Article Posted: April 01, 2003

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COLUMBUS, OH - Harvest quotas for the 2003 Lake Erie walleye and
yellow perch fisheries have been set by the Lake Erie Committee of the Great
Lakes Fishery Commission and will remain largely unchanged from the previous
year, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division
of Wildlife.
This year, the entire lake's annual harvest quota of walleye is
again set at 3.4 million fish, while the yellow perch quota is up slightly
to 9.9 million pounds.
The Lake Erie Committee is made up of fisheries managers
representing Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario. Each year
this committee sets the Total Allowable Catch (TAC), which reflects the
number of fish that can be taken from the lake without harming these
"By pooling our resources to monitor and manage this great fishery,
we're cooperatively working to attain healthy fish populations and an
equitable distribution of fisheries benefits among our member agencies,"
said Roger Knight, ODNR'S Lake Erie Committee representative.
"Two years ago, we committed as a group to lowering the walleye
quota to allow this species at least three years to rebuild its population,"
said Gary Isbell, fish management and research administrator for ODNR's
Division of Wildlife. Isbell noted that since 2001, the walleye TAC has
remained at 3.4 million fish.
Each state is allotted a share of the total allowable catch,
determined by a formula based on surface area within each jurisdiction.
Ohio and Ontario receive the highest quotas because their waters encompass
the highest percentage of the lake. Of the 2003 quota, Ohio's share is just
over 1.7 million, about 51 percent of the total. Ontario's share is just
under 1.5 million walleye, about 43 percent of the total allocation. The
remainder is shared by New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Ohio's daily bag limit for walleye caught in Lake Erie and its
tributaries will not change. Anglers may harvest four fish from March 1
through April 30, and six fish from May 1 through the last day in February
per angler.
Sport fishing on Lake Erie is a catalyst that draws anglers from all
across the nation and helps boost local economies all along the lakeshore.
"Last year, walleye fishing got off to a slow start because of the
cold and rainy spring weather, but anglers saw improvement as the summer
progressed," said Isbell. "We anticipate anglers experiencing a better
season this year, with good numbers of 19- to 22-inch walleye from the 1999
hatch, many 13- to 15-inch fish from the 2001 hatch, and some 24- to
27-inchers from the 1996 hatch," he added.
This three-year conservation effort for walleye follows the similar
successful action taken by the Lake Erie Committee to boost the population
of yellow perch.
The perch population is improved to the point the Lake Erie
Committee slightly increased the 2003 total allowable catch for yellow perch
to 9.906 million pounds, up from 9.333 million pounds in 2002.
Yellow perch quotas for individual jurisdictions surrounding the
lake are based on a different sharing formula than walleye, involving
surface area and past fishing performance.
Ohio's share of the 2003 perch allocation is 4.3 million pounds -
about two hundred thousand pounds above last year - and is allocated between
sport and commercial fisheries.
"The sport fishing catch for yellow perch was tremendous last year
and we anticipate it continuing," said Isbell. "Last year we saw a lot of
30-fish limit catches, and better angler success than in previous years. We
should see a repeat of that success again this year."
Ontario will receive about five million pounds and Michigan,
Pennsylvania and New York will share the remainder.
Ohio's daily bag limit for sport anglers remains at 30 perch per
angler. Existing commercial fishery regulations also remain in effect.
The Lake Erie Committee remains concerned about changes in the Lake
Erie environment caused by aquatic nuisance species and climate-driven
impacts on lake levels. Spring weather patterns adversely affected walleye
and yellow perch hatches in 2000 and 2002 and the committee anticipates
major cuts in walleye and perch TAC in 2004 and 2005 to help offset these
poor hatches. Work by the member agencies will continue through the summer
to determine strategies for reducing harvest where necessary and for
protecting Lake Erie's valuable resources.

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