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Published: Friday, 2/15/2008

Plan aims to slow perch stock decline

Ohio fish managers formally have proposed a reduction from 30 to 25 a day in the sport fishing creel limit for yellow perch in western Lake Erie.

The plan recently was presented to the rules-making Ohio Wildlife Council, which will decide on the rule change on April 2.

Before then the public will have opportunities to comment and testify, respectively, at district wildlife open houses on March 2 and a statewide hearing in Columbus on March 6.

The northwest district open house is at 952 Lima Ave., Findlay. The statewide hearing is at Wildlife District One offices, 1500 Dublin Rd., Columbus. Directions to the open houses can be obtained by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE or online at www.ohiodnr.com.

The proposed creel reduction, the Ohio Division of Wildlife has said, is aimed at easing fishing pressure on the western basin perch stock, which has been in a decline because of low production in several recent year-classes. The creel limit would remain unchanged at 30 a day in waters east of Huron.

Ohio anglers exceeded the western basin catch-quota by about 20 percent in 2007, according to the division, which also is seeking to close the basin this year to commercial trapnetting of perch. Netters took just under their allocation of basin perch in 2007, but sport anglers took well above the sport allotment.

Jeff Tyson, supervisor at the state's Lake Erie Fisheries Research Station at Sandusky, said the proposed net closure is not a part of the OWC proposal because it is being pursued under rules that implement Senate Bill 77.

The bill became law last Oct. 10 and seeks to more strictly monitor and control perch netting in the wake of a lakefront perch industry racketeering scandal revolving around extensive underreporting of commercial perch catches.

In any event, state fish managers have said the reduction and closure may be in effect just this year.

In other fishing-related proposals to the council, the wildlife division seeks to reduce the daily creel limit on muskellunge from two to one and allow on four lakes motorboats equipped with more than 10 horsepower as long as such craft operate at idle speed only. The lakes include Knox in Knox County, La Su An in Williams County, Oxbow in Defiance County, and Rupert in Vinton County.

In addition, 10-horsepower motors would be allowed on Greenfield Lake and Rockmill Lake in Fairfield County under the plan.

A Leamington, Ont., commercial fishing company and a gillnet tug captain have been fined $3,450 in the Ontario Court of Justice at Chatham for using illegal nets, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

The Family Fish Co., Ltd., which owns the license, was fined $1,150. The captain of the vessel Mummery Bros., John Lablance, 38, of Wallaceburg, Ont., was fined $2,300. The OMNR seized the nets.

The case stems from an inspection by provincial conservation officers last July 25, during which they discovered 19 illegally undersized gill nets on the Mummery Bros. tug.

The legal minimum size of gillnets, which resemble huge volleyball nets and which kill virtually all fish they ensnare, is set at 2 1/4 inches to select for commercially marketable yellow perch. Smaller, illegal-sized mesh would catch smaller fish.

The OMNR maintains two toll-free tip-lines to report violations, 1-877-TIPS-MNR and 1-800-222-TIPS.

Tomorrow and Sunday are free fishing days in Michigan, the state natural resources department said.

Both residents and nonresidents may fish without a license but must abide by other rules, such as limits.

Ice fishing conditions vary across the state, authorities said, so be sure to check with local bait and tackle shops for conditions before venturing out on unfamiliar lakes and ponds. Ice safety tips are available online at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

In conjunction with the free fishing, the state's parks and recreation areas have planned special activities for the weekend. A list of those also is available on the Web site.

On the Ohio side of the line, ice fishing conditions remain good at the state's popular Lake La Su An lakes in Williams County, with ice averaging about seven inches.

Call the La Su An check station Mondays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon, 419-636-6189, for reservations to fish Thursdays and Sundays.

Some limited fishing also finally may get under way late next week off the west side of South Bass Island in western Lake Erie, according to ice guide John Hageman.

"If the weather doesn't deviate from the current 7 to 10-day forecasts, and no surprise heavy winds or snow hits us, we may be able to get set up on the ice for next week," Hageman said.

"A limited number of shanties are sprouting up around the South Bass Island State Park, and more folks are exploring the ice on foot off the west shore, in preparation for some 'limited' action this weekend.

"The latest west gales on Sunday re-shifted the west shore ice field, which is healing and creating new ice with the past few nights of very favorable calm, cold weather. I am not starting until at least next week, gearing up for Feb 22."

In any case, call your favorite ice guide ahead of time for conditions and space availability. A list of ice guides is available at the above Ohio Web site by clicking on fish and wildlife, then fishing, then Lake Erie resources, then ice fishing.

Ohio hunters and anglers are reminded that all 2007-2008 licenses expire on Feb. 29 and licenses and permits for various seasons for 2008-2009 can be purchased at vendor outlets across the state or online at www.ohiodnr.com after today.

Hunters are reminded that general licenses purchased now for the spring wild turkey hunting season will remain valid for fall seasons, though separate spring and fall wild turkey permits also would have to be purchased.

Resident general hunting and fishing licenses are $19 each. Most deer and turkey permits are $24 each. Hunters ages 17 and under and some Ohio senior citizens are eligible for discounted licenses. A one-day Ohio fishing permit is $11, with the fee applicable later toward an annual license.

Complete guides to license and permit pricing are listed in digests of hunting and fishing rules, and on the Web site listed above.

A certified captain's license course, which allows a candidate to take the license examination with the course instead of the U.S. Coast Guard's regional examination center, is scheduled to begin Feb. 22 downtown.

The course is to be conducted by Rick Brown of North Coast Marine Services on Friday evenings, Saturdays, and Sundays through March 9. Contact Brown for details and course location, 419-944-6999.



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