A group of fish biologists gathers early each year to review the health of the Lake Erie fishery, and make some far-reaching decisions on how best to manage that precious resource. This spring, the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission met at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts in Windsor, just across the Detroit River from Cobo Hall.
The information coming out of that meeting is the equivalent of their “state of the union” message to the anglers and commercial fishermen of Ohio, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ontario.
The committee reviews a variety of fish population surveys and other data, and then arrives at a consensus in order to set something called “the total allowable catch” or TAC for the year. From that figure, the individual states and the province then establish their daily limits for anglers.
The intent is to allow recreational anglers and commercial interests, where present, to utilize the resource while also guarding against doing long-term damage to the fishery by over-harvesting the primary targeted species — walleyes and yellow perch.
The committee settled on a TAC of 4.027 million pounds of walleyes, and 11.081 million pounds of yellow perch. Those figures represent a 20 percent increase in the TAC for walleyes, and about a nine percent drop in the TAC for yellow perch.
Ohio’s share of that total, which is arrived at based on its percentage of the lake’s water surface, will be 2.058 million pounds of walleye and 4.418 million pounds of yellow perch.
Michigan, with a much smaller portion of Lake Erie within its boundaries, received a 235,000 pound share of the walleye take, and a 0.145 million pound portion of the yellow perch assessment.
Ontario, which still has a large commercial fishing industry, received the largest share of the perch allotment at 5.409 million pounds due to the method used to determine the perch management units on the lake. The province also received a 1.734 million pound share of the walleye take.
The real bottom line for Ohio anglers is that the daily bag limits for both walleye and yellow perch on Lake Erie will remain unchanged from the 2013 numbers. In the Ohio waters of Lake Erie, the daily limits for the coming season will continue to be six walleye of at least 15 inches in length, and 30 yellow perch, with no minimum size.
The special spring spawning period limit of four walleyes remains in place in Ohio through Wednesday for Lake Erie and its tributaries, and that reduced limit returns on March 1, 2015. Site-specific walleye regulations for certain inland waters also apply in Ohio. Consult the Ohio Fishing Regulations booklet for details.
In Michigan, the walleye limit for Lake Erie’s waters is six fish per day, with a 15-inch minimum size, through April 30, 2015. The Michigan limit for yellow perch on Lake Erie is 50 per day. Special size and daily total limits are in place for both walleyes and yellow perch on certain non-Lake Erie waters in Michigan. Consult the MDNR Fishing Guide for detailed information.
Ohio walleye anglers on Lake Erie this season should expect the bulk of their catch to predominantly come from the 2010, 2009, 2007, and 2003 hatches, with some fish from the 2011, 2008, and 2012 year classes also in the harvest.
The walleye from the 2012 hatch are expected to reach or surpass the 15-inch minimum size limit during the current season. Fish from the 2010 hatch should measure from 18 to 23 inches in length, while walleye from the 2007 hatch are expected to surpass 20 inches this season. The trophy class fish will come primarily from the banner 2003 class, with many of them more than 28 inches in length, and in the 8-12 pound size.
“While fishing success always varies among species and seasons, we expect that anglers will find success on the waters of Lake Erie this year,” said Jeff Tyson, the Sandusky-based Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the ODNR Division of Wildlife. “The lake’s population of walleye, yellow perch, black bass, white bass and steelhead remains stable, with a very broad distribution of sizes for each species.”
Michigan anglers are reminded that the “Catch and Immediate Release” bass season for all waters in the Lower Peninsula, including Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River, begins Saturday. This special rule remains in place through June 20 on Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair and Detroit rivers, and through May 23 elsewhere in the Lower Peninsula.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.
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