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The TWRA heeds fishermen’s suggestions.

Jason Henegar is in charge of the TWRA’s Complaint Department.

Henegar is the Agency’s Assistant Chief of Fisheries, and it is on his desk that lands the suggestions and/or gripes from fishermen across the state.

He doesn’t mind. He asked for it.

Twice a year anglers are invited to submit comments to the TWRA, via email or letter, to be evaluated and taken into consideration when future regulations are enacted.

“We’re glad to hear from fishermen across the state, and to know their interests,” says Henegar, who has been with the Agency for 14 years. “The best way to know what fishermen think about something is to ask them.”

The most recent submission period ended Sept. 14. As with the spring comments period, the comments and suggestions will be compiled for presentation during an upcoming meeting of TWRA biologists.

The biologists will evaluate the comments, take into consideration other available data, and if they feel it supports a change, they will present their recommendations to the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission. The Commission sets the state’s fishing and hunting regulations.

Henegar says the number of suggestions and comments varies annually, but estimates he receives between 30-50 in each period.

They range from a suggested lowering of the daily crappie limit to banning jug fishing for catfish.

An example of a suggestion that resulted in a change of regulations: a request was made to reduce the minimum size limit on smallmouth bass in Fort Patrick Henry Reservoir from 18 to 15 inches.

“After we received the suggestion, our biologists studied the data and decided to endorse the change,” Henegar says. “It wasn’t done simply based on the suggestion, but based on data that supported it.”

Some suggestions, such as doing away with jug fishing, are unlikely to get very far, since most data indicates jug fishermen cause few if any problems for fellow anglers, and their harvest of catfish is sustainable.

Most suggestions focus on specific waters: reducing the Fort Patrick Henry smallmouth size limit, for example, or a reduction of the crappie limit on Old Hickory and Percy Priest lakes.

“Fishermen tend to be interested in their individual corners,” Henegar says.

Another suggestion is to expand the TWRA’s annual Free Fishing Day or offer a one-time free three-day permit to encourage more participation.

Each suggestion, comment or complaint is reviewed and given consideration. If the biologists feel it is warranted, it is passed up the chain of command to the Wildlife Commission, which has the final say.

Fish-management situations constantly evolve, so if a proposal is not enacted or a complaint acted on now, the angler can try again next year.

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