Lake Erie bag limits likely same
Sandusky, Ohio – At the Lake Erie Committee meetings, which ended March 23, the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for walleyes and yellow perch were calculated and population projections announced.
It was then up to the wildlife agencies in each jurisdiction that borders Lake Erie to calculate daily limits for sport fishermen and annual quotas for commercial fishermen to follow to stay within each state’s/province TAC.
Keep in mind that the TAC, like daily bag limits, are just that; a safe, sustainable, Total Allowable Catch; not a goal. Not reaching the TAC shouldn’t be considered a ruined season or wasted opportunity, but rather an investment in next season’s population.
The walleye and yellow perch task groups also calculate a more conservative, Recommended Allowable Harvest (RAH) to guide the quotas for these species, with a minimum, mean and maximum harvest. This approach offers more protection from overharvest through variable fishing mortality target rates to match fish population levels in the individual management units.
In 2011, Ohio anglers caught approximately 417,000 walleyes, which was less than one-third of their allotted 1.49 million fish, largely due to poor weather seen during much of the fishing season. Ontario took 1.224 million walleyes, essentially reaching its quota of 1.256 million fish.
Good news: The catchable walleye population, those two years old and older, rose from 21.2 million fish in 2011 to 26.1 million this year. The population increase is attributed to the low Ohio sport fish catch last year and the entry of a modest number of fast-growing 2010-hatched fish. The task group followed the mean RAH to set a lake wide walleye TAC of 3.487 million fish, up from 2011’s TAC of 2.919 million.
The population this year is primarily made up of 4.4 million fish (17 percent) from the remaining 2003 and older hatches, 5.3 million (20 percent) from the modest hatch of 2007 and a better than expected population of 9.7 million 2010 cohorts entering the fishery and likely to provide about 50 percent of this year’s total catch.
Bad news: Without the benefit of a decent hatch in 2011, the 2013 population will drop to 19.6 million fish, which will most likely drop the TAC for next year. Even worse, without a substantial hatch in 2012, it could go down to even further by 2014. By comparison, in 1988 and 2005, the populations were in the 80 million fish range, thanks to “super hatches” two years prior.
Clearly, we need to have a substantial hatch this spring with good summer growth and survival to rescue our 2014 walleye fishery. Hopefully the early spring we had and a long growing season provides the perfect recipe for success.
To view the 27 page, click “Report for 2011 by the Lake Erie Walleye Task Group, March 2012”.
Yellow perch populations are managed by weight in pounds in four separate management units (MU). Ohio shoreline borders MU 1, MU 2 and MU 3. MU 4 is east of Erie, Pa.
In 2011, there was 9.62 million pounds of yellow perch caught by anglers and commercial fishermen in Lake Erie. Ontario lead the way with a 100 percent TAC harvest of 6.37 million pounds. Ohio filled 76.4 percent of its TAC with
2.83 million pounds. Pennsylvania, Michigan and New York had 190,000, 146,000 and 81,000 pounds of yellow perch harvested from their portions of the lake respectively.
The overall Lake Erie yellow perch TAC increases from 12.6 million pounds in 2011 to 13.6 million pounds in 2012, with increases in MU 1, MU 2 and MU3, but a decrease in MU 4. Variable target catch rates are in place between the management units to try to achieve a biologically conservative harvest of up to 50 percent of the annual maximum sustained yield.
Ohio’s fisheries biologists have to divide the quota between the sport and commercial fishermen, then convert the sport angler quota from pounds to numbers of fish to set a daily limit. Complicating matters even more is that their size varies from year to year, depending on the age composition of the fish and an increase in average size going from west to east.
According to the yellow perch task group’s 2012 annual report, Ohio’s 2011 sport and commercial catch was estimated to be 2.83 million pounds. Angler and commercial fishing effort and catch rates for Ontario and the other states, estimated populations and total weight of perch living in each management unit are all documented in the report.
What this means for fishermen pursuing these species in Ohio’s water of Lake Erie is that no changes are expected to be implemented for the 2012-2013 season.
For walleyes, this keeps the daily limits at six fish from May through February and four fish during the months of March and April, with no closed season.
With the 15-inch minimum size length still in place, take a ruler, because some of the 2010 hatched fish are still short-even though others are over 16 inches already.
For yellow perch, the limit will remain at 30 fish per day across the Ohio Lake Erie shoreline, with no closed season or minimum size length requirements for sport fishermen.
In March, 2013 the committees will re-convene and determine the TAC in 2013-2014.