Monday, April 20, 2015

Ohio's licensed turkey-hunting youths take full advantage of nice weather


Blessed with some truly remarkable nice weather, Ohio’s young guns took a hammer to the state’s wild turkey flock.

Would be that the state’s adult turkey hunters could enjoy similarly please weather during Ohio’s general spring turkey-hunting season which began today, April 20th.

Instead, for at least the season’s first week anyway hunters will contend with winds, rain, gusty winds at times and even the possibility of wet snow in Northeast Ohio on Thursday.

Bur, rough stuff but it was nice those youths aged 17 and younger enjoy largely sunny skies, no rain, and (for a change) unseasonably warm temperatures.

The state’s two-day/youth-only wild turkey-hunting season ran April 18th and 19th. During that short period these kids killed 1,589 bearded wild turkeys. Last year for the same hunt youngsters killed 1,480 wild turkeys.

Doing the math the youths saw a net gain of 7.36 percent.

However, the Ohio Division of Wildlife says not to place too much stock into this increase spilling over to the general spring wild turkey-hunting season, which continues until May 17.

“I poured over the youth season data results myself but I really didn’t see anything that jumped out at me,” said Scott Peters, wildlife biologist for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office.

Given that the past two springs yielded “good but not great hatches,” Peters  believes the turkey harvest for this year’s spring season will “be up a couple of percentage points, though I don’t know by how much.”

During the 2014 general spring wild turkey-hunting season, Ohio licensed hunters shot 15,076 birds.

Still, turkey hunters – and just like their deer hunting counterparts – would always like to see more gobblers flying down off their roosts every morning.

“Turkey hunters would be happy with having more birds and I’m still hoping that we’ll again see that ‘perfect storm’ where we have a good hatch, nice weather when the chicks are growing along with a good cicada hatch for the birds to eat,” Peters said.

Hope really does then breathe eternal in the hearts of hunters.

Here is the county-by-county breakdown for the just concluded two-day/youth-only wild turkey-hunting season:

Based on Selected Date of Check

Between Apr 19, 2014 and Apr 20, 2014 & Between Apr 18, 2015 and Apr 19, 2015

For Hunting Implements: Unknown, Shotgun, Crossbow, Longbow, Muzzleloader, Hand Gun, Unknown, Invalid

