MILWAUKEE, Wis. – In just a little more than a year as Wisconsin's conservation director, Ryan Hoffmann has learned that "it's certainly not an easy job.
"While everyone agrees that conservation is a good thing, very few people have a consistent idea of just how that should happen," added the president of Bass Anglers LTD.
"I tend to think that the most important part of my job is being a liaison between B.A.S.S. anglers and our state DNR and helping demystify the goals and objectives of that agency, while ensuring that our voices are heard."
Helping provide that voice for the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Nation (WBN) during state Conservation Congress meetings, Hoffmann is hopeful of obtaining an exemption from restrictive bag limits on trophy bass fisheries for catch-and-release tournaments, with biologist approval. Passing such an initiative, he added, "will require support of anglers across the state, especially in our more rural areas, where fishing is more prevalent."
He also would like to see the snagging rule changed to allow bass anglers to keep fish that strike a bait with treble hooks, but throw the in-mouth hook, while remaining hooked outside the mouth by another. Current rule, enacted to protect salmon during the spawn, prohibits all fish not hooked in the mouth from being kept.
"This rule cost Swindle (Gerald) badly in Sturgeon Bay a few years ago, when he had to throw back a fish that bit his jerkbait," explained the product manager for Beyond Vision, a not-for-profit that employs the blind and visually impaired.
Because Wisconsin is a northern state, the Department of Natural Resources often has focused on the needs and issues of walleye fishermen, Hoffmann added. Consequently, the state "is not as accustomed to competitive bass fishing as our southern counterparts and the many benefits it can create, both economically and in teaching good catch and release practices."
Additionally, Wisconsin is a Great Lakes state, meaning that invasive exotic species are of special concern for both anglers and the DNR, with issues ranging from possible invasion by Asian carp moving up the Illinois River to changing biospheres in lakes Michigan and Superior caused by filter-feeding zebra and quagga mussels.
Meanwhile, one of the most important conservation efforts going on right now in Wisconsin involves restoration of an Upper Mississippi fishery in the Pepin area. Hoffmann credits Ken Snow, former Wisconsin conservation director and now a Pierce County Board supervisor, with being a catalyst for this ambitious project.
"This effort at sediment removal near the Noreen Clough (former B.A.S.S. national conservation director) memorial boat launch will ensure that the river stays an anglers' haven for years to come," he said.
Snow added, "This project is terribly needed. The back channel and lakes down from Noreen's landing will be totally silted in within 10 years or so. That will leave us with very little winter habitat for bass, panfish and northern pike."
Looking forward, Hoffmann said, "Our main goal as an organization is to continue to improve our communication and relationship with Wisconsin DNR and the various lawmakers who impact our sport. We hope to continue to expand the opportunities for our members as the sport grows, while protecting the lakes that make it possible."