MONROE, MICH. — Lake Erie anglers can once again catch 50 perch and six walleyes per day. Fisheries managers from Ontario and states bordering the lake recently met to determine the allowable catch for both species. The Lake Erie Committee recommended a total allowable catch (TAC) of 11.081 million pounds of yellow perch and 4.027 million walleyes in 2014.
“Things won’t be a lot different from last year in the western basin (where Michigan anglers fish),” said Mike Thomas, a fisheries research biologist at the Michigan DNR’s Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station.
“The population estimate for age-2 walleyes this year is not very different. The same goes for perch.”
Two-year-olds, and older, are the fish that show up in the catch, Thomas said. Michigan anglers caught 54,167 walleyes from Lake Erie in 2013. That was well below the allowable quota and is far below the 2014 quota of 235,000 walleyes. Michigan anglers may take 5.83 percent of the catch.
The allowable walleye catch was increased this year despite Lake Erie committee members reporting that walleye hatches “were generally poor” in recent years. The fishery, they say, got a boost from 2003 and 2010 year-classes.
Ohio anglers were allotted 2.058 million walleyes for 2014, or 51.11 percent of the catch. Ontario’s share is 1.734 million fish, or 43.06 percent.
Perch, however, are another story. The overall 2014 allocation is 9 percent lower than 2013. Committee members said that was due to “moderate declines” in the perch population.
Michigan anglers are allotted 9.1 percent of allowable catch this season. That translates to 145,000 pounds of perch, far more than the 77,000 pounds (220,230 perch) they actually caught in 2013, when the quota was 164,000 pounds.
“We were at 47 percent of our quota last year,” Thomas said. “We had lots of room. And even though the perch quota is down this year by 19,000 pounds, we don’t expect we will come anywhere near it.”
Ontario anglers will able to harvest 5.4 million pounds of yellow perch, while Ohio anglers may catch 4.4 million pounds. Pennsylvania was allocated 850,000 pounds, and New York anglers were allocated 259,000 pounds.
A perch survey conducted in 2013 by Ohio fisheries managers found 399 young-of-year yellow perch per hectare of water in the western basin.
“It is a strong year-class but not a huge year-class,” Thomas said.
Lake Erie’s western basin is home to an estimated 17.86 million yellow perch. Roughly half are age-2 and older, meaning many will be too small to keep. Anglers are likely to do more sorting for size this year. But that abundance bodes well for angling in 2015.
“We will see smaller fish out there this year, but we should see even more age-2 and older fish in 2015; it’s a little bright spot on the horizon,” Thomas said.
© 2014 Howard Meyerson
This story appears in Michigan Outdoor News.