MARQUETTE - Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh postponed a decision on creating a new brook trout stream category that would allow anglers to take five more fish per day.
Creagh was scheduled to make a decision on the issue Thursday at the Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing, but did not take action after hearing concerns of opposition groups, including Trout Unlimited and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
"The director delayed implementation of the order," DNR spokesman Ed Golder said.
Creagh is now expected to consider a "slightly modified" order next week, the details of which were still being determined, Golden said.
At the September meeting of the NRC, the commission recommended Creagh implement a 10 fish daily possession limit for brook trout on 10 streams in the Upper Peninsula. The order would also establish studies to evaluate the bag limit increase.
DNR staff studied trout streams and produced the list of 10 streams, which included: Bryan Creek (Marquette and Dickinson counties), Dead River (Marquette County), Driggs River (Schoolcraft County), East Branch Ontonagon River (Houghton and Iron counties), East Branch Tahquamenon River (Chippewa County), Ford River (Dickinson and Iron counties), North Branch Otter River (Houghton County), Rock River (Alger County), Upper Tahquamenon River (Luce County) and West Branch Huron River (Baraga County).
There are currently four categories of trout streams; the proposed additional category is being referred to as a Type 5 trout stream. On Type 5 stream segments, the daily possession limit for brook trout would be 10 fish and the minimum size limit would be 7 inches. All or portions of 10 Upper Peninsula rivers and tributary streams are being proposed for the Type 5 category and have been selected from existing Type 1 streams (which have a daily possession limit of five fish and 7-inch minimum size limit).
The proposed 10 Type 5 streams would constitute 6 percent of the current Type 1 stream mileage.
A DNR narrative of recent developments said the 10 streams were discussed at the October NRC meeting in Ontonagon and public comment was subsequently received. Based on the comments, the proposal was reduced to five streams: East Branch Ontonagon River and its tributaries (Houghton and Iron counties), Driggs River (Schoolcraft County), East Branch Huron River and its tributaries (Baraga and Marquette counties), East Branch Tahquamenon River and its tributaries (Chippewa County) and the Dead River and its tributaries (Marquette County).
The new five-stream proposal considered Thursday would cut the percentage of current Type 1 stream mileage in half to 3 percent.
Opposition groups, including Trout Unlimited and the Sierra Club, want the DNR to gather baseline data on the streams before adopting the new trout regulation.
"Our position is simple: We are not opposed to a change in any trout regulations as long as it is supported by sound science," said Jim Cantrill, president of the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Marquette in a recent newsletter message. "We are not opposed to systematically choosing streams so as to see if regulatory changes impact fisheries, but only to the extent the MDNR is prudent in the number and type of stream that is chose and that we have reliable baseline data to judge impacts."
The DNR proposed the new rule after anglers have consistently asked the Fisheries Division to reconsider raising the brook trout bag limit that was reduced in 2000 from 10 fish to 5 in the U.P., making the limit uniform statewide
If approved by Creagh, the new modified order will take effect April 1.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.