Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Lake Erie ‘trophy’ bass size will be 20

By Steve
Piatt
Editor

Albany — Lake Erie’s early trophy bass season will remain
intact under a proposal to overhaul the statewide bass season,
albeit with a higher size limit for the one fish anglers may
keep.

DEC officials indicated the final proposal will contain a
minimum size limit of 20 inches for bass taken on Lake Erie during
the early trophy season, which runs from the first Saturday in May
through the day before the statewide season opener on the third
Saturday in June.

The size limit has in the past been 15 inches for the early
trophy season. DEC officials had kicked around going to an 18- or
20-inch size limit before ultimately deciding on the higher
standard.

Doug Stang, chief of DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries, said DEC
proposed an 18-inch limit “but a number of anglers thought 20 would
be better.”

Pennsylvania currently has a 20-inch size limit during that
state’s trophy season on Lake Erie, which is generally regarded as
one of the top spots in the country for big smallmouths. The state
record bronzeback of 8.25 pounds was taken from Lake Erie 10 years
ago on June 4, during the trophy season. It’s widely thought that
record could fall in the near future.

Stang said the Pennsylvania regulations didn’t play a role in
DEC’s decision to parallel the size limit on Lake Erie. “We feel,
after reaching out to the stakeholders, this package is the most
amenable to the anglers while still providing enough resource
protection for the fishery.”

Another round of public comments on the proposed regulations
changes will likely take place later this fall. The changes will go
into effect Oct. 1, 2006.

Live bait will be allowed during Lake Erie’s spring trophy bass
season. Stang said more and more anglers — including clients of
the lake’s fishing guides — are now using circle hooks which
dramatically reduce mortality.

The increased size limit will affect early-season bass
tournaments on the lake, which are conducted on a one-fish weigh-in
format. DEC’s Lake Erie unit had looked hard at the impact those
events have on the fishery during the spawning and nest-guarding
periods, since fish caught and placed in a live well are removed
from the nest for too long a period to assure the survival of the
eggs.

Bass fishing clubs had argued that eliminating the one-fish
limit in the spring would put an end to their events. They
countered with the increased size limit proposal.

DEC officials estimate about 80 percent of the spawning
smallmouths are 15-18 inches in length.

Statewide, the regulations plan calls for essentially a
year-round bass season, with catch-and-release fishing from Dec. 1
to the day before the traditional third-Saturday-in-June opener.
Only artificial lures will be allowed during the catch-and-release
season.

Waters not part of the new regulations package are those in St.
Lawrence and Jefferson counties; Lake Ontario east of Stony Point;
the tidal portion of the Hudson River and its tributaries; and
waters in Nassau, Suffolk, Hamilton and Franklin counties.

The proposal will go to the Department of State for the official
comment period this fall and regulatory procedures that will lead
to final approval.

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