Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Green Bay perch order may become rule

Editor

Green Bay, Wis. Another weak yellow perch hatch on Green Bay has
convinced fish managers that an emergency rule that reduced sport
and commercial harvest this summer must now become a permanent
rule.

DNR officials will ask the Natural Resources Board (NRB) to
approve that change when the board meets Wednesday, Oct. 24 in
Neenah.

Right now, an emergency rule passed by the NRB in spring limits
sport anglers to 10 yellow perch per day on Green Bay. The same
rule dropped the commercial harvest quota from 200,000 pounds per
year to 20,000 pounds per year.

Any emergency rule is temporary and this one is set to expire in
November.

“We’re seeing yet another weak year-class of yellow perch out
there 1998 was the last good year-class in the past 10 years and
those are the fish that are providing what there is for a fishery
right now,” said Lee Meyers, Northeast Region fisheries
biologist.

“There have been weaker year-classes each year, so it’s not a
total failure, but it’s been nothing like it was 10 to 15 years
ago. We had an outstanding fishery in the late 1980s and early
1990s. There was a tremendous ice fishery for perch in 1990 and
1991, but that’s gone.”

Even though the current emergency rule allows a daily bag limit
of 10 perch and a commercial harvest of up to 20,000 pounds this
year, perch fishing has been poor. Meyers said commercial fishermen
have only caught about about 10,000 pounds of perch so far.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t isolated one factor that’s causing
this. It’s probably a combination of factors white perch and zebra
mussels arrived in the last 10 years. Our cormorant population has
increased dramatically in last 10 years,” he said.

DNR considering May 1 – June 15 perch closure on Lake
Michigan

The yellow perch scene doesn’t look any brighter on Lake
Michigan. Despite a current Lake Michigan commercial season closure
and and a five-perch daily bag limit, perch numbers still are poor.
The DNR has closed sport fishing for perch in June to help the
popular panfish recover.

Now, the DNR is considering expanding the perch closure from May
1 through June 15 to offer broader protection to the spawning
females left in the last good year-class.

“A lot of fish are getting harvested before the current June
closure kicks in just as they’re getting ready to spawn,” said Brad
Eggold, Southern Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor.

“The proposed May 1 through June 15 closure should do a better
job of protecting the spawning females. It does add a couple of
weeks to the closure, but, at this point, we have to maximize the
number of females out there that can produce eggs, yet still offer
a sportfishing opportunity.”

The DNR knows it wants the longer closure, but the question is
how to get it. In most instances, agency officials prefer to go
through the normal rule-making process, which includes the
Conservation Congress and public through the spring hearings. Going
that route usually takes two years before a rule is in place.

The DNR could also ask the NRB to consider passing a temporary
emergency order at its November or December meeting. It that
happens, the DNR could then work with the Conservation Congre****nd
the public to look at long-range changes.

“Ideally, we would like to have this change in place for the
2002 spawning season,” Eggold said. “We have contacted conservation
groups and have found a lot of support. The Conservation Congress
Great Lakes Study Committee has been briefed. I think the situation
would warrant an emergency rule for this year.”

Lake Michigan fishery crews have yet to get a good look at this
year’s perch hatch, but crew members aren’t holding their breath.
Graded mesh gill-net survey are the most reliable way to gauge
perch numbers and spawning success, put those nets don’t go out
until December and January, when perch of all ages and sizes are
mingled in the same area of Lake Michigan.

Three other assessment efforts that are used earlier in the year
have been less telling than normal in 2001 because of low water
levels that put perch out of their reach, according to Eggold.

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