Emergency rules establishing bag limits, season dates and other regulations for harvesting catfish with a bow, crossbow or by hand are now in place while Department of Natural Resources staff complete a companion permanent rule.

Lawmakers legalized alternative methods of harvesting catfish in 2017, and the rules seek to provide harvest opportunities while protecting fish during spawning and overwintering, said Bradd Sims, the fisheries biologist leading DNR’s catfish team.

“While we haven’t heard of a lot of anglers using these alternate fishing methods, we wanted to have rules in place for when the fish start overwintering because they are particularly vulnerable at this time,” Sims says.

He said catfish will soon be moving into deep pools where they’ll congregate over the winter in large groups. The fish are quite lethargic at that point, adding to their vulnerability to harvest.

The regulations include:

  • No size limit and a daily bag limit of one for flathead catfish and five for channel catfish harvested with a bow and arrow, crossbow or by hand.
  • A season for taking catfish by hand that runs from June 1 to Aug. 31 and a bowfishing season that runs concurrent with the rough fish bowfishing (spearing) season.
  • Equipment restrictions for taking catfish by hand. Ropes, hooks, gaffs, artificial nest or spawning boxes or breathing devices such as snorkeling or scuba gear may not be used.
  • A prohibition on commercial harvest of catfish with bow, crossbow or by hand.
  • A rule stating that on waters with special size limits or season closures, anglers harvesting catfish by bow, crossbow or by hand will follow those special regulations in addition to the established daily bag limits for bow, crossbow and hand fishing seasons.

The emergency regulations don’t affect the catfish hook-and-line season.

DNR staff will conduct monitoring efforts for catfishing to understand impacts on catfish populations and develop a voluntary creel system to shed light on bow, crossbow and hand harvest of catfish.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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