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Emergency rule would increase whitefish harvest on Bay of Green Bay

Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 1:40 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Commercial fishermen may soon see a dramatic increase in the amount of whitefish they can harvest on the Bay of Green Bay.

The DNR is proposing an emergency rule to allow for that, and the process to do it begins with a public hearing Monday night, February 8.

Over the past decade, whitefish in the Bay of Green Bay have proved to be an amazing success story, dramatically increasing in abundance and recolonizing historic spawning grounds.

“Over time in the Fox River, in the Menominee River, in some of the other Green Bay tributaries, we’re seeing more and more whitefish coming back to spawn in those areas, it gets back to a lot of water quality improvements that have been made and the habitat improvements that have been made,” says Bradley Eggold, DNR Great Lakes Fisheries Supervisor.

With whitefish now the primary target of ice anglers in the winter, the DNR feels commercial fishermen should get in on more of the catch in spring and summer.

Their current quota is 360,000 pounds, but an emergency rule about to be proposed would increase that substantially.

“We’re looking at what a quota would be for the Bay of Green Bay and it comes out to about a million pounds, give or take, for both sport and commercial, so right now there’s certainly a lot of fish in the bay and we’re going to continue monitoring that through different assessments, collecting information from the sport fishery, from the commercial fishery and then as time goes on if adjustments have to be make with those quotas up or down we’ll make them in the future,” says Eggold.

Eggold, who oversees sport and commercial fishing on Lake Michigan and the bay says a permanent rule to increase whitefish quotas and bag limits is in the works, but in the meantime, an emergency rule could be in place by spring to help commercial fishermen as they try and navigate the pandemic.

“The Covid-19 issues related to lost opportunities , both fishing and markets in 2020 and then probably more potential opportunities here in 2021,” says Eggold.

The whitefish public hearing will be held virtually, Monday night at 6pm.

For those interested in taking part or sharing comments, go to https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/newsroom/release/40646

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