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Lake trout season closing early in Apostle Islands

The season will close after Aug. 15, as the safe harvest quota level will be reached.

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A lake trout captured on an underwater camera. The Wisconsin DNR will close the lake trout fishing season in the Apsotle Islands area of Lake Superior after Aug. 15 because the allowable safe harvest has been reached. Contributed / Wisconsin DNR

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday said it will close lake trout fishing early this summer in the Apostle Islands area of Lake Superior, the WI-2 zone, because the safe harvest level has been reached.

The season will close at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 15. The normal seasonal closure would have been Sept. 30. The season will reopen Dec. 1.

Anglers in the area had caught more than 10,600 lake trout as of July 31, triggering the early closure, said Bradley Ray, DNR regional fisheries supervisor for Lake Superior. Fishing got off to an unusually early and successful start in May and June.

“Our fishing pressure in May was four times the normal level,’’ Ray said. “Fishing has been very good, not necessarily spectacular. But the biggest factor is that so many more people are fishing. When you combine good fishing and lots of people fishing, you harvest more fish.”

The state splits the safe harvest of lake trout in the Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior with tribal resource agencies. The annual safe harvest set for 2021-23 is about 62,000 fish for the South Shore.

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In WI-1, which likely won’t close before Sep. 30 because it has less fishing pressure, the state gets 12,000 fish annually, while tribal netters get 2,000.

In WI-2, the state gets about 19,000 fish and tribal netters 41,000 each year. Of the state’s share, recreational anglers get 12,670 lake trout and commercial netters get 6,330.

The dividing line between the two zones is roughly Bark Point near Cornucopia.

The last time the safe harvest level was reached for WI-2 was 2017 when the season closed Aug. 20, but when the safe harvest was 75,000 lake trout. The allowable harvest had been as high as 134,000 as recently as 2006.

Fishing is the biggest factor in the lake trout population, Ray said. In surveys, anglers said they would rather keep more fish daily and potentially have the season cut short instead of keeping fewer fish daily for the entire season.

Fishing for all other species in WI-2 will continue as usual.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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