I’ve been waiting to get across the state line before I let this one fly. You’ve seen just a little piece of how my luck runs with the various state agencies, so I didn’t think it too bright to poke the bear while I was still in the den. Oh and that saga with the Iowa MVE just keeps getting better. Seems there might have been some procedural error in the processing of said citation. Hmmm. I’ll keep you posted on that juicy little tidbit.
“Cut off your nose to spite your face”. Ever hear one of your parents or grandparents throw that out at you? That’s pretty much what the Wisconsin DNR has done to the south end of Green Bay. Not only that, but they have pissed away a golden opportunity to give people a reason to come to the Green Bay/ Door Peninsula region. It was and shall remain some of the best smallmouth fishing in the Upper Midwest that few know about. Maybe the WI DNR wants to keep it that way. Maybe the WI DNR doesn’t want people from Illinois, Iowa, or Indiana to drive a few hours north and catch some Wisconsin giant smallmouth. Maybe WI DNR has something against people who live in states that begin with the letter “I”. Maybe WI DNR doesn’t think money from outside Wisconsin should mix with money from inside Wisconsin.
All this centers around some goofy, imaginary boundary line that the WI DNR said we, 98 of the best bass anglers on Planet Earth, could not cross in last week’s derby on Green Bay. We’ve had boundaries before set by B.A.S.S. and/ or state agencies for various reasons. Most times they are state boundaries and we simply have to stay in the state waters in which we launched from. On river systems, it becomes a matter of just how much water do you need to spread everyone out. Boundary lines aren’t anything new to us. Limiting us based on whatever it was that the WI DNR thought was pertinent enough to draw that line across the bay was pretty baffling.
For those unfamiliar with Green Bay, the lower 20 miles of the bay are pretty much a sand/ silt bowl. Not exactly smallmouth habitat. The entire western edge up to the Oconto River is pretty much a sand flat. Not until you get to Little Sturgeon Bay do you begin to see large areas of rock. That’s the biggest reason that everyone piled into the last few miles of the boundary area – habitat. In terms of smallmouth habitat, those last few miles aren’t even that great. You really have to travel 50 – 60 miles from the launch in Green Bay to find what I saw to be “prime” smallmouth habitat. I’m no smallmouth expert, by a long shot, but I can tell that there are way more places a smallie would like from the mouth of Sturgeon Bay to the north than there are from the mouth of Sturgeon to the south.
Not that we were ever told a reason for the boundary line, other than “that’s what the DNR allowed on the permit”, but the most heard reason for the limit was the fact that we would be hauling hundreds of fish from cool water to warm water in the south end of the Bay. You bet we would. I get that and completely understand and agree with the conservation thought process in that respect. However, if that was such a big concern, why grant the permit to have the derby in the first place? Why not just say “sorry B.A.S.S., park’s closed. You’ll l have to take your party somewhere else”? If WI DNR was afraid the mortality rate would be higher than was acceptable by their standards, why grant the permit AT ALL?
Oh, and we killed some fish. Not excessive amounts, from what I saw, but we did kill some fish. Every tournament has a mortality rate, whether it’s a four hour Saturday morning fruit jar or an Elite event. Not every fish hauled back to weigh in will live after it is released. Fact. Not every fish caught and immediately released by the casual angler will survive. Fact. If you catch fish, some of those fish are going to die after you release them. Just the way it is. Live with it or go play dominoes.
Smallmouth seem to be even more fragile than largeheads. Even when the smallies are caught in shallow water, they still seem to be harder to keep alive. Couple that with the fact that we hit the Bay at the tail end of the spawn with some fish still on or around the beds and stressed and I’m surprised that the mortality rate wasn’t higher. Two words; SO WHAT. All 98 Elite anglers purchased licenses in the state of Wisconsin that give us the privilege to catch, keep, and knock the sides off of five smallmouth or largemouth bass per day. By the letter of WI law, we could have had a fish fry on Friday evening after the weigh in and invited everyone in Titletown. I’m sure that really wasn’t an option, as the permit for the derby stated the event was to be catch and release only. But legally, all 98 anglers could have kept five bass on each of the three practice days. Problem was, most of us couldn’t have caught five bass on the practice days. Which brings me to my next point; seining the waters.
By limiting the playing area, WI DNR has effectively allowed 98 guys to seine the area from Little Sturgeon Bay to the Sherwood Point Lighthouse. I’m not saying that we caught every bass in those eight or nine miles of water, but we put a sizeable dent in the already low population. It was interesting to see the weights and catch rate go down on the second then back up as the field was reduced on the third and then again on the final day. By limiting the playing field, the WI DNR has allowed us to pretty much decimate the bass population in a very small area of Green Bay. If they had moved the line two miles to the other side of Sturgeon Bay and included the outer portion of Sturgeon Bay in tournament waters, it would have been a whole different ball game. But they didn’t, for whatever reason.
So what can we learn from this? Don’t even think about having a derby in Wisconsin? WI DNR is not “tournament friendly”(whatever that is)? The most glaring take away from this might be that the “mystery lake” concept, while an intriguing idea, has some serious pitfalls when it comes to implementing it with a full field of 98 anglers. Maybe we need to have some special events, a la the “post season” (again, whatever that is), that are “mystery” events. Shame on WI DNR for wasting a great opportunity to promote fishing in their state. Shame on B.A.S.S. for not dotting our “i’s” and crossing our “t’s”. Congrats to Jonathon VanDam for grinding out a very impressive win on less than productive waters.
K-Pink – Over the Boundary and Whackin’ Em