County 2015 2014 % Change

Adams 36 32 12.50%

Allen 10 4 150.00%

Ashland 24 23 4.35%

Ashtabula 32 47 -31.91%

Athens 32 25 28.00%

Auglaize 2 2 0.00%

Belmont 38 36 5.56%

Brown 37 34 8.82%

Butler 19 18 5.56%

Carroll 30 32 -6.25%

Champaign 4 5 -20.00%

Clark 2 0 /0

Clermont 22 17 29.41%

Clinton 5 4 25.00%

Columbiana 43 44 -2.27%

Coshocton 48 53 -9.43%

Crawford 2 7 -71.43%

Darke 15 12 25.00%

Defiance 27 15 80.00%

Delaware 5 10 -50.00%

Erie 2 4 -50.00%

Fairfield 6 8 -25.00%

Fayette 1 0 /0

Franklin 2 1 100.00%

Fulton 11 16 -31.25%

Gallia 32 27 18.52%

Geauga 27 23 17.39%

Greene 0 3 -100.00%

Guernsey 50 34 47.06%

Hamilton 6 7 -14.29%

Hancock 3 2 50.00%

Hardin 4 3 33.33%

Harrison 41 25 64.00%

Henry 11 3 266.67%

Highland 36 32 12.50%

Hocking 27 23 17.39%

Holmes 29 32 -9.38%

Huron 22 13 69.23%

Jackson 38 34 11.76%

Jefferson 31 33 -6.06%

Knox 32 48 -33.33%

Lake 2 2 0.00%

Lawrence 22 17 29.41%

County 2015 2014 % Change

Licking 33 33 0.00%

Logan 6 14 -57.14%

Lorain 5 10 -50.00%

Lucas 4 4 0.00%

Mahoning 19 25 -24.00%

Marion 3 0 /0

Medina 12 2 500.00%

Meigs 44 37 18.92%

Mercer 1 1 0.00%

Monroe 57 27 111.11%

Montgomery 1 0 /0

Morgan 30 27 11.11%

Morrow 19 16 18.75%

Muskingum 48 48 0.00%

Noble 44 31 41.94%

Paulding 11 6 83.33%

Perry 31 31 0.00%

Pickaway 2 4 -50.00%

Pike 14 18 -22.22%

Portage 12 22 -45.45%

Preble 10 9 11.11%

Putnam 12 9 33.33%

Richland 33 30 10.00%

Ross 25 28 -10.71%

Sandusky 1 0 /0

Scioto 9 16 -43.75%

Seneca 15 19 -21.05%

Shelby 6 3 100.00%

Stark 21 23 -8.70%

Summit 1 3 -66.67%

Trumbull 35 34 2.94%

Tuscarawas 46 42 9.52%

Union 2 2 0.00%

Van Wert 1 2 -50.00%

Vinton 25 12 108.33%

Warren 4 7 -42.86%

Washington 40 36 11.11%

Wayne 6 14 -57.14%

Williams 19 15 26.67%

Wood 4 2 100.00%

Wyandot 10 8 25.00%

Statewide Totals

2015 2014 % Change

1,589 1,480

-      Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Poor weather likely to spoil Ohio's spring turkey-hunting season opener


After a gobbling-good bit of weather for Ohio’s youth-only wild turkey-hunting season it’s all downhill for the rest of us.

Sunny skies, light winds and above average temperatures graced the woods Saturday (April 18) for Ohio’s two-day/youth-only wild turkey-hunting season.

Best guess for Monday’s (April 19) start of the general spring wild turkey-hunting season calls for wind, rain, and eventual cooling temperatures. In short, might be better to go into work and ask human resources if you can take those vacation days later in the season.

Overnight up to one-half inch of rain may fall with up to another one-quarter inch on Monday.

More specifically, the current forecast picture for much of Ohio on Monday is being painted with an 80-percent chance of thundershowers, a high in the mid-60s, and winds of 10 to 20 miles per hour.

The rains are projected to linger through Wednesday night and accompanied by unseasonably (and uncharitably) below average temperatures.

In Northeast Ohio that includes high temperatures only in the mid-50s for Tuesday falling to less than 50 degrees for Thursday.

The National Weather Service is projecting the sun won’t dominate the sky until Saturday, either.

Much the same is being forecasted for central Ohio - including a Monday dominated by rain showers - with the possibility of clear skies but windy conditions on Tuesday. Daytime highs for the period are forecast to range in the mid- to upper-50s.

Conditions might be marginally better in southern Ohio and along the Ohio River. Here the chance for rain on Monday is just 30-percent with clouds and rain returning on Tuesday and fading by Thursday.

The high temperatures during this period are forecast to running the upper-50s to the low-60s.

A Hazardous Weather notice is posted for all of Ohio for tonight with the possibility of a general rain, heavy rain, thunderstorms, and high winds all likely and pretty much throughout the state.

And it does appear the further one hunts in the Ohio the better the weather forecast is for Tuesday, though – and, again – a general statewide rain forecast.

Now where we see some divergence is when we compare the National Weather Service forecast when placed alongside that of AccuWeather, the State College, PA-based private weather forecast business.

Here we see that in Northeast Ohio turkey hunters may encounter a break in any rainfall from about 9 a.m. until the daily closure at noon. However, rain is still anticipated during the first couple of hours of the season’s opening day.

Worse, turkey hunters will be dealing with sustained winds of up to 20 miles per hour during the morning’s allotted hunting hours.

Dicier is the Monday morning forecast for central Ohio.

AccuWeather is projecting that here thunderstorms (yes, with lightening) are likely at around 6 a.m., diminishing by 7 a.m. and returning around noon with cloudy skies sandwiched between the T-showers.

Potentially for Monday, says AccuWeather, southern Ohio turkey hunters may see the worst of the weather lot.

