DELTON — Joe Bednar is concerned about what the long winter did to the state’s pike population on inland lakes.
To his way of thinking, ice fishermen probably take 90 percent of the pike that are harvested in Michigan. And with the long winter of ice cover we just endured, Bednar worries that northerns were targeted more than usual this past winter.
Bednar is perhaps the toothy critter’s most fervent fan. In the mid-1990s, the Battle Creek resident formed Pikemasters, a group of like-minded enthusiasts who felt that pike were not getting the respect they deserve as a game fish. Among his numerous concerns was that pike were not afforded the protective regulations they needed to thrive.
The guy has a point. Pike are vulnerable to anglers as they are aggressive, fearless predators. It is not unusual to catch pike not much bigger than the lures anglers use to pursue them.
Over the years, the Department of Natural Resources has tinkered with pike regulations, perhaps more than any other warm-water game fish. When I was a young lad, the basic length limit was 14 inches. It was raised to 20 inches in the late 1950s and remained there until the mid-1990s, when it was bumped up to 24. (At the same time, there were a few lakes with a 30-inch limit and some lakes, with stunted populations, where anglers could keep pike of any size.)
As for creel limits, there has always been a five-in-combination (along with bass and walleye) predator limit that was changed early in this century to five-in-combo, but no-more-than-two pike. Bednar was all for that change, except, as he notes: “Two a day is still a lot of legal harvest on a small lake when guys go every day.”