Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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DNR: Perch bag reduced with the future in mind

By Mike
Moore

Editor

Columbus – Ohio fisheries managers suspected they might have a
problem with Lake Erie yellow perch this year.

DNR Division of Wildlife fisheries administrator Ray Petering
said on April 4 that the decision to reduce the bag limit for perch
this year (Ohio Outdoor News, April 13) isn’t wholly
unexpected.

‘We expected there to be cuts,’ Petering said, referring to the
total Lake Erie catch allowance from the Great Lakes Fishery
Commission. ‘However, the magnitude was a little more than we
anticipated.’

The Ohio Wildlife Council at that same April meeting approved an
emergency request from Petering to reduce the perch bag from 40 to
30 per day. Gov. Ted Strickland also offered an executive order to
that effect, which will put the regulation in place
immediately.

The aforementioned Great Lakes Fishery Commission, made up of
representatives from U.S. states and Canadian provinces bordering
Lake Erie, oversees sport and commercial fish management and
harvest on the lakes. In late March, that commission dramatically
reduced the Total Allowable Catch of yellow perch in Ohio to 4.92
million pounds, down from 7.48 million pounds in 2006. That
represents a 34 percent reduction.

That poses a dilemma for Ohio fisheries managers, who proposed
fishing regulations last fall that have already been approved by
the Ohio Wildlife Council.

The quota pronouncement from the Great Lakes Fisheries
Commission came down on March 23. The timing issue puts fisheries
managers in a pickle, at times, Petering said, forcing changes such
as bag limit reductions on the fly.

‘It forces us to make regulations on Lake Erie before we’ve got
everything in front of us,’ Petering said. ‘Most times, it’s not a
problem. But, this time it is.’

If the bag limit remained at the published 40, which is printed
in Division of Wildlife publications in circulation since February,
Ohio commercial and sport anglers combined would catch more than
their allotted perch, Petering said. He estimated that the final
figure would come in about 25 percent over quota.

‘If we take care of things now, we should be good into the
future,’ he said. ‘It’s the responsible and right thing to do.’

The daily bag of 40 perch on Lake Erie just went into effect
last year. It had been at 30 for the previous nine years, Petering
said.

Since the 2006 hatch was also largely a bust, the reduced perch
bag limit will likely remain in effect in 2008 as well.

Another option besides a bag limit reduction would have been to
close perch to harvest when the quota poundage was reached. That
proposal is problematic, Petering said, because it is difficult to
obtain real-time harvest numbers from sport anglers in
particular.

‘It’s very difficult for our guys to get numbers on the sport
side because they’re not filling out catch reports,’ like
commercial fishermen are required to do, Petering said.

The TAC for walleyes was also reduced from 9.8 million fish in
2006 to 5.3 million this year. Ohio’s share of that amount is 2.75
million, representing a 54 percent decrease from last year.

That number, however, is not enough to cause Ohio fisheries
manager to seek a reduction in the walleye bag.

Yet.

Petering was straightforward in his appraisal of walleye
prospects for the future given that the last three spring hatches
have been relatively poor.

The 2003 hatch is ‘essentially what we’re living on up in Lake
Erie right now,’ Petering said. ‘You can’t find any three years ‘
(hatches) that were worse than 2004, 2005, and 2006.’

Petering said the last time spring numbers were this poor in
such a long stretch likely dates to the 1970s.

‘We don’t need a home run (hatch) this spring,’ Petering said.
‘We need a grand slam.’

Ohio anglers caught 1.8 million legal walleyes on Lake Erie last
year, which was under the quota allowed by the GLFC. On the perch
side, the lakewide catch of 11.1 million pounds was high, but still
under the 16.48 million pound quota.

The daily bag limit on walleye will remain at four fish daily
through the end of April and six a day the rest of the year.
There’s also a 15-inch minimum keeper requirement.

Conservative bag limits, including the perch reduction, is the
prudent thing to do, Petering said.

‘We’re not here to make the easiest decision for us, which would
be to do nothing,’ he said. ‘We’re here to do the right thing.’

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