Bass fishing changes, transport of CWD positive deer among questions at the 2018 Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearings

MADISON – A continuous season for bass fishing – with harvest only allowed during the current open season – restriction on moving deer that test positive for chronic wasting disease, opening the inland trout season the first Saturday in April, and a new fee to use state wildlife, fisheries and natural areas are among the questions the public can vote on at the 2018 Spring Fish and Wildlife Public Hearing and annual Conservation Congress county meetings.

On Monday, April 9, there will be 72 public hearings [PDF], one in each Wisconsin county starting at 7 p.m. where people interested in natural resources management have an opportunity to provide their input by non-binding vote and testimony to the Department of Natural Resources and the Conservation Congress on proposed natural resources advisory question that may lead to future rule changes.

Among the fisheries management advisory questions are two of statewide interest related to bass fishing. One seeks input on the idea of a statewide, continuous open season for bass fishing. Harvest of bass would only be allowed during the current traditional season. The other proposes establishing alternate size and bag limits for participants in permitted, catch-and-release, bass fishing tournaments.

Local fisheries management advisory questions include:

  • Whether the department should initiate a review of longstanding panfish and gamefish size and bag limit regulations on the Mississippi River;
  • walleye harvest regulations affecting Koshkonong Lake in Jefferson/Rock counties and the Lake Winnebago system; and
  • Lake Superior sturgeon size limit and bank pole fishing regulations on the Winnebago system.

Wildlife management advisory questions include on asking whether deer harvested in a CWD-affected county could only be transported within that county or to an adjacent CWD-affected county to minimize the risk of moving CWD prions along with carcasses to areas of the state that have not had CWD-positive test results.

Other wildlife management questions include:

  • a proposal to change the closing time of certain wildlife refuges to the end of the waterfowl season to would allow recreational users earlier access to the refugees; and
  • moving the close of pheasant season daily shooting hours on public properties stocked with pheasants from 2 p.m. to noon on weekdays from the third day of the pheasant season through November 3 to give wildlife staff more time and flexibility to stock while removing hunting pressure on the birds until the next morning.

The results of voting on the DNR proposed questions will be used by the department in the development of future policies and rule proposals. The department will hold hearings on any rule change proposals that advance at the 2019 spring hearings.

This year the Conservation Congress will seek public input on 36 advisory questions on a range of topics, including:

  • opening the inland trout season statewide on the first Saturday in April
  • returning to a three-zone mink and muskrat season framework;
  • allowing the unrestricted harvest of white perch on Lake Superior;
  • changing the requirements for obtaining a Wisconsin Guide License.

“Conservation Congress advisory questions generally originate from citizens’ ideas.” said Larry Bonde, Chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. “If resolutions presented at the county level meetings are supported, the resolution is advanced to one of the congress’ advisory committees and the District Leadership Council for consideration. If the proposal advances through the committees and council, it is forward to the DNR and Natural Resources Board for consideration as a future rule change.

“Each year, there are over 200 resolutions submitted locally. Not all pass, but the ones that do have the potential to become a rule, policy or legislative change in the subsequent years,” Bonde said. “It is a true grassroots process that empowers the citizens of this state to shape natural resources policy.”

The State Natural Resources Board is also seeking input on a number of advisory questions, including a proposal for a $5 annual fee for all users between the ages of 16 and 64 of state fishery, wildlife, natural areas and leased public hunting grounds and dedicating that money to directly support fish and wildlife habitat management and infrastructure on those properties.

Other board questions include:

  • eliminating the group deer hunting law so that the only person who can fill a tag is the hunter that had been issued the deer harvest authorization; and
  • adjusting the length of the crossbow season, for those who are not disabled or elderly.

To view the 2018 spring wildlife and fisheries questionnaire package [PDF] or for information about the process search the DNR website,, for “spring hearings.”

County Conservation Congress elections

During the Conservation Congress county meetings, county residents have the option to run for a seat on the Conservation Congress and to elect delegates from their county to represent their views regarding natural resources issues on the Conservation Congress, the citizen advisory body to the Natural Resources Board and DNR. Also, individuals have the opportunity to bring forth new conservation issues of a statewide nature to the attention of the Conservation Congress through the citizen resolution process.