Wildlife Federation Highlights Dangerous Netting Practice
I often look to the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation to shed light on issues about which I know little - - so I want to reproduce, in full, the text of a release the group issued, along with others, about a dangerous fishing practice that the DNR is petitioned to immediately address:
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes
Northeastern Wisconsin Great Lakes
August 11, 2010
Petition for Amendment of Administrative Rule
To the Department of Natural Resources:
The undersigned hereby petition the Natural Resources Board pursuant to section 227.12, Wisconsin Statutes and NR 2,03, Wisconsin Administrative Code for the amendment of rule: NR 25.09 (2), Wisconsin Administrative Code, regulating the placement of trapnets in Zone 3 of Lake Michigan.
The modification requested is: to either: restore the prohibition of the use of trap nets from June 28 to Labor Day of each year in Zone 3 of Lake Michigan and move the date of the closure back to May 31 of each year; or restrict the placement of trap nets in Zone three during June, July and August to five or more miles from the Two Rivers, Manitowoc and Sheboygan harbors.
The grounds for this petition are: to protect the public safety of sports anglers who
heavily fish the waters of Zone 3 off the harbors of Two Rivers, Manitowoc, and
Sheboygan heavily in the months of June, July and August of each year.
The fishing gear of sports anglers is easily entangled in the nets and leads of trap nets that can lead to the quick swamping of a sports fishing boat and the potential for severe injury or death
of sports anglers. The heavy sports fishing off the listed harbors combined with
commercial trap nets, even if properly marked, is an inherently dangerous situation.
This is not a hypothetical situation.
The undersigned groups and individuals have warned the Natural Resources Board, Department of Natural Resources staff and legislators of this inherent danger for years.
On June 25, 2010, three sports anglers, fishing off Sheboygan had two of their
downriggers entangled in the lead lines of a trap net. The boat stopped dead,
immediately took on substantial water over the resulting lowered stern in the three foot
seas and sank within approximately a minute. Two of the individuals were rescued alive
and the third, tragically, died.
In 2003 when trap netting was first proposed to be open for use in the heavy
sportsfishing months of July and August, the undersigned petitioners warned that it was
inherently dangerous in these heavily fished waters. Our statements were not
hypothetical since an identical sinking with three fatalities had occurred to sports anglers
being entangled with nets in St Martin’s Bay, Michigan.
To further substantiate that these are not isolated incidents. In the last year, another Michigan sports angler drowned from a virtually identical incident involving a trap net off of Ludington, Michigan.
Also please find attached, (Attachment 1), a formal incident report filed on July 1, 2010 by
Wisconsin DNR Warden Michael Clutter, who investigated the trap nets at the location
of the sinking, and documented extensive sports fishing gear entangled in the net in
question (page 1) and in two other nets (pages 2 and 3). In total, nine nets were pulled at
the location as a result of this incident, Four of the nine had heavy sports fishing gear
such as downriggers and cables attached. Only three of the nine nets had no fishing
tackle entangled at all.
The petitioners want to make it clear that this petition is not directed at the commercial
fisherman whose nets were entangled. It appears that the nets in question were properly
marked. However as the petitioners stated in 2003 the presence of trap nets in these
particular waters is inherently dangerous for several reasons.
First, there is a high concentration of sports anglers in these areas, often they are from other areas of the state and beyond, unfamiliar with the existence of trap nets. Secondly, the net markings may be difficult to see when there are significant waves or in predawn fishing which is
becoming commonplace. Lastly, due to changes in water temperatures and other
conditions, sports angling has substantially increased in the month of June, even prior to
the former prohibition on trap netting in July and August.
The only solutions to this inherently dangerous situation in these locations and still allow
safe sports and commercial fishing to coexist is to separate the two forms of fishing in
these areas by either time or distance.
The petitioners’ requested change to the trap netting regulations in Zone 2 is to either “restore the prohibition of the use of trap nets from June 28 to Labor Day of each year in Zone 3 of Lake Michigan and move the date of the closure back to May 31 of each year” (separation by time) or “restrict the placement of trap nets in Zone 3 during June, July and August to five or more miles
from the Two Rivers, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan harbors, (separation by
The historical background of the rule:
In January1989, the Natural Resources Board adopted FM-40-88 which prohibited
summer trap netting south of 44 degree, 55’ 50” north latitude.
In September 1994, the Board adopted FM-23-94 which allowed commercial trap
nets to be fished until the June 29th of each year.
Previously the code required that nets be tied off by June 14 th and removed from the lake by June 28th.
In November 2001, the Board changed the southern limit of summer trap netting to
44 degrees 52’ 30” north latitude, thus opening Whitefish Bay to trap netting.
In May 2003, at the request of a very few commercial fishermen, the Board adopted FH-46-02 which established two new areas in Zone 3 to be open to trap netting in July and August. These areas were off Two Rivers-Manitowoc and Sheboygan.
The petitioners and others opposed opening up these heavily used sport fishing areas due to concerns over sports gear entanglement in the trap nets. A then recent Michigan sports fishing boat sinking and resulting fatalities were cited as evidence of the inherent danger of putting nets in heavily fished sports fishing waters.
The change did not go into effect during the 2003 season.
