Proposed trout regulations


Raising trout bag 

limits in Crawford 

County being considered

By Ted Pennekamp


Trout regulations in Wisconsin haven’t been significantly updated in more than 20 years, so trout anglers across the state would probably be happy to know that DNR fisheries biologists are trying to simplify the regulations while also making the trout population healthier. 

A task force consisting of DNR personnel and members of the public has been working on new proposals which may be implemented in a few years if the proposals are ultimately adopted. There are about 40 people on the task force.

In Crawford County, a healthier trout population may mean increasing bag limits on many streams, something that many trout anglers have been advocating for quite awhile. 

“We’re trying to simplify the regulations whenever possible,” said Senior Inland Fisheries Biologist Jordan Weeks, whose jurisdiction includes La Crosse, Vernon, Monroe and Crawford counties. Weeks said that he is basing his recommendations on biology rather than social factors such as fly fishermen versus spin fishermen versus bait anglers.

Weeks said that he will propose increasing the bag limit on many streams in Crawford County from three trout per angler to five. He is also in favor of having no catch and release season on the relatively short streams that flow into the Mississippi River. Another idea is to have no size limit and a 10 bag limit on a few streams such as the Bad Axe, which is relatively short and flows into the Mississippi. 

Weeks said that he is also looking at the possibility of having catch and release for brook trout on a few special streams such as Plum Creek and Halls Branch in order to support the native species. Brown trout are not native to the United States.

The DNR’s program of producing naturally reproducing, self sustaining trout streams that do not need to be stocked has worked very well and perhaps a little too well in Crawford and surrounding counties. Thus, the proposed increased bag limits for most streams in the region. Most streams in Crawford County have a very high population density, some as high as 2,000 trout per mile. Because of this density dependent growth, there is a lot of competition for food and the trout don’t get as big as they could if their numbers were lower. It is hoped that by increasing bag limits, and in some cases having no size limits, will encourage anglers to keep more fish and thus reduce the population so that trout will have a chance to get bigger. Extending the length of the trout fishing season may also help, said Weeks. Weeks also noted, however, that a recent creel survey of Timber Coulee Creek showed that very few anglers keep trout anymore. Perhaps this will change over time.

Weeks said that some of the new trout regulation proposals may be a part of the upcoming Spring Conservation Congress hearings as advisory questions only so as to get input from trout anglers. These hearings are held in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties. 

Weeks is also hoping that special trout hearings will also be set up in the near future regarding the proposed new regulations. He said that proposals are just proposals which may or may not eventually be adopted. He said that the earliest that any new regulations could be implemented would probably be in 2016. 

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