House OKs bill to limit commercial fishing on Lake Michigan
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) could limit commercial fishing on Lake Michigan if the Senate approves a change to the state's Fish and Aquatic Life code.
House Bill 3272 was proposed by Rep. Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) and unanimously passed by the House on March 15.
“HB3227 is an initiative by the Department of Natural Resources,” Jesiel said. "This is a very important bill. The proposed changes to the statutes are intended to allow the DNR to more effectively administer the Lake Michigan commercial fishing program.”
The bill is meant to protect and regulate trout, salmon and lake whitefish by ending commercial fishing, including by gill and pound net. Any of these fish caught in such manner would have to be returned to the lake immediately.
The bill would allow the DNR to monitor and modify the fishing of these species through a data assessment of the needs of Lake Michigan.
Trout, salmon, and whitefish are among the most popular fish caught in the lake. By rotating species, they can be fished year-round.
Many amateur fishermen are catching record-weight whitefish this season, thanks to changes in foraging habits, Vic Santucci, the Illinois DNR's Lake Michigan program manager, said.
“One possibility for a change in whitefish foraging behavior is the near disappearance of the scud, Diporeia, from all but the deepest portions of the lake, and the increase in abundance of round goby,” Santucci said in a Chicago Sun Times article. “As you know, gobies are found in abundance among the rocks and boulders of our harbors and nearshore areas throughout much of the year. Foraging whitefish may be drawn to these nearshore areas when the temperature is right to feed on gobies or other prey, which increases their chances of encountering baited hooks of anglers fishing nearshore for perch, drum or other species.”
Reducing the commercial fishing methods might allow for a more harmonious balance between commercial fishermen and amateur hobbyists, the Illinois DNR said.
HB3272 was introduced to the House on Feb 9. It passed on March 15 with a constitutional majority and is awaiting its first Senate reading on March 28.
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