No change in bag limit enforcement on charters

Jane BeathardI was glad to hear this week that the Ohio DNR is not changing the way it counts the daily catch of customers on Lake Erie's charter fishing boats.

I was concerned about a newspaper article that said several customers and the captain of a Port Clinton walk-on charter were cited on April 7 for over-bagging and snagging walleye. The citations were based on observations by an undercover wildlife officer assigned to the boat, according to Gino Barna of the DNR's Lake Erie Law Enforcement Unit.

Barna sent the officer to spy after receiving several complaints the service cut trips short. A few anglers on board caught a "boat limit" of walleye, while others returned to shore empty handed, disgruntled customers said.

After the April 7 incident, Barna fielded inquiries from captains and anglers who feared a new crack down on Lake Erie angling.

That's because a "boat limit" system is common among Lake Erie charters to determine a trip's total allowable catch. The captain simply multiplies the daily bag limit by the number of customers on board, regardless of how many fish were hooked by each individual. Frequently, the captain fishes along side customers to help with the take.

In reality, there's no such thing as a "boat limit," Barna said. "Legally, there's only a daily bag limit."

However, Barna is realistic enough to understand that some anglers are going to be more successful than others and charter captains want to attract and keep customers. His officers are not trying to chase business or anglers away from the lake.

"When a boat comes in, we count the (total number of) fish and check for fishing licenses," he said. "We don't care who caught what."

I was relieved to hear Barna's words because my family goes out for yellow perch every August. We charter a boat and take kids, in-laws and all the friends and neighbors we can round up for a day of fun on the lake. It's become something of a tradition. The kids – even the grown-up ones – love it!

Our captains have always used a "boat limit" system. And, few of our young anglers catch the daily bag of 30 perch. But, in the heat of an angling moment it's hard to keep track of who's catching fish – and how many.

We leave that job up to the captain and mate. And, they are always careful to count exactly how many perch are in the creel tank, never allowing us to abuse the "boat limit."

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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