The AccuWeather projection for Monday in this region includes thunderstorms at 6 a.m., diminishing by 7 a.m. but returning by 10 a.m.

Alas, southern Ohio is expected to experience the highest gusts of winds with sustained speeds also of up to 25 mph.

In short, wear raingear and stay in the car until after the thunder and lightning have stopped.

Or else roll over in bed, hit the “off” button or at least the “snooze” alarm.

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
JFrischk@Ameritech.net

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lake County comes through with latest Lake Erie Commission grants


Northeast Ohio not only collected the lion’s share of the Lake Erie Protection Fund’s latest quarterly grant money it feasted on the entire menu.

The Fund is administered by the multi-state agency and private outreach individual - Ohio Lake Erie Commission. Fund monies are derived from the sale of vanity state license plates embossed with the image of the Marblehead lighthouse or else a life preserver.

Persons also make direct tax-deductible contributions to the grant program.

The most recent grant recipients were the Chagrin River Watershed Partners - $6,770 to update the Lake County Stormwater Utility Fee Credit Manual as well as research the potential implementation of a fee credit program. The Commission sees this manual’s development as eventually assisting other local governments seeking to help find funding for aging infrastructure.

The Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization - $14,890 to establish a portfolio of land-based restoration within the Cuyahoga River Navigation Channel. It is this project’s objective to help with the enhancement and improvement of the river’s fish habitat system.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History - $15,000 (the grant program’s largest allowable amount) to help restore at least 10 acres in Lake County’s Mentor Marsh, located mostly within Mentor and consisting of 900 acres of wetland and currently under stress by the invasive plant, phragmites.

All grants are competitively based and are designed to aid in the protection and restoration of Lake Erie, and all approved projects must meet a 25-percent match in order to be eligible for the state’s 75-percent share.

Likewise, grants must fall within the purview of the state’s 2013 Lake Erie Restoration and Protection Plan.

Since its inception some twenty-one years ago the program has awarded over $12 million in grants and involving no fewer than 360 projects. These projects have ranged from fisheries, watershed planning, non-point pollution abatement, wetlands restoration, exotic aquatic  (nuisance) species, the lake’s algae bloom and other important subjects related to the welfare of Lake Erie.

 Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
JFrischk@Ameritech.net

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

Monday, April 13, 2015

NRA selects Hillary Clinton as gun owners' newest Great Satan


While theologians debate the existence of a personal devil (I side with the believers) the National Rifle Association has hand-picked its own next Great Satan.

Probably to no one’s surprise it is Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s current/possibly/likely contender for the 2016 presidential election. Along with being one mighty fine email delete expert.
And now add the nation’s top gun anti-gunner, says the NRA.

At its just concluded annual members meeting in Nashville, the NRA drew a bead on Mrs. Clinton’s long-standing pro-gun-control/anti-Second Amendment stance.

In speaking on behalf of the four-million-plus NRA members, the group’s executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre is quoted in the right-leaning Washington Times as saying:

“Is the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has led to the surrender of ground gained by our brave men and women in the military, that has led to the collapse of morale among the [military] ranks and has reached the point where they refused to even acknowledge who our enemies are or how victory can be defined — is that legacy of failure really the best America can do?” Mr. LaPierre said Friday, eliciting cries of “No!” from the crowd. “The Obama-Clinton policies demean our U.S. military and represent the very worst of leadership.”

 

As far as Clinton goes, LaPierre didn’t mince and words. As quoted by the liberal MSNBC News, LaPierre said:

“I vow on this day the NRA will stand shoulder to shoulder with you and good, honest decent Americans and we will stand and fight with everything we’ve got and in 2016, by God, we will elect the next great president of the United States of America and it will not be Hillary Rodham Clinton!” LaPierre told a roaring crowd.

 “Do we really want to put the country through another Clinton term of scandal and deceit and self-serving behavior?” asked LaPierre on Friday.

“She will not bring a dawn of new promise and opportunity,” LaPierre continued. “Hillary Rodham Clinton will bring a permanent darkness of deceit and despair, forced upon the American people to endure.”

