The state’s Natural Resources Commission wants more input from sportsmen before it makes a landmark decision on fishing regulation changes for Stonewall Jackson Lake. Fishing regulations are not approved until July each year, but the proposal to lift the longtime catch and release restriction at Stonewall was a topic of discussion at the most recent commission meeting in April.
“When we make a decision as a commission, it’s based on either a biological standpoint or a sociological standpoint,” said Commissioner Dave Trubin of Morgantown. “When it’s from a sociological standpoint I want to hear from as many constituents as possible.”
Some comments on the proposal were received during the March sectional meetings, but Trubin isn’t satisfied. He asked the DNR’s Warmwater Fisheries Section to conduct a survey at the boat ramps on Stonewall to get as many fishermen as possible to share their feelings about lifting the catch and release restriction.
“I want to hear from the guys who are there, dumping a boat into the water,” Trubin said. “If they want it open, it makes it an easier decision for me.”
Trubin sugggested DNR conduct ramp surveys through some of the busiest weekends in May so they could contact the largest number of lake users. He furthermore asked the DNR to separate the proposal for the purpose of the survey into the bass question and the musky question. The same proposal also proposes a 52″ minimum size on musky kept from Stonewall.
“Those are two separate issues and those questions should be separated,” he said. “Some of the musky fishermen are in favor and some are opposed to it.”
Trubin admitted he’s been hearing from a number of anglers about the idea of lifting the restriction on bass, both for and against the idea. The two main bass fishing organizations in the state, the West Virginia Bass Federation and the BASS Federation Nation, both support the proposal. The proposed regulation change would allow anglers to keep six bass, but only one of them could be over 18″ in length.
Biologists say their observations find declining health among the bass at Stonewall. Their data indicates fish of equal age class in other lakes, where there is no catch and release restriction, are of larger size. They maintain the bass have become over populated in the Lewis County lake and the catch and release restriction in place for 25-years has outlived its usefulness.
It’s unclear as of this writing how or when the ramp survey will be conducted, but commissioners voted unanimously to seek more input from bass anglers.
“That way it gives everybody a chance to participate in the process and to comment to make sure we’ve made the right decision, ” Trubin said. “If we don’t get enough input, then we can always table the proposal.”