Bryan Burroughs is executive director of Michigan Trout Unlimited, a group devoted to conservation of Michigan’s coldwater fish and their watersheds
John Voelker (pen name Robert Traver) was an iconic Michigander known for his literary works (e.g., Anatomy of a Murder, Trout Magic), and for his time as a Michigan Supreme Court justice. He was a passionate angler for Michigan’s state fish the brook trout, and spent his free time rambling around the backwoods of the Upper Peninsula in pursuit of these remarkable little fish and the beautiful places where they are found.
One of his most famous writings is “Testament of a Fisherman,” which adeptly communicated the fundamental reasons why so many people cherish trout fishing:
“I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful… because in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion, because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience… because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness…”.
Voelker also enjoyed a meal of fresh caught brook trout, but never mentioned being able to feed a feast of them to his family or friends as a primary motivation for his pursuit of trout fishing.
Right now, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Natural Resources Commission is deciding whether or not the bag limit (the daily harvest limit) for brook trout on UP streams should be doubled from 5 to 10. This commission is comprised of seven appointees of the governor, charged with legal mandates for making scientific fish and wildlife management decisions. Among the appointees are two from the U.P. that have an appetite to see the daily bag limit of brook trout doubled.
The problem however, is that the science doesn’t support it.
Five years ago, at the urging of the NRC, the DNR implemented an experimental study on the impact of doubling the bag limit on brook trout in the U.P. The NRC asserted the premise that increasing the bag limit would increase angling use of those streams. Eight streams were listed, and a handful of them were paired with control streams and angler and fish surveys were performed for 4 years following it.
Recent findings from the study documented that: No increase in angling activity occurred; most Michigan anglers preferred the standing 5 fish limit, and brook trout populations declined in the treatment streams while increasing in the control streams – showing a negative impact to brook trout populations from doubling the bag limit.
Despite the results from the study which show that most people prefer the bag limit to remain at 5, that increasing the limit didn’t increase angling, that this increase can negatively affect the angling success of other anglers, and most importantly that it can decrease brook trout populations, the NRC is still proposing to double the bag limit of brook trout on 1,100 miles of U.P. streams in 2018, and has urged to DNR to return to it next year with more candidate streams to include for 2019.
The NRC is scheduled to vote on this at its meeting on Nov. 9 (Thursday). If you want to help our state fish and you want to help ensure the NRC upholds its mandate for scientific fish and wildlife management, you can send your personal comments on this to the NRC via email to NRC@michigan.gov.