Anglers of Lake Erie got another dose of good news last week, as a board of fisheries biologists and managers voted to maintain the current bag limits in Michigan and Ohio for the upcoming season. The panel, known as the Lake Erie Committee (LEC) is a division of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Each year in late March they convene to discuss the overall health of the walleye and perch populations of Lake Erie, and to make regulation changes accordingly.
Based on the data compiled this year, the board advised to maintain the current regulations. Michigan will have a 6 fish daily limit, with the season open year round. Ohio’s daily limit will be 6 fish from May 1st through February 28th, and 4 fish limit during the spawning season of March and April. Both states will continue to maintain a 15” minimum size limit during the season on all walleye caught.
The committee bases their information on a scientifically determined number known as the total allowable catch, or TAC to set the daily bag limits for each jurisdiction on Lake Erie. The total allowable catch is believed to be the highest number of fish (walleye or perch) that can be removed from the lake without having a negative impact, either short or long term, on the fishery.
The TAC for walleye was set at 4.027 million fish, up from 3.356 million in 2013, equal to an increase of 17%. That large of an increase came as a surprise to many, as the lake has seen average walleye hatches for roughly the past decade. But those average hatches have contributed to a healthy and sustainable fishery throughout the lake. Overall the population is estimated at 22 million fish; of which, up to 30% is estimated to be from the record breaking 2003 hatch. Those fish are now trophy sized, and are anchoring the spawning success of the species each season.
It is important to note that the TAC only takes into account fish that are 2 years old or older, or those which are likely to be legal size during the coming season. Juvenile fish are not taken into account for this study.
The jump in the walleye population estimate is also due to a new population model used, according to Jeff Tyson, the head of Lake Erie fisheries management for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. “The new model was developed by the Lake Erie Percid Management Advisory Group and Michigan State University,” he said. “It used studies that ran the gamut of fisheries assessments, fish harvested, effort by sport and commercial fishermen, age composition of the harvest, as well as a wide range of other data.”
This positive outlook bodes well for not only the coming season, but for the foreseeable future as well. It doesn't appear as though Lake Erie wants to give up the title of ‘Walleye Capital of the World’ just yet.
The same model was used for determining the yellow perch population, but yielded slightly less positive results.
Although not bleak, the population estimate and TAC for perch both decreased from their 2013 totals. The good news is that the current regulations will stay identical to what they have been in the past few seasons. The daily bag limit will continue to be 30 fish per person in Ohio, and 50 fish per person in Michigan. There is no size limit on perch in either locality, nor is there a decreased bag limit during the spawning season.
The TAC for yellow perch was dropped from 12.237 million pounds in 2013 to 11.081 million this season, equivalent to a decline of 9 percent overall. According to Brian Locke, the fisheries assessment supervisor for Ontario’s Ministry of National Resources, there is not a cause for concern yet. “No alarm bells at this point,” he said. “It’s coming down to what are average levels for the population.”
After a fantastic winter ice fishing season in the western portion of the lake, anglers are anxiously awaiting the start of the coming year to capitalize on the bountiful fishing opportunities. As stated in our 2014 fishing forecast, it should be another great fishing season all across Lake Erie; from Michigan to New York, and everywhere in between.
Want to join us for a great day of fishing on the lake?
More info on our Lake Erie Walleye Fishing Charters
comments powered by
Click to View larger