Erie fish quotas boosted
Written by The London Free Press   
Friday, 07 April 2006 11:52

Lake Erie will be dotted with boats big and small this summer as anglers chase the largest stocks of yellow perch and walleye in 15 years. The walleye quota for commercial anglers will be raised by 26 per cent and the yellow perch quota by 12 per cent under terms of an agreement between Ontario and Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, a provincial official said this week.

"There was an exceptional spawn of these fish in the lake in 2003 and they're now of an age and size that's of interest to both commercial fishers and recreational anglers," said John Cooper of the Lake Erie management unit of the Natural Resources Ministry.

Cooper said there are 211 licensed commercial fishing operators on Lake Erie.

Most will have their quotas raised, some more than others, some not at all, depending on the location of their fishing grounds, he said.
 
Port Stanley fishers will have their quota for yellow perch raised by 81 per cent, Cooper said.

"The increases we're getting this year (are) quite substantial, but nowhere near our record harvest years," said Larry Jackson of L.R. Jackson Fisheries of Port Stanley, adding the port's walleye quota is up 27 per cent.

After years of politics, quota appeals and falling revenues on both sides of the border, commercial fishing is now being regulated on the basis of science, Jackson said.

"Government regulators would never believe fishermen when we'd tell 'em the lake was full of fish, but they will believe academics," he said.

For three years, the Lake Erie committee, comprised of Ontario and the four states, has been receiving fish population reports from scientists at Canadian and U.S. universities who do field studies, he said.

Those reports are now being used to help determine the annual harvest, he said.

"The industry is prepared to live with the scientists because they're honest and independent," Jackson said. "For this year, the science is on our side."

That's very good news, said Dave Barnier, owner of the Erieau Marina and Barney's Boats near Rondeau Provincial Park.

"A major part of our business is fishing and half of our customers are from Michigan and other states," he said. "The Americans really like walleye, which they call pickerel."

A banner year for pickerel means a hundred boats a day at the marina during peak periods, Barnier said.

"Sport fishing is coming back on the lake," he said. "It was good in the 1980s, but it petered out in the 1990s. The perch catch was tremendous last year."

A few avid anglers have already put their boats in the water for the 2006 fishing season, he said.

"They're piking now. But they'll be after perch, pickerel and steelhead later."

 
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