Sunday, April 19, 2009

Indiana Fish & Wildlife declare closed season on bass not needed

Despite some commonly expressed concerns, a closed season on largemouth bass fishing in Indiana natural lakes is not needed during the spring spawning period, according to the Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).

Biologists say ample numbers of young bass are produced each year to replace those caught and the current 14-inch minimum size limit provides adequate protection for bass that are mature (or large) enough to spawn.

In an eight-page document presented to the Indiana Lakes Management Workgroup (LMWG) in March, DFW biologist Jed Pearson addressed a series of concerns expressed by opponents to Indiana's policy of no closed season.

In 2007, the LMWG asked the DFW to summarize current information on bass populations in Indiana natural lakes and assess the need for a closed season. The group's request came in response to persistent complaints that catching bass "on the beds," a common term for fishing during spring spawning, harms bass fishing.

"Indiana's bass fishing regulations are not much different than in other states," Pearson said.Indiana, like Ohio and Illinois, dropped its closed season in the 1950s. Michigan, New York and Wisconsin recently relaxed their closed seasons. Minnesota is the only state that still bans statewide spring bass fishing but is considering changes. Like Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin have a general 14-inch size limit. Ohio and Illinois have no size limit except at selected waters. 

Pearson said the overall number of bass in a lake depends more on habitat and how many survive from year to year, than on the number of eggs laid or fry produced in the spring.

"Bass fishing during the spawning period is harmful only if fishermen take more than the lake can replace," he said. "It makes no difference when a bass is removed if the total number is too high."

Biologists generally say that over-harvest occurs when more than 40 percent of the adult population is taken annually.

"Based on dozens of fishing surveys we conducted from 1980 through 2007, bass anglers take close to 40 percent of the 14-inch and larger bass present each year, but only 7 percent are taken in April and May combined," Pearson said.   

The most compelling argument against a closed season, according to Pearson, centers on long-term trends in bass populations monitored by the DFW at more than 50 Indiana natural lakes since 1980.

"Bass are now more abundant, bigger, and are caught at higher rates than ever before," Pearson said.  "All of these improvements have occurred despite the fact we have no closed season."

A copy of the document "Bass Fishing on the Beds: an Indiana Perspective" is at http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/files/Bass_on_Beds_Final.pdf.

Source: Gwen White, Indiana DNR
From an Indiana DNR press release

For more information, contact Marty Benson, Indiana DNR (317) 233-3853 or dnrnews@dnr.in.gov

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