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This week's Feature Blog

Walleye Fishing in the Saginaw River Remains Open Year Around

By: Mark Romanack


Creating a year around walleye fishery on the Saginaw River has also created some controversy. Some anglers feel that opening the walleye season year around on the Saginaw River will put too much pressure on spawning fish. Others argue that places like the Detroit river, St. Clair River have provided year around fishing opportunities for years without harming the fishery.


​ Effective January 2023, the Saginaw River will remain open to walleye fishing year around. This includes the Saginaw River waters from the mouth at Saginaw Bay upstream to the West Center Street Bridge in Saginaw, Michigan. Previously the Saginaw River was only open to walleye fishing from the last Saturday in April until March 15.


​Creating year around fishing opportunities on the Saginaw River is good news and in the eyes of some potentially bad news. Natural reproduction on walleye throughout the Saginaw Bay drainage basin has been excellent for some time now. A spike in the walleye population prompted the Michigan DNR to increase the daily creel limit from five fish to eight fish daily and also to lower the minimum size limit from 15 inches to 13 inches.


​These generous creel limits have been in force for several years and the Saginaw Bay walleye population seems to have remained stable. Opening the Saginaw River to year around fishing is simply the next step in providing more liberal walleye fishing opportunities.


​ The potential down side to opening the Saginaw River for year around fishing could potentially come in the spring of the year when mature Saginaw Bay walleye run the Saginaw River to reach spawning tributary streams. At this time of year the very fish that are critical to populating the fishery will be at risk of being caught and kept by anglers.

​ Since most of the spawning activity actually takes place many miles upstream in a host of different tributary streams, anglers will not likely be targeting fish that are actively spawning only transient fish.


Walleye fishing on the Saginaw River will remain year around beginning in January 2023. The daily creel limit is eight walleye, the size limit is 13 inches and anglers can fish from the Center Street Bridge in Saginaw all the way to the mouth of the river in Bay City, Michigan.


​ No one knows how much damage might be done to the Saginaw Bay fishery. Similar year around walleye fishing access takes place on the Detroit River, St. Clair River on Lake St. Clair and also on Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay. Many argue that year around fishing for walleye in southeast Michigan has not hurt those fisheries.


CATCH AND RELEASE

​ Regardless if the daily walleye limit in the Saginaw River is eight fish daily year around, management of any fishery is in the hands of those who purchase fishing licenses and fish regularly. Saginaw River anglers who opt to release all or part of their catch during the critical pre-spawn and spawning periods will be enjoying fishing opportunities without putting the fishery at risk.

​Anglers who choose to harvest their legal daily limit of walleye during the same time frame are not breaking any rules and should not be judged or be subject to harassment.


​ Ultimately, weather and river fishing conditions will dictate the outcome of creating a year around fishery on the Saginaw River. In the spring of the year when pre-spawn walleye are running the Saginaw River, high water and/or muddy water routinely hampers fishing success.

So the jury is still out regarding the long term impacts of opening the Saginaw River to year around fishing. Some anglers are all for this move to expand fishing opportunities and others are strictly against it. Either way come January 1, 2023 the Saginaw River walleye fishery will remain open year around.

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