Anglers will be allowed to take eight walleyes daily from Lake Oahe in South Dakota in 2013 and possess 24 of those fish under changes adopted unanimously Thursday by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
At least four of the daily eight will have to be shorter than 15 inches, and only one of the daily eight can be 20 inches or longer.
The restriction of one walleye 20 or longer is currently in place. The commission decided to keep it for 2013.
Last month the state Wildlife Division recommended lifting the big-walleye restriction but decided before the start of the commission’s meeting Thursday that the restriction would be better left in place.
Fishery biologists’ goal is increase the harvest of smaller walleyes from the big Missouri River reservoir.
Not everybody wants the liberalized limits on Oahe.
“It takes away from the angling opportunities downstream and the business opportunities,” Michael Cummings of Pierre told commissioners during the public hearing Thursday afternoon.
Cummings, who is in the business of supplying bait for anglers, said the effects of continuing drought could lead to some of the Oahe boat ramps being shut down and concentrating anglers at the remaining ramps in service.
Biologists said there is an abundance of walleyes in the 10- to 15-inch range because reproduction was above normal in the past few years.
The changes apply to sauger and walleye-sauger hybrids as well as walleyes.
State Department of Game, Fish and Parks staff plans next fall to evaluate the results of the experiment and make recommendations to the commission.
Anglers’ comments generally have been supportive of the expanded limit, but they frequently said the big-walleye restriction should remain in place, said Geno Adams, a GFP fisheries management official.
He said many of the walleyes in Oahe are in poor condition and will die anyway.
“We wanted to give these people the opportunity to harvest these fish,” Adams said.