For the fourth straight year, anglers will find a three-walleye daily bag limit on every lake and river in northern Wisconsin, an enormous benefit to the tourism industry compared to the years of bag limits that were lower or changing in mid-season.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) made the adjustment by emergency rule the first year and made it permanent two years ago, replacing a system that routinely left anglers with two-fish and one-fish daily bag limits on hundreds of premier walleye lakes as the season opened.

That’s an important message to get out to visitors this weekend, which will be more like an opening weekend now that the ice has left or is close to leaving many of the premier walleye lakes. Lingering winter weather that delayed ice-out definitely had an impact on tourism and anglers last week, when many stayed away.

Gone are the days when tribal off-reservation spearing declarations forced varied adjustments to sport angler limits, even though the declarations impacted hundreds of lakes that the tribes never speared. The lower limits and inconsistent limits made it difficult for anglers to plan in advance, which hurt tourism.

The importance of this change is that walleye bag limits are higher and more consistent in early May, when the bulk of the sportfishing walleye harvest occurs. It is in the first three weeks of May, prior to Memorial Day, that water temperatures are cooler and walleyes are shallow and easier to locate.

In addition to that continued good news, the general daily bag limit per angler remains at five walleyes throughout Wisconsin. You can’t have more than three walleyes from any one lake in the ceded territory, but you can go to another lake or river and complete your daily limit of five.

As Gov. Scott Walker pointed out Saturday during the 53rd Annual Governor’s Fishing Opener, fishing is vital to the state’s tourism industry. Sportfishing generates $2.3 billion in economic benefits and supports 22,000 jobs annually in Wisconsin.

Through May 3, 337,986 anglers had purchased fishing licenses and 86,355 had purchased trout stamps. Wisconsin has 42,000 miles of perennial streams and rivers, and none are more scenic than those found here.

Wisconsin has more than 15,000 inland lakes, but the heart of this state’s fishing effort gets concentrated on the northern lake country of Vilas, Oneida, Forest and other counties. This is where the largest concentration of walleye and muskie lakes can be found.

Boosting the future of walleye angling in Wisconsin is the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, a three-year, $12 million program to increase the stocking of extended-growth walleye fingerlings and to complete major infrastructure improvement to state hatcheries.

The initiative is a welcome change following years of lackluster stocking performance from the DNR, despite the loss of walleye reproduction and catchable walleye numbers in some premier lakes.

We welcome anglers to the North Woods for the 2018 game-fishing season.

Behind the editorial ‘we’

    Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Doug Etten.