies thus far have shown tournaments don’t have lasting impact on fish populations.”  Pat Schmalz even said, “there is still a harvestable number of bass, and fish populations isn’t a concern.”  When asked why they were revisiting the fish kill issue, we were told it was due to the Mississippi River incident, which is fair, but this years study proved fisherman are responsible. 

The next change proposed was the plan to require ALL tournaments to have a permit, even the small club events with 10 guys (hardly a crowding concern).  The cost of the permit depends on the amount of anglers in the field and the amount of prize money that will be awarded.  The permit cost for each event will range from $200-$850.  Tournament organizations, even small clubs, would need to apply for the permit between August 1st and September 30th of the previous year.  Most organizations don’t have their schedules out until the year of the event, so this seems like the early stages of a blatant attempt to rid the lakes of tournaments all together.

Again, the recent changes may allow a tournament ban on ALL waters from July 1st through August 31st.  I have been fishing tournaments for years and have spent endless hours out on Wisconsin lakes each year.  I have seen no reason to put regulations on fisherman.  After all, it is the fishermen who want to keep the resource alive and do more for conservation of their sport than anyone.  Issues that need to be addressed are things such as boater safety.  Anglers I know personally and have been in the company of on the water are, without a doubt, the safest group of boaters out there.  They use their boats on a regular basis, understand the consequences of misusing their equipment, and take their boating safety seriously.  All tournaments require the use of a life jacket anytime the eternal combustion engine is running.  Too many times, however, I have seen dangerous pleasure boaters (usually with the influence of alcohol) out on the lakes I spend time on.  In May of 2005, I fished a small tournament up north and as I was pulling my boat out, three intoxicated adults pulled up in a pleasure boat that also had three kids in it!  Too many times, the skier being pulled by a boat of intoxicated young adults has been close to hitting me, or one of my fellow anglers.  I think the decision to regulate the fishing boats by targeting tournaments on Wisconsin lakes is not a good one, and based on false conclusions.  All fisherman need to take note of what is going on and spread the word that sport fishing in Wisconsin is under attack!







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Last modified: January 30, 2007