By Louie Stout

Indiana DNR Revives Bluegill Bag Limit Discussion

The Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife is floating the bluegill bag limit proposal again.

That proposal, among others, goes before the Natural Resources Advisory Council for preliminary adoption April 30 at 10 a.m. at the Fort Harrison State Park Inn. Proposals that are approved will go before the Natural Resources Commission for preliminary adoption.

If the NRC agrees, the proposals will enter the public comment phase before the NRC gives final approval, which wouldn’t occur until later this year.

The bluegill proposal went before the NRC a few years ago but it was nixed when it was learned the possession section of the proposal handicapped tourists who fished Indiana waters.

There currently is no bag limit on bluegill. The new proposal calls for a statewide daily bag limit of 25 per person while the possession limit would be amended to allow up to three times the daily bag limit per person. However, the possession limit would not apply to individuals who have processed and stored bluegills in the permanent residence.

The move comes as somewhat of a surprise given that biologists have previously indicated they wanted to study the biological effects before proposing a bag limit.

In August, 2017, Northern Fisheries Supervisor said “The bag limit idea is always going to be on the table, but we haven’t positioned ourselves well to make a biological case for a bluegill bag limit, so, from that standpoint, a move today toward a bag limit would be based strictly on social reasons and there is some uneasiness among our biologists about doing that.”

Several nearby states, including Michigan, have bluegill bag limits. Many Hoosier anglers support the call for a bag limit to avoid overharvest of the larger bluegills when they are most vulnerable, such as during the spawning season that will commence in the coming weeks.

“Public surveys have shown that two-thirds of Hoosier anglers want it, so that tells us the fishing community is supportive,” Price said Thursday.

The fisheries supervisor said that, based upon studies done by other states and work by Hoosier biologists, he doesn’t expect a bag limit to improve bluegill fishing much, if at all.

“There’s a strong case for adding a bag limit for social reasons, but a week case biologically,” Price said. “In the northern natural lake region, we have more bluegill now than we had years ago, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have more.”

Other DFW proposals of interest to northern Indiana sportsmen include:

  • Allow air rifles and air bows to be used for deer hunting during the deer firearms season. The DNR says it’s received interest from hunters about those firearms which it says are capable of humanely harvesting deer. The equipment would have the same requirements specified by the administrative code.
  • Increase largemouth bass minimum size limit on Bixler, Henderson, Little Long and Round lakes in Noble County to 18 inches and reduce daily bag limit to two. Those lakes have a lot of carp and biologists believe that increasing the number of bigger bass will help control carp populations and ultimately help bluegill populations.
  • Add ruffed grouse to the endangered species of birds. Grouse used to exist throughout the state but populations have declined dramatically. Biologists say without protection, they could become extinct in Indiana.
  • Add cottontail rabbits to the list of mammals a landowner can take without a permit when the animal is causing or threatening to cause damage. The DNR says rabbits can damage trees and or plants near homes and in commercial nurseries. Removing the permit would reduce time and expense and allow individuals to handle the problem.
  • Eliminate hunter orange requirement for deer hunting ground blinds. There is no requirement for elevated blinds but there are for ground blinds. The DNR says removing the requirement is not expected to create additional safety concerns.

To see the complete list of fish and wildlife proposals, visit www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2362.htm.