LANSING?- A little more than a decade ago, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources embarked on a process to simplify trout regulations. Rather than one basic set of rules with pages and pages of exceptions, fisheries officials went in a different direction: Streams would be classified by "type" and each type would have consistent regulations.
Working with a committee of citizens, the DNR categorized state trout streams into seven distinct types and assigned appropriate regulations based on the streams' biological potential.
Type 1 steams - which included more than 80 percent of the state's designated trout streams - maintained the basic trout season: the last Saturday of April through the end of September.
Other streams - those that fed into the Great Lakes and featured steelhead runs, for instance, or those that showed the potential to grow larger trout had somewhat different seasons, some open year-round. Finally, there were three types of streams that featured some sort of gear restrictions - artificial baits-only or flies-only waters.
Each type had daily creel and length limits deemed appropriate for its characteristics and angler support.
In 2010, the DNR tweaked some of those regulations, combining the three gear-restricted types of streams into a single gear-restricted category with regulations designed for each individual stream, though none of the regulations on those streams actually changed for the season.
For the 2011 general statewide trout season, which opened Saturday, the DNR has adopted the first significant regulation changes since the concept of stream types was initiated.
Perhaps the most significant change is to Type 1: Whereas the length limits on brook trout and brown trout were previously seven inches in the Upper Peninsula and eight inches in the Lower Peninsula, the DNR adopted statewide regulations - seven inches for brook trout and eight inches for browns.
But the 2011 season also includes about 80 more miles of stream that have been moved into the gear-restricted category.
The new regulations were the result of requests from anglers and angler groups for more of these waters. The process included public nomination of stream segment for inclusion in the gear-restricted waters, a review of the nominations by DNR fisheries personnel and a citizens' advisory group that considered both the biological and social implications of the new restrictions, and public discussions of those recommendations at three Natural Resources Commission meetings.
The new regulations were signed by the DNR director in December 2010.
None of the new gear-restricted stream segments were proposed by DNR staff. All changes were made based on recommendations from the public, who nominated more than 1,300 miles of streams for inclusion in the gear-restricted category.
The additional 80 miles of gear-restricted streams include some additional segments of streams that already had gear restrictions as well as several new streams.
The gear-restricted streams can be found on pages 24 and 25 of the 2011 Michigan Fishing Guide. Streams that were added in 2011 are highlighted in red ink (as are all new regulations). The new segments are indicated in red on maps online at www.michigan.gov/fishingguide.
New gear restricted streams (and their regulations) include:
- Au Sable River (Crawford County), from Wakeley Bridge to McMasters Bridge. The eight-mile stretch is open year-round, artificial baits only, with the (general) possession season from the last Saturday of April-Sept. 30 for brook and brown trout, rainbows open year-round. The daily limit is two trout with no more than one 18 inches or longer and a minimum size limit of 10 inches for brookies and rainbows and 18 inches for browns.
- Au Sable River (Oscoda County) from the Mio power line to McKinley Bridge. The 15-mile stretch, which was previously designated a research stream, features a general possession season for brookies and browns, rainbows open year-round. The daily limit is two trout, no more than one 18 inches or greater, with a minimum length of 7 inches for brook trout, 10 inches for rainbows and 18 inches for browns.
- Black River (Otsego and Montmorency counties) from Tin Shanty Bridge to Town Corner Lake Stairs. These 4.4 miles feature the general possession season for brook trout. The daily limit is five trout, with no more than two brook trout. Minimum length limits are 10 inches for brookies and rainbows, 8 inches for browns.
- Cooks Run (Iron County) from U.S. Forest Highway 16 to the confluence of the South Paint River. The 4.5 mile segment features Type 2 regulations during the general season. The rest of the year, it's flies only, no-kill.
- Fox River (Schoolcraft County) from the State Forest Campground to M-28. During the general season, Type 1 regulations apply. For the rest of the year, it's flies-only, no-kill.
- Huron River (Oakland County) from the sign below Moss Lake to the signs 100 yards below Wixom Road. On this twomile stretch, during the general season, Type 1 regulations apply. The rest of the year, it's flies-only, no-kill.
- Manistee River (Crawford County) from County Road 612 to M-72. On this 9.2-mile stretch, it's artificial lures only with a general possession season for browns and brook trout, rainbows open year-round. Limit is two trout with no more than one 18 inches or longer. Length limits are 10 inches for brook trout and rainbows, 18 inches for browns.
- Paint Creek (Oakland County) from Gunn Road to Tienken Road. The five-mile stretch is artificial lures only with a general possession season for all trout. Daily limit is two trout with a minimum size limit of 14 inches.
- South Branch of the Paint River (Iron County) from Cooks Run to the mouth of the North Branch. On this 10-mile stretch, during the general season, Type 2 regulations apply. The rest of the year it's flies-only, no-kill.
-Pere Marquette River (Lake County) from Gleason's Landing to Rainbow Rapids. This 10.5-mile stretch is Type 4 water from Sept.1 to the Friday before the general possession season with a daily limit of one rainbow trout, a minimum of 8 inches. From the last Saturday in April through Aug. 31, it's artificial lure sonly with a daily limit of two trout with no more than one rainbow and no more than one browns trout 18 inches or larger. Minimum length limit is 8 inches for all trout except trout greater than 14 inches but shorter than 18 inches must be released.
- Pigeon River (Cheboygan and Otsego counties) from Elk Hill Campground to Pine Grove Campground. Open year-round, artificial lures only, with a general possession season for browns and brook trout. Daily limit is two trout, no more than one brown, with minimum length limits of 10 inches for brookies and rainbows, 12 inches for browns.
In some cases, youngsters 12 years or younger have different regulations, allowing them to keep fish during an otherwise closed season. Please refer to the 2011 Michigan Fishing Guide for those exceptions.