PROPOSED FISHING REGULATION CHANGES UNDER CONSIDERATION
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks staff is conducting a series of public meetings around the state this spring to describe and hear comments on several fishing regulation changes under consideration. Meetings have been conducted in Iola, Salina, Hays, and Wichita, with upcoming sessions in Topeka (May 8, 7 - 9 p.m., KDWP Region 2 office), Kansas City (May 9, 6:30 - 9 p.m., Cabela's), and Junction City (May 10, 7 - 9 p.m., Marriott Convention Center). The meetings will also include discussion of several fishing-related issues which have been proposed by the public but are not yet assembled in draft recommendation form.
Public participation is encouraged, since it will help refine recommendations and guide development of future regulations. Draft recommendations to be discussed include the following:
Length limits over 15 inches on largemouth and smallmouth bass have made it difficult for tournament organizers to hold weigh-in tournaments. Current regulations prohibit possession of any fish shorter than the minimum length, allowing a tournament participant who catches one large fish an advantage over a participant who catches several smaller fish (which may not be kept) under the length limit. As a result, tournament organizers often feel compelled to conduct their tournaments at lakes which have shorter length limits, placing excessive pressure on those lakes.
To protect the fisheries resource, as well accommodate tournament anglers, the committee is proposing the following guidelines and requirements:
- Allow tournament anglers to possess two bass over 15 inches, on waters with length limits greater than 15 inches, during a registered tournament.
- Fish under the normal length limit must be released immediately after weigh-in.
- Implement a tournament registration process that makes available a “Tournament Bass Pass” (proposed fee of $10) purchased by individual participants for use only during registered events, and valid for the calendar year in which it is purchased.
- Registered tournaments could only occur September 1 through June 15 (no registered events during the heat of summer, to minimize fish mortality).
- Catch information must be reported by Dec. 31 to retain registration eligibility for the next year.
- Tournament Bass Pass is only valid for tournament participants during registered tournaments.
Paddlefish are caught by snagging, primarily during spawning season at a few designated locations in eastern Kansas. Snagging areas in Kansas are located below the Chetopa dam on the Neosho River, below the Osawatomie dam on the Marais des Cygnes River, and in the Browning Oxbow Lake in Brown County.
Paddlefish do not reach sexual maturity until eight years of age, when they travel upriver to spawn, making them available to anglers at low-water dams along those rivers. At that age, a paddlefish typically has attained a weight of about 40 pounds, providing a unique opportunity for anglers.
To protect the paddlefish resource, reduce crowding at snagging areas, and provide equitable opportunity for anglers, the committee is recommending limiting the number of paddlefish an individual angler could harvest per year by requiring a $10 permit which includes five carcass tags. The current check station requirement would no longer be in effect, and all locations would conform to a creel limit of 2 and length limit of 34 inches.
The department began the trout program in Kansas in 1994, stocking trout in designated waters around the state for the Oct. 15 through April 15 trout fishing season. Current regulations allow anglers to catch and release trout without purchasing a trout permit.
That regulation was established to allow non-trout anglers to forego purchasing that permit to fish trout-stocked waters, some of which provide significant winter fishing opportunities for other fish species. However, catch and release anglers still have an effect on the mortality of trout, since not all fish caught and released survive. Since 1999, when almost 11,000 trout permits were purchased, permit sales have declined to the current level of about 7,000 permits sold annually. Increasing energy costs are driving up the cost of acquiring and delivering stocked trout, and other fisheries programs in the state are competing for limited federal aid revenues.
To accommodate those considerations, the committee is recommending development of two types of designated trout waters. “Type 1” waters, which comprise the majority of trout fishing locations in Kansas, would require anglers during the trout season to have a trout permit in their possession, whether they were fishing for trout or any other species. In “Type 2” waters, which contain significant winter fishing opportunities for species other than trout, anglers would need a permit to fish for and possess trout.
Current regulations allow for some confusion on legal collection and use of baitfish. Some fish species, for example, fall under legal definitions of both “baitfish” and “non-sportfish.” There also is some confusion among anglers in determining the difference between “department managed” and “department owned” waters, as currently defined in regulation.
To clarify and better define these terms, the draft recommendations would include each fish species in one of three categories: “sportfish,” “non-sportfish,” or “aquatic nuisance species.” Only species listed as non-sportfish could be used as bait; sportfish could not be used as bait. “Department managed” or “department owned” distinctions would be replaced with “public waters.”
Draft recommendations are eventually presented at public meetings of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission for further public comment and final public hearing action.
In addition to the draft recommendations summarized above, department staff at the upcoming public meetings will lead preliminary discussion of a variety of other issues which may be developed as draft regulations in the future. Among those issues, which include public requests for changes to existing regulations, are the following:
- Length and creel limits changes on smallmouth bass and largemouth bass, and clarification of black bass special regulations and individual black bass species regulations;
- crappie creel limits;
- wipers/stripers limits;
- scuba diving;
- spear fishing;
- gigging; and
- hand fishing.