The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does many good things. They also do many stupid things. They do a decent job managing fisheries, though even in this there is both good and bad. They help protect shorelines from erosion, which is uniformly viewed as a good thing. They also manage piers, and on Geneva Lake, piers are everything. Take a nice house off the lake that doesn’t have a private pier. Then add a private pier to that house and you’ll see a value increase of perhaps $250k. Piers are life. With the DNR watching Geneva as closely as any body of water in the state, it only makes sense that our piers are often in their crosshairs.
At issue over recent years has been the existence of pier canopy curtains, the canvas extensions that button down the side of a boat slip to better protect the slip from the sun, wind and rain. These curtains have existed for eons, and have only very recently caught the eye of a watchful DNR, who have in turn labeled these curtains to be detrimental to aquatic habitat. The theory on their side suggests that curtains limit the light that can make it through to the interior of the slip, therefore limiting plant growth, thereby limiting fish habitat. Nice theory DNR, but it’s pretty absurd.
If you’ve ever lived on this lake, or observed the fishing habits of those who ply these waters for our mighty gamefish, you’ll see why this theory doesn’t hold up to real life. Fisherman on Geneva tend to fish in one of three ways. First there are the down riggers. Those who troll the depths hoping for something large and toothy to bite their lure. Then there are the drop-off fishermen, those who find the weed edges in 15-25′ of water and fish those margins for large bass and pike and walleye. Then there is the most populated group of fishermen- those who throw plastic baits into and around the piers. Why do they pitch and cast their lures into and under the piers? Because fish love cover and piers passively offer plenty of it.
If you’d like to view this in person, I could meet you at a particular pier on the south shore of Geneva. The pier is large and the water deep, and the fish under this pier are amongst the largest you’ll see in shallow water. The fish love this pier. Coincidentally, this pier also has three slips protected by canvas side curtains. The fish don’t seem to know that side curtains are detrimental to their health. The DNR also doesn’t seem to know that shade cools water and cool water is beneficial for fish.
Current legislation features an exemption from the side curtain ban for those side curtains that are covering wooden boats. This might be viewed as a win for some, but it’s discriminatory to those who own fiberglass boats. Who is the DNR to suggest that only wood boat owners have the right to protect their personal property? This would be akin to allowing only those homes with hardwood floors to install drapes. Carpet lovers be damned. I understand that the legislation is attempting to make the best of a sticky situation, but why is it sticky? Why should the DNR have so much power over private property owners? What’s next, citations for too many umbrellas on a pier?
Today it would be a good idea to email Representative Tyler August (R), and tell him to adjust the language in his bill to allow fiberglass boats as well. Maybe tax the curtains at $10 per year, then the DNR can remain loyal to their actual goal: fee collection. But don’t discriminate against fiberglass boat owners just because it seems an easier way to pacify a department that continues to persecute riparian owners.
Email: Rep.August@legis.wisconsin.gov Phone: (608) 266 – 1190 Address: P.O. Box 8952 Madison, WI 53708