Boat limits: Let's make the rule comply with the practice
When the Ohio Wildlife Council considers rescinding the controversial, questionable new rule requiring that a skin-patch be left on fish fillets for identification, it instead should consider fashioning one that makes legal the widespread practice of keeping boat limits.
As it stands now, for example, a daily summertime limit of six Lake Erie walleye is enforced only when a wildlife officer in uniform or undercover actually watches and counts an individual angler’s catch. Otherwise, when a boatload of anglers is checked at sea or back at the dock, the number of fish in the cooler is divided by the number of anglers – as if each one minded his own limit and quit keeping fish at that point. Uh huh.
Individual limits still should be minded when you are fishing as an individual, that is, when an angler is alone or can be clearly identified as such. I think here of the strings of individual anglers that line up in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers in the spring; each one fishes for himself, keeps his own stringer. Customers on headboats or partyboats similarly keep track of their own fish. I watch my own limit when I fish alone, if I decide to keep fish.
But that is not the case with fishing as a party on a charter or a private boat. The party-limit practice is reasonable from several perspectives.
Who really catches a fish, for instance, when trolling for walleyes on Lake Erie? The moving boat sets the hook, and whoever initially picks up the rod handles the fish at least to “start” it toward the net. Then the initial handler typically gives the rod to someone (often a client or guest) to wind in. Captains and mates or veterans aboard often net the fish, unhook the fish, and toss it in the cooler. So, who caught the fish? Contending it was the guy who cranked the reel handle is a weak argument.
Or, say you are in a boat-party that is casting. One angler or two, perhaps because of experience or even fishing position on the boat, have hot hands on a given day and are catching fish right and left; others have stone hands and can’t catch a cold. Does that mean that only the limits of the one or two hot hands are to be kept, and that no matter how many other fish are caught they cannot be iced because of individual, rather than boat limits? In reality that does not happen.
It costs lots of money and time for a day on the lake. Boat limits do not harm the fisheries. Too many days even they cannot be met. Driving away anglers and their license-dollars because of arcane rules will harm the fisheries, in the long run. So let’s spell it out in the rules, boat or party limits should be OK. Make the rule comply with the practice.