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Fishing Regulation Changes

Public input on Fisheries regulation changes proposed for 2011 is being sought.  These changes are intended to stand for two years, with a Fishing Guide developed for 2011-2012.   Please send comments on our proposals to Daryl Bauer, Fisheries Outreach Program Manager at daryl.bauer@nebraska.gov by July 19. 

This year, the process for changing Fisheries regulations began with Fisheries Division personnel considering proposals made by Law Enforcement and Parks divisions to simplify fishing regulations.  We compared our regulations to those of surrounding states, and attempted to make changes that would: 

  • Eliminate special regulations that are either archaic or have not produced significantly better fishing than statewide regulations or other special regulations.
  • Reduce or eliminate special regulations by creating statewide regulations that strike a balance (compromise) between production of quality fish populations and increased harvest. 
  • Standardize regulations across lakes within areas containing multiple lakes.
  • Standardize regulations on fish species novice bank anglers are most likely to catch (largemouth bass, panfish, catfish and trout).  Regulations pertaining to fish species more likely to be sought by avid anglers, usually fishing from boats (e.g., walleye, wiper), were not the emphasis.   




Establish a statewide daily bag limit of 5, with no more than one fish over 16 inches long, and a possession limit of 10 in all inland waters and waters of the Missouri River, except Two Rivers Lake #5, where the daily bag and possession limit should remain at 12 and 24, respectively, with no “one over” restriction. 

Justification:  This change is intended to standardize the regulation and be consistent with bag limits of surrounding states.  While we want anglers to harvest the trout we stock in the fall, winter, and spring in “put-and-take” lakes, these fish cost us ~$1.50 each to produce.  Reducing the daily bag limit may spread out the harvest, making these stockings last longer.  For other areas containing trout, increasing the daily bag limit from 4 to 5 is not likely to result in overharvest, as fishing pressure on these areas, primarily streams, is not normally high.  The restriction of one fish over 16 inches would help prevent excessive harvest of large trout at Lake Ogallala and negate the need for a special regulation.  Maintaining a high daily bag limit and no “one over” restriction at Two Rivers Lake #5 (along with early stocking, ideally with a few larger trout, perhaps including brown trout) may increase interest and use at our only fee fishing area.


Eliminate the list of lakes with no harvest allowed and add these lakes to the list of waters with 21-inch minimum length limits.  Maintain the current regulations for Waters of the Missouri River, but work with bordering states to standardize black bass regulations.

Justification:  The intent of both 21-inch minimum length limit and “no harvest” regulations is to accumulate bass to prey on young panfish and make use of nongame species (e.g., gizzard shad).  They perform almost identically and there is little reason to have both regulations. 


Establish a daily bag limit of 5 fish and a possession limit of 10 on channel catfish, making the regulation the same for inland waters as Waters of the Missouri River.  Delete the exceptions at Calamus, Harlan County, and Merritt reservoirs, as they already have 5-fish daily bag limits.  Delete the list of waters with 3-fish daily bag limits and 6-fish possession limits (including those with “High Use Fishing Area” regulations).  Apply the “no harvest” restriction at Two Rivers SRA #3 and #4, Fort Kearny SRA #2, Windmill SRA #3, and Wildwood Lake to all species of catfish in those lakes.  Allow the harvest of only one flathead catfish per day that is over 30 inches, statewide.  Maintain the “no harvest“regulation on flathead catfish at Branched Oak Reservoir.

Justification:  Allowing the harvest of 10 channel catfish per day establishes a goal that is unrealistic for most and excessive for a few.  Most catfish anglers would not be impacted by reducing the daily bag limit from 10 to 5.  From 1994 to 2006, 173 creel surveys conducted at 115 waterbodies interviewed 1,357 parties that had harvested channel catfish and had completed their fishing trips.  Of these, 173 (12.7%) had harvested more than five channel catfish per angler.  In 2009,  UNL creel clerks interviewed 498 fishing parties with harvested channel catfish at 11 lakes and reservoirs.  Of these, only 6 parties (1.2%) had harvested more than 5 channel catfish per angler.  Increasing the daily bag limit by 2 fish in heavily fished waters may necessitate stocking more catfish in some cases, but it could increase angler satisfaction and even attract more people to fishing. 

It was our intent to standardize regulations across lakes on areas with multiple lakes, wherever possible. However, “no harvest” restrictions on catfish have worked too well and are too popular at Two Rivers SRA #3 and #4 to rescind the regulation; and are starting to get as popular on Fort Kearny SRA #2, Windmill SRA #3, and Wildwood Lake.  Applying the catch-and-release restriction to all species of catfish in these lakes would make the regulation less confusing for those who have difficulty distinguishing channel catfish from blue and flathead catfish. 

The ecological roles and growth potentials of blue and flathead catfish are different than those of channel catfish.  They are top-level predators; for statewide regulations, these species need to be managed more conservatively than channel catfish.  Thus, the current daily bag and possession limits on flathead and blue catfish should not change.  The restriction of one flathead over 30 inches statewide will protect more of these older, larger fish from being harvested, increasing their numbers and enhancing opportunities for anglers to catch trophy-size flatheads.


Establish a statewide daily bag limit of 15 and a possession limit of 30 on all panfish in the aggregate.  Delete the list of waters with 10-fish daily bag limits and possession limits of 20 (including those with High Use Fishing Area regulations).  Delete the list of waters with 8-inch minimum length limits on sunfish and delete Walnut Creek, Wehspann, and Zorinsky kakes from the list of waters with 10-inch minimum length limits on crappie.  Maintain the length limits on crappie at Czechland Lake and Branched Oak and Sherman reservoirs. 

