Michigan’s House Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously 9-0 to pass Senate Bill 869 out of committee with a favorable recommendation at today’s hearing. After Committee Chair Representative Andrea LaFontaine opened the hearing, the primary sponsor of SB 869, Michigan Senator Geoff Hansen spoke in support of his bill saying creating a longer bass season will be good for Michigan and benefit our natural resources economy even more by attracting more bass tournaments.

Senator Hansen mentioned that recent Michigan studies have shown bass do not need protection from fishing during the spawn. He also pointed out that our neighbors Indiana and Ohio are included in the 45 of 49 states with bass that do not have a statewide closed bass season. The Senator talked about the great success they had last September in his district with the Bassmaster bass tournament at Muskegon Lake.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs Trevor VanDyke again testified that the MDNR fully supports SB 869 to give the Natural Resources Commission the authority to manage our bass fishery using sound science. VanDyke mentioned that recent studies have shown we can safely have a longer bass fishing season allowing more bass fishing opportunity and increasing the odds that we can have more bass tournaments in Michigan. VanDyke mentioned he had watched videos of some of the bass tournaments and enjoyed the NASCAR-like look and excitement of the events.

Representative McBroom asked VanDyke about the amount of bass stocking the MDNR does. Not being familiar with those numbers at this time VanDyke said that since no Fisheries Division employees for available for today’s hearing that he would get back to the Committee with that information after discussing the topic with them.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs Legislative Affairs Manager Matt Evans again noted MUCC’s support of SB 869.

Dan Kimmel, representing Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation (MBN), handed out a detailed written statement but kept his comments short about helping Michigan boost our natural resources economy and provide more opportunity for bass anglers of all kinds since bass fishing is a big sport and industry for Michigan, and considering the abundance of our water, the widespread bass populations, Michigan can increase our attractiveness to bass anglers to fish in Michigan, and attract more bass tournaments.

Kimmel shared that bass fishing is the 2nd most popular fishing in Michigan after panfish, and that bass anglers fish more days in Michigan than any other angler group according the latest 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey, accounting for almost $400 Million per year to Michigan’s fishing economy in trip-related spending alone. Kimmel also added to Senator Hansen’s comments on how happy Muskegon was last year with the 15,000 persons who attended that single Bassmaster tournament. He noted that each individual national bass tournament event directly adds $750,000 to $3 Million in additional economic impact.

In answer to Representative McBroom’s question regarding bass stocking in Michigan, Kimmel also shared that bass are rarely planted in Michigan. Usually only after a water body is treated with the rare total fish kill for rehab. He added that bass are the largest member of the panfish family and generally produce an abundance of new small bass. Rep. McBroom said thank you stating that he was under the impression bass populations are self-sustaining and wanted to confirm that.

Kimmel thanked Chair Rep. LaFontaine and the Representatives of the Natural Resources Committee for taking the time to hear SB 869 and listen to our comments.

SB 869 goes before the full House now for two additional readings before a full vote can be held. Most often, only the bill title is read. MBN is hoping immediate effect is added to SB 869 in the House before a vote. If SB 869 receives a majority vote in the full House the bill will move on to Governor Snyder for signing.

You can help by contacting your Michigan Representative to ask him or her to please support SB 869 with immediate effect. MBN Conservation Director Dan Kimmel’s full written statement (PDF) to Rep. LaFontaine and the Natural Resources Committee are available attached on the forum discussion on today’s hearing. Though support for SB 869 seems strong it is important for our elected officials to hear from us on our various opinions.

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