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GF&P Commission dissolves fish-possession limit fight

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By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

PIERRE — Anglers won’t get to keep more fish in South Dakota.

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The standard possession limit is two times the daily limit for a species. The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission kept that cap in place Thursday.

Some tourism businesses along the Missouri River had petitioned to increase the possession limits statewide to three times the daily limits.

As an example, the daily standard limit for walleyes is four. The petition sought to increase the possession limit from eight walleyes to 12.

The commission took testimony from the general public and heard from members of the GF&P staff Thursday.

When the time came for a vote, the proposal suffered a silent death. Commissioner John Cooper, of Pierre, offered a motion for approval to, as he put it, see where the votes were.

No one seconded his motion. That prevented the motion from proceeding to a vote.

“So, then, this is gone,” said the commission’s chairwoman, Susie Knippling, of Gann Valley.

Earlier at the public hearing, Ken Edel, of Rapid City, said the proposal was “kind of a reckless regulation” to apply a three-day possession statewide without consideration for each body of water’s situation.

“You’re flirting with economic disaster, not economic development,” Edel said.

Another Rapid City angler, Robert Sukut, suggested South Dakota would be creating a dangerous expectation that could leave people disappointed if they didn’t catch a three-day limit.

“You might get ’em here this year, but I don’t know if you get ’em here next year or the next year after that,” Sukut said.

The goal was to give nonresidents an incentive to stay another day on their South Dakota fishing trips.

“We didn’t take this lightly when we started it,” said John Poncelot, representing the AmericInn Lodge and Suites of Fort Pierre. “The first people we talked to were the biologists. They said there’s no way the Missouri River can’t handle this.”

GF&P fishery biologist Geno Adams said possession limits put value on a fish species and affect the perceptions of anglers. He said anglers tend to wind up happier when limits are small because they are more likely to catch their limits.

“The bottom line is that possession limits don’t have a biological impact on fish populations,” Adams said.

Cooper said he received contacts from people worried about the impacts on lakes in the Glacial Lakes region of northeastern South Dakota. He said boat ramps and parking are limited and nonresidents tend to work a lake hard when the bite is hot.

Cooper wondered why South Dakota should invite nonresidents to spend another day on the lakes in those circumstances. “It’s a resident versus nonresident concern. So help me out,” he said to Adams.

Adams replied that GF&P doesn’t have data on length of visits by nonresident anglers and it is “pure speculation” whether they would stay longer with a three-day possession limit.

“It doesn’t biologically change things. It’s a social deal,” Adams said.

By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

PIERRE — Anglers won’t get to keep more fish in South Dakota.

The standard possession limit is two times the daily limit for a species. The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission kept that cap in place Thursday.

Some tourism businesses along the Missouri River had petitioned to increase the possession limits statewide to three times the daily limits.

As an example, the daily standard limit for walleyes is four. The petition sought to increase the possession limit from eight walleyes to 12.

The commission took testimony from the general public and heard from members of the GF&P staff Thursday.

When the time came for a vote, the proposal suffered a silent death. Commissioner John Cooper, of Pierre, offered a motion for approval to, as he put it, see where the votes were.

No one seconded his motion. That prevented the motion from proceeding to a vote.

“So, then, this is gone,” said the commission’s chairwoman, Susie Knippling, of Gann Valley.

Earlier at the public hearing, Ken Edel, of Rapid City, said the proposal was “kind of a reckless regulation” to apply a three-day possession statewide without consideration for each body of water’s situation.

“You’re flirting with economic disaster, not economic development,” Edel said.

Another Rapid City angler, Robert Sukut, suggested South Dakota would be creating a dangerous expectation that could leave people disappointed if they didn’t catch a three-day limit.

“You might get ’em here this year, but I don’t know if you get ’em here next year or the next year after that,” Sukut said.

The goal was to give nonresidents an incentive to stay another day on their South Dakota fishing trips.

“We didn’t take this lightly when we started it,” said John Poncelot, representing the AmericInn Lodge and Suites of Fort Pierre. “The first people we talked to were the biologists. They said there’s no way the Missouri River can’t handle this.”

GF&P fishery biologist Geno Adams said possession limits put value on a fish species and affect the perceptions of anglers. He said anglers tend to wind up happier when limits are small because they are more likely to catch their limits.

“The bottom line is that possession limits don’t have a biological impact on fish populations,” Adams said.

Cooper said he received contacts from people worried about the impacts on lakes in the Glacial Lakes region of northeastern South Dakota. He said boat ramps and parking are limited and nonresidents tend to work a lake hard when the bite is hot.

Cooper wondered why South Dakota should invite nonresidents to spend another day on the lakes in those circumstances. “It’s a resident versus nonresident concern. So help me out,” he said to Adams.

Adams replied that GF&P doesn’t have data on length of visits by nonresident anglers and it is “pure speculation” whether they would stay longer with a three-day possession limit.

“It doesn’t biologically change things. It’s a social deal,” Adams said.

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