In June, 2004, the Board adopted Emergency Rule Order FH-40-04 (E) which moved the new area that was to be open to trap netting off the Two Rivers-Manitowoc harbors further north away from the heaviest sports fishing areas. The petitioners and others had petitioned the legislature to review the earlier Board Order FH-46-02. As a result of that process, Senator Joe Leibham had brought the commercial and sports fishermen together and negotiated a compromise between the two groups that resulted in the move of the Two Rivers-Manitowoc area open to trap netting to be moved north as set forth in this emergency order. The 2004 trap netting season followed this emergency order.
In January 2005, DNR staff brought to the Board, FH-57-04 which was to establish the negotiated emergency order as a permanent rule. The Board voted down the emergency rule. The sports fishermen requested action of the appropriate legislative committees to object to the rule.
The Assembly Natural Resources Committee objected to the rule and it was sent to the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. That Committee sent a letter to the Governor asking him to review the situation. Nothing further was ever heard from the Governor, the Natural Resources Board or the DNR Secretary.
7. In December 2009, the Board adopted Board Order FH-23-09 which raised the
whitefish quota in Zone 3 from 214,820 to 351,487 pounds, an increase of 136,667
pounds, 63% increase. Two of the organizations signing this petition, the Wisconsin
Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs and the Northeast Wisconsin Great
Lakes Sports Fishermen objected to the increase in the whitefish quota in Zone 3
because it was likely that an increased harvest limit in zone 3 will lead to increased
pressure for further relaxation of the trap netting rules, such as more nets and a larger
summer trap netting area.
The Department responded in the green sheet by indicating that they had “no intention of further relaxing trap netting rules.
The commercial fishermen responded by going around the Board and the Department to seek
legislators to support removing restrictions on the number of nets and location of trap
netting areas in Zone 3 so that they can harvest this new increased quota.
The petitioners’ interest in the rule:
The Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs is the state’s largest conservation organization, comprised of 168 hunting, fishing, trapping and forestry-related groups. Part of our mission is the advancement of sound conservation policies which would include policies to insure the safety of our members when they are sport fishing on Lake Michigan.
Petitioners Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs and the Northeast Wisconsin Great Lakes Sports Fishermen are two of our club affiliates.In addition Great Lakes sports fishing clubs in Marinette, Green Bay, Sheboygan, Port Washington, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha are affiliate club members of the Federation. Hundreds if not thousands of our members sport fish on Lake Michigan. The Federation has been heavily involved in the trap netting issue during this whole rule making process
Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs is comprised of twelve sports fishing clubs from Kenosha to Marinette. It is dedicated to the protection of the Great Lakes sport fishery and the sports fishermen that use the Great Lakes. Virtually all of its members are avid sports anglers on Lake Michigan and fish the waters frequently including those portions off the shores of Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Cleveland and Sheboygan. The Federation has been heavily involved in this trap netting issue since its inception.
Northeast Wisconsin Great Lakes Sports Fishermen are comprised of eight hundred
members mainly located in the Two Rivers and Manitowoc areas. They are avid and
active anglers in Lake Michigan largely in the area that is trap netted of the Two
Rivers and Manitowoc area. They have been very actively involved in trying to
protect the lives and safety of their members by actively opposing the placement
of trap nets in those portions of Lake Michigan that are heavily used by their
members and many other anglers.
Charles Weier, Two Rivers, has sport fished off the shore of Manitowoc and Two
Rivers for over sixty years. He belongs to the Northeast Wisconsin Great Lakes SportsFishermen and has served as an officer and President of that organization. He also is a member of the Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Club and has served as a member of the Board and President of that organization. He has been actively involved in the issue of sports angler safety and trap nets in Zone 3 of Lake Michigan since its inception.
Michael Rusch, Manitowoc, has fished off the shore of Manitowoc and Two Rivers
for over fifty years years. He belongs to the Northeast Wisconsin Great Lakes Sports Fishermen and has served as an officer of that organization. He also has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs. . He has been actively involved in the issue of sports angler safety and trap nets in Zone 3 of Lake Michigan since its inception.
Mark Hasenberg, Kenosha, has fished in the Great Lakes for over fifty years.
He is a member and has served as President of the Kenosha Great Lakes Sports Fishing Club. He is a member and Past President of the Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs, is currently on the Board of Directors and serves as Treasurer of that organization. He has fished in Lake Michigan for over fifty years and has been very active in the issue of sports angler safety and trap nets in Zone 3 of Lake Michigan since it inception.
Larry Freitag, Sheboygan, has fished off the shore of Sheboygan for over thirty-five
years. He belongs to the Sheboygan Area Great Lakes Sports Fishermen, which are sports anglers largely living in the Sheboygan area. He is a Board member of the Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs. He is also a Board Director member of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and serves as Chair of the Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Fishing Committee. . He has been actively involved in the issue of sports angler safety and trap nets in Zone 3 of Lake Michigan since its inception.
Jack Nissen, Dousman, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin
Wildlife Federation, has been an officer of that organization for over five years and is currently serving as President of the organization. During his tenure as a WWF Board member and officer, the Federation has been actively involved in the issue of sports angler safety and trap nets in Zone 3 of Lake Michigan since its inception. He is an occasional sports angler on Lake Michigan.
Date: August 9, 2010
Petitioners: Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs
Northeast Wisconsin Great Lakes Sports Fishermen
Charles Weier, Two Rivers
Mike Rusch, Manitowoc
Mark Hasenberg, Kenosha
Larry Freitag, Sheboygan
Jack Nissen, Dousmann
Please send communication regarding this petition to:
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
201 Randolph Drive
Madison, Wisconsin 53717-1615
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