Article Posted: April 06, 2001

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COLUMBUS, OH - In an effort to boost Lake Erie's walleye population, fisheries scientists working with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) met last week and agreed to cut in half international harvest quotas for walleye on the lake, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

The GLFC's Lake Erie Committee met last week in Niagara Falls, NY and agreed to reduce the total allowable walleye harvest for the entire lake from 7.7 million in 2000 to 3.4 million fish this year.

The daily bag limit for walleye in Ohio waters of Lake Erie and its tributaries for 2001 will be four fish from March 1 through April 30, and six fish from May 1 through the last day in February 2002.

"Committee members agreed last year to set future quotas conservatively in an effort to stop declining walleye populations," said ODNR Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist Mike Costello. "Toward that goal, Ontario accepted a decrease of nearly 2 million walleyes, confirming their commitment to rebuilding populations of the lake's most popular gamefish."

The Lake Erie Committee is made up of fisheries managers from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario. The group meets annually to determine the status of Lake Erie fish stocks and, establish international harvest quotas for each of those jurisdictions surrounding the lake.

"We are committed to doing everything we can to improve the Lake Erie fishery for the future," Costello said. "It won't happen overnight but we've laid the groundwork and shown that the entire team can work together to protect this important resource."

Walleye harvest quotas are determined by a formula based on surface area within each jurisdiction.

Ohio and Ontario receive the majority of the walleye allocation catch for Lake Erie. Of the 2001 quota of 3.4 million fish, Ohio's share is just over 1.7 million, about 51 percent of the total. Ontario's share is about 1.4 million walleye, about 43 percent of the total allocation.

"Our focus is to manage for improved growth in the walleye population," said Costello. "Supporting this effort, both Ontario and Michigan have made similar changes in their bag limits."

Based on the strength of the 1999 walleye hatch, fisheries biologists predict a brighter future for Lake Erie walleye fishing.

"The new quotas positively impact the `99 year class fish, enabling them to contribute to the fishery for a number of years," Costello said.

The total allowable catch for yellow perch in Lake Erie for 2001 was set at 7.1 million pounds, up slightly from 6.57 million in 2000. 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 2001 perch allocation is slightly more than 3 million pounds. Ontario will receive about 3.7 million pounds and Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York will share the remainder. Ohio's portion of the yellow perch quota is then allocated between sport and commercial fisheries.

Sport anglers are allocated 64 percent of the Ohio quota, and commercial anglers 36 percent.

"Yellow perch stocks in the central basin are strong but we still have some concerns in the western and eastern basins of Lake Erie," said Costello.

The daily bag limit for sport anglers remains at 30 perch per angler and existing commercial fishery regulations also remain in effect.

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