Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Perch research could help reservoirs

Bowling Green, Ohio – The ongoing efforts to recruit new anglers
are proving successful, according to the latest surveys.

Ohio has a plethora of water sources offering a diverse group of
fishing waters to keep any angler, novice or master, busy
throughout all four seasons.

The western region of the state has numerous water bodies called
upground reservoirs. These “raised” lakes hold water for
municipalities, and some upgrounds provide angling opportunities as
well.

A joint effort to research the possibilities of stocking yellow
perch in existing upground reservoirs and future ones is under way
between the DNR Division of Wildlife (DOW) and Bowling Green State
University.

For any fish stocking program to be successful, thorough
research has to be accomplished. Joining the forces of the DOW and
the aquatics ecology program of Bowling Green State University
provides Ohio’s best chance for success. A primary intent of the
program is to determine not only which upground reservoirs will
support yellow perch, but also how supporting reservoirs compare to
each other.

“One of the goals of the project is to be able to ultimately
classify upground reservoirs and do so in a way that helps us
understand where the best opportunities are for stocking and
creating fisheries for stocking yellow perch,” said Scott Hale,
inland fisheries program administrator for the DOW. “This goal is
reached through a lot of science and anglers can really benefit
from that.”

The classification of these unique water bodies is key for long
term fishery management procedures.

With upground reservoirs being more common in northwest Ohio,
where simply damming up a creek or river to provide water for a
community isn’t likely, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) has
plenty of research destinations in its backyard.

BGSU Professor Jeff Miner says the previous successful fish
stocking attempts of upground reservoirs are encouraging.

“Lima’s upground reservoir has been a good perch fishery in the
past and there are many more in the region that are candidates to
be just as good,” he said.

Twenty upground reservoirs are included in the research; some
already considered as good fisheries and others that are not so
good.

Upground reservoirs are owned by a county or city and most are
in agreement with the DOW to manage the fisheries. The challenge
awaiting fishery managers regarding some new upground reservoirs is
the concern reservoir owners have about possible damage to
reservoir liners by boat props, for example. With reservations
about allowing anglers to enter the water for recreation, some
upground reservoirs will likely never be fished. For other
reservoirs in areas with plenty of attraction to fishing, building
an upground reservoir without taking fishing into consideration in
the planning stages is doubtful.

There are ways an upground reservoir can be built to affect its
ability to sustain a reproducing fish population. The research
conducted by the DOW and BGSU will expose the factors to improve
the probability of this, which can be used in the planning process
to increase the ecological value of the reservoir.

“Simply by adding five percent aquatic vegetation to the
shoreline, instead of a complete surrounding of the reservoir with
rip rap, will improve the fishery,” said Miner. “Our research will
not only improve existing reservoirs, but will provide pertinent
information to reservoir designers.”

Different from lakes and rivers around the state, upground
reservoirs are mostly devoid of prime fish habitat.

“Not true of all upgrounds, but some don’t support nest building
fish like bass and crappie,” said Hale. “We are surprised by some
of the healthy fish populations in some of the reservoirs. The
reservoirs have very little shoreline habitat, which is not so good
for fish reproduction.”

Hale says the DOW typically stocks walleyes or saugeyes in such
conditions and yellow perch are an addition to the possible
stocking scenario. The best time to stock, the size of the perch to
be stocked, and reducing predation of the stocked perch are
important questions to be answered.

Stocking perch in upground reservoirs is not new idea. In the
mid 1970s, in the few existing upground reservoirs that were
publicly fished, the DOW stocked a limited number of perch in them.
The success of those stockings was variable, so in the mid 1980s
the perch stockings were stopped. In the mid 1990s, an experimental
stocking of yellow perch in Findlay No. 2 Reservoir showed positive
results. The success led to the stocking of other upground
reservoirs with varied results, which has led the DOW to this more
involved research to solidify the upground reservoir, yellow perch
stocking plan.

The research will be ongoing for the next few years, with signs
of failure or success expected to be revealed occasionally
throughout the process. If the answers are found to be positive,
angling will become more attractive which leads to economic and
recreational benefits for the reservoir’s area.

“If we can improve the fishing in these reservoirs for not only
now but well into the future, we will have provided a healthy
resource for the next generation of anglers also,” said Miner.

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