Saginaw Bay coming off record walleye harvest during winter fishing
Anglers on Michigan’s Saginaw Bay caught a record number of walleye during the 2017-2018’s winter months, according to a news release Wednesday, May 30 by the Michigan DNR.
According to the DNR, the record is attributed to three main factors: the increase to the daily possession limit implemented in October 2015, further increases in walleye population numbers, and good ice-fishing conditions in 2018.
Anglers took 123,793 walleye, the most ever measured since creel surveys began on Saginaw Bay in 1983. Angler participation increased for January through March 2018 with a total of 545,226 angler hours, compared to the average winter of approximately 390,000 angler hours.
In addition to this past year’s winter fishing season, the open-water fishing season on Saginaw Bay also was good, with an estimated 221,251 walleye taken. When looking at both of those time periods combined, Saginaw Bay saw a total of 345,044 walleye taken and more than 1 million angling hours. The bay’s previous walleye catch-and-keep record was recorded in 2008, with approximately 329,549 walleye taken.
In cooperation with constituent groups from Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, the DNR liberalized fishing regulations for walleye because of fewer numbers of the fish they prey on, slower walleye growth and poor survival of juvenile yellow perch.
“The goal of the regulation is to manage the walleye population to reduce pressure on some of the species they prey upon – like yellow perch,” said Jim Baker, DNR fisheries unit manager out of Bay City. “We will need to watch how many fish anglers catch and keep through 2018, with an eye toward making adjustments to the walleye regulations in 2019, if needed.”
In addition to the loosened walleye regulations, the daily possession limit for yellow perch in Saginaw Bay was reduced from 50 to 25. The combined walleye and yellow perch regulations aimed to reach a better balance between walleye and yellow perch populations in the bay while maximizing the benefits for Michigan anglers. Baker said the past winter fishing season appears to have been successful, as anglers swarmed to Saginaw Bay and enjoyed record opportunities.