Justification:  Habitat is the key to producing quality panfish (especially bluegill) in lakes, ponds, and pits.  Good habitat provides abundant food (e.g., zooplankton and insects) and dense populations of predators, like largemouth bass, needed to reduce competition among small, young panfish through predation so survivors grow to sizes of interest to anglers.  Establishing a daily bag limit of 15 and a possession limit of 30 will not likely change the quality of panfish (mostly bluegill) populations in lakes currently having 10-fish daily bag limits.  Likewise, decreasing the statewide daily bag on panfish from 30 to 15 will not likely improve population quality to any great extent.  Reducing the bag limit on panfish will, however, spread out the harvest among anglers and will reduce the impacts of heavy harvest by select anglers during particularly “hot” fishing time periods.  This proposal is made to eliminate a special regulation and establish a statewide regulation that is a compromise between the current statewide and special regulations.     

Length limits on panfish have produced some positive results by protecting small fish from premature harvest, allowing them to grow to larger sizes, and giving panfish more value.  In other cases, fish have grown so slowly (because of poor habitat and/or low bass densities) that natural mortality claims most of them before they ever reach legal length.


Eliminate this section that makes Louisville, Fremont, Two Rivers, Mormon Island, and Windmill SRAs, Kearney County Recreation Area,  Platte River and Mahoney State Parks,  and all trout streams statewide closed to bow fishing.  Allow nongame fish to be harvested from inland waters 24 hours per day, year-round, instead of from April 1 through August 31. 

Justification:  This is an antiquated regulation held over from the days of carp stocking in state areas and trout runs out of McConaughy up North Platte River tributary streams.  Now that we have legalized the use of lights for bow fishing through a statute change, we should allow  nighttime harvest of nongame fish by bow fishing 365 days per year.  There is no shortage of nongame fish and we need to increase opportunities for this growing sport.   


Rescind barbless hook restrictions at these areas. 

Justification:  The regulations are a hindrance to anglers, requiring them to buy new lures or modify existing lures.  This regulation has also not been actively enforced.  Use of barbless hooks should be a personal choice, not a regulation, and signs suggesting that anglers “consider going barbless” would be posted at these lakes.


Establish a maximum net diameter of 12 inches, a maximum depth of 15 inches, and a maximum handle length of 3 feet that would be legal to have on tributaries of the North Platte River. 

Justification:  This regulation was implemented to prevent people from using large nets to take trout as they ran out of Lake McConaughy to spawn in North Platte River tributary streams.   Migratory strain rainbow trout are no longer present in Lake McConaughy and spawning runs of large trout up tributary streams no longer occur.  By modifying this section, anglers would be allowed to use reasonable-size dip nets while fishing these streams.


Establish “no kill” (catch-and-release) regulations at Kea West Lake, East Hershey, and West Brady.

Justification:  With low angler exploitation, some Nebraska waters have the potential to produce large fish, including channel catfish (e.g., Two Rivers SRA #3 and #4) and bluegills (e.g., Jenny Newman Lake at Platte River State Park, private ponds, and Sandhills lakes).  Anglers need to have more opportunities to catch Master Angler-size fish from public waters.  With good habitat and low mortality rates, because of “no kill” (catch-and-release) regulations, we can produce bigger bluegills and channel catfish than we commonly do.

006.12M LAKE MCCONAUGHY (Keith County)

From sunset to sunrise, April 1 through April 30, fishing from a boat within 30 yards of the dam should be allowed only on that portion of the dam 200 feet north of the morning glory (outlet), with travel in a south-to-north (counter clockwise) direction required. 

Justification:  Boating regulations already make it illegal for boats to operate within 200 feet of the morning glory at Lake McConaughy.  This Fisheries regulation would reinforce that restriction and is also intended to reduce conflicts between shore anglers and boat anglers fishing along the dam at night in April for spawning walleyes, by establishing a “boat-free” area that should attract and concentrate shore anglers.  The regulation is also intended to reduce conflicts among boat anglers by creating a more orderly flow of traffic.  Coupled with information that will be provided on-site about the regulation and fishing ethics, this regulation is expected to help create more enjoyable fishing experiences for both shore and boat anglers. 


Delete the Section.

 Justification:  All listed lakes would be covered under statewide regulations for panfish and channel catfish, requiring only a 21-inch minimum length limit sign for black bass. 

009 Bait Collecting And Dealer Regulations, 005.03C Aquaculture Regulations, and 002.08 Non-resident Fish Dealers and Exportation, Importation and Possession Regulations

Delete plains and northern leopard frogs from the lists of organisms that can be captured from the wild and sold as bait, imported, commercially exploited within the state, or exported from the state. 

Justification:  There is national concern on the population status of these frogs, so we want to be proactive.  Personal use of these frogs for bait would still be allowed.

 005.03B1 Aquaculture Regulations

Make it illegal for aquaculture facilities to sell Gambusia affinis that would be stocked in Nebraska waters.  Aquaculturists would still be allowed to produce Gambusia, but could only sell them in states where they are allowed to be stocked.

Justification:  Gambusia, also known as mosquitofish, are often stocked to control mosquitoes in shallow, ephemeral waters not already containing fish.  They are no more effective than any number of native fishes and they compete directly with native species, especially the Plains topminnow, a species of concern.


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