Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Final rules for Erie netters in Gov. Strickland’s hands

Task force finishes review of industry

Columbus – With its fifth and final meeting, a task force given
the job by the Ohio legislature of evaluating Lake Erie fish
management practices finished its work Dec. 10. The 15-member panel
was expected to send a report to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland by year’s

Details of findings and what happens next remain sketchy,
although sport anglers should know that it appears any bias in
future fish allocations will fall in their favor.

The task force included representatives of sport and commercial
fishing interests, the DNR, wholesalers, charter boat operators,
academic institutions, the Ohio General Assembly and the governor’s

“The task force’s job was the evaluation of seven topics that
were listed in S.B. 77,” said Ray Petering, a member of the
committee and the executive administrator of fish management and
research for the DNR Division of Wildlife. “To kind of characterize
the five meetings, they were about laying ground rules.”

Senate Bill 77, passed early this year after a proposed buyout
of the Lake Erie commercial fishing industry failed to muster
sufficient support in the legislature, toughened rules for netters
(Ohio Outdoor News, July 20). The legislation was deemed necessary
after a number of commercial fishermen were caught overbagging
yellow perch. Many paid heavy fines, and some pleaded guilty to
felonies under federal racketeering statutes.

Among the commercial fishing bill’s mandates:

€ Netters in 2008 must conform to upgraded reporting
requirements, which include purchasing electronic devices that will
help the wildlife division monitor the vessels’ position on the
lake and their daily catch.

€ The division was given increased control over the issuance of
commercial licenses.

€ The chief of the wildlife division may suspend fishing
privileges for 30 and 60 days in the case of the first two serious
violations related to the illegal killing of fish or
misrepresenting catch data. A third instance can result in the
revocation of a license.

€ The share of the yellow perch catch allotted to sport fishing
and to commercial netting was to be re-evaluated along with the
share distributed among commercial fishermen.

The last proved to be one of the more sticky issues. Where
disagreements persisted among task force members, both a majority
and minority opinion will be written into the report going to the
governor, Petering said.

Although noting that at this point “nothing is binding,” he said
wildlife division proposals for the future allocation of yellow
perch would end up favoring sport fishing, but only under
circumstances that nobody with a stake in Lake Erie fishing wants
to see.

Should the perch population drop far below current levels, for
instance, quotas for both sport and commercial fishing might be
cut. The netters, moreover, might also have to deal with a cut to
their percentage of the allowable catch.

Currently, commercial fishermen get about 35 percent of the
perch catch in Ohio’s annual allotment, whereas sport fishing gets
about 65 percent. While no reasons exist or are foreseen that would
change the current arrangement, a drop in perch numbers to levels
seen during the mid-1990s might force cuts in the catch that likely
would be borne more heavily by netters than by hook-and-line

The possible scenarios, despite how low fish numbers might go,
do not include pushing netters out of business.

“We won’t get into a situation where they’re cut out
completely,” Petering said.

Still, sport fishing will remain a priority because it generates
about $700 million on Ohio’s portion of Lake Erie, while commercial
fishing represents about a $10 million business annually.

Petering hopes the strategy to keep conservative catch
regulations in place will maintain fish populations at a level that
in the future won’t require drastic restrictions on either
commercial operators or sport anglers.

Reprinted by permission of The Columbus Dispatch, December

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