OH: Erie walleye bag shrink wasn’t ‘right on the line’

DNR: In the end, Ohio had plenty of wiggle room

Columbus – In the final analysis, Ohio wasn’t even that close to
a reduced bag limit on Lake Erie walleye this year.

It came down to a few hundred thousand fish on the right side of
the line, said Ray Petering, the DNR Division of Wildlife’s
administrator in charge of fisheries.

“It wasn’t like ‘we’re right on the line so we’ll flip a coin’ or
anything like that,” the fisheries biologist said. “There was
enough (population) out there to feel OK with keeping things the
same.”

The Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission made
its recommendation and Total Allowable Catch requirement in
March.

New bag limits for Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch went into
effect May 1. Anglers are permitted to keep six walleyes per day
and 30 perch from Lake Erie. It is the same bag limit as the last
several years on the big lake.

There was some consternation before the March announcement that bag
limits, particularly for walleye, would have to be reduced.

It turned out to be status quo, indicating the walleye population
is at least stable.

“We’re going to guess that we’ll catch roughly the same number (of
walleyes) this year as we caught last year,” Petering said. “That
was right about a million fish and I think 1.4 million was our
quota.”

The 2007 year-class of walleyes will likely provide a good number
of fish in this year’s angler bag, Petering said. The 2010s, too,
aren’t far behind at growing to the 15-inch minimum size
limit.

“It’s likely that the 2007 (year-class) was probably a little bit
more abundant than what we gave them credit for,” he said. “We
still have fish from the (2003) hatch and minor contributions from
the other years.”

Two out of the past four years produced at least average hatches
that have buoyed the population. Still, the numbers could be higher
for comfort, Petering said.

“We kind of stopped the bleeding with two average hatches out of
the last four years,” he said. “But, we’d really like to see the
adult population up higher than where they are so we’re not even
having a conversation about bag limits.

“We really could help ourselves out with a good hatch this spring,”
Petering said. “But, with the way the weather’s been, who knows?
Since 2003 we’ve been all over the board. We’ve been wet, we’ve
been dry, we’ve been warm, we’ve been cold… It’s just not that
simple. We’ll hope for the best.”

In other words, it’s hard to pinpoint prime weather conditions for
a good hatch.

“Obviously, weather has a lot to do with it, but it doesn’t have
everything to do with it,” Petering said. “Similar to trying to
predict the weather, you have other factors at work, too.

“If we keep water quality squared away and somehow get a lid on
invasive species, that lake has proven more than capable of
producing incredible walleye fishing if we just take care of
it,” he said.

Blue green algae issues and Asian carp are solidly on the
governor’s radar, said Petering. Gov. Kasich has met more than once
with the Lake Erie charter community on these issues and
others.

“Hopefully, we’ll see some progress on those fronts, particularly
on some of the phosphorous inputs into the lake, which will
certainly help water quality,” Petering said. “Of course, Asian
carp knocking on the door is another wild card.”

Petering and DNR Deputy Director Scott Zody spent two days in
Chicago late last month addressing the Asian carp issue in
particular.

“Progress has obviously been slow (on Asian carp) but we continue
to try to move things along as fast as possible,” he said.

 

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