Elsewhere, LaPierre continued his opposition to a possible Hillary Clinton presidency when he is quoted by the “Guns America News and Reviews” online newsletter as saying:

“Do we really want to put the country through another Clinton term of scandal and deceit and self-serving behavior?” asked LaPierre on Friday.

“She will not bring a dawn of new promise and opportunity,” LaPierre continued. “Hillary Rodham Clinton will bring a permanent darkness of deceit and despair, forced upon the American people to endure.”

 
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
JFrischk@Ameritech.net

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ohio's 2015-2016 deer-hunting regs/seasons finalized with changes galore


Reduced bag limits of white-tailed deer and a new two-day “bonus” gun season will rule the roost in Ohio for the up-coming 2015-2016 hunting season period.

And once available everywhere, antlerless-only deer permits now will be acceptable in only 10 Ohio counties.

No county will see an increase in the number of deer which can be killed, either, with reductions occurring in many of Ohio’s 88 counties.

As for the new two-day, bonus firearms deer-hunting season that perk will occur December 28 and 29, a Monday and a Tuesday rather than as originally announced for the two days after Christmas, or a Saturday and a Sunday.

Also, the state has reduced to six from nine, the total number of deer a properly licensed hunter can kill. Of course, such a rule revision is of virtually no deer management use since only a very, very few hunters even come close to achieving such success.

And for those hunters who have embraced the acceptance of certain straight-walled rifle cartridges the Ohio Division of Wildlife has given them another excuse to buy another rifle. That is because the agency’s eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council at its April 8th meeting accepted adding the .450 Marlin to the long list of already approved straight-walled cartridges.

Oh, and hunters who have long enjoyed the state’s stand-alone muzzle-loading deer-hunting season will see that hunting period shift on the calendar once again.

For the 2015-2016 deer hunting season the muzzle-loading portion will run January 9th to 12th, or a Saturday through a Tuesday.

Gone entirely via “suspension” is the previous October weekend muzzle-loading-only/antlerless-only deer-hunting season.

Nor in its place will slip the youth-only firearms deer-hunting season, which will continue to reside in late November, the 21st and 22nd to be exact.

Instead, Ohio’s fall wild turkey-hunting season will begin October 10th rather the originally announced date of October 12th.

Here are the rest of Ohio’s officially adopted 2015-2016 deer hunting regulations and as announced by the Ohio Division of Wildlife:

Deer regulations have been trending toward reduced bag limits and restricted use of antlerless permits in recent years. The reduced bag limits and adjusted hunting seasons work to stabilize deer populations.

Deer population goals will be revised this summer through a random survey of hunters and landowners. Participants in the survey will have the opportunity to provide input about the future of deer management in Ohio.

Overview of the deer seasons for 2015-2016:

·         Deer archery: Sept. 26, 2015-Feb. 7, 2016

·         Youth deer gun: Nov. 21-22, 2015

·         Deer gun: Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2015; Dec. 28-29, 2015

·         Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 9-12, 2016

Approved county bag limits:

No more than two either-sex deer permits: Athens, Auglaize, Belmont, Butler, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Coshocton, Darke, Erie, Fairfield, Fayette, Gallia, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Hancock, Harrison, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Meigs, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Ottawa, Perry, Pickaway, Preble, Sandusky, Shelby, Tuscarawas, Van Wert, Vinton, Warren, Washington and Wood. Antlerless permits are not valid in these counties.

No more than three either-sex deer permits: Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Brown, Clermont, Columbiana, Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Hardin, Henry, Highland, Holmes, Huron, Knox, Licking, Logan, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Paulding, Pike, Putnam, Richland, Ross, Scioto, Seneca, Trumbull, Union, Wayne, Williams and Wyandot. Antlerless permits are not valid in these counties.

No more than three either-sex permits, or two either-sex permits and one antlerless permit: Lake, Lorain, Portage and Stark.

No more than four either-sex permits, or three either-sex permits and one antlerless permit: Cuyahoga, Delaware, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas and Summit.

The statewide bag limit of six deer was approved, a reduction from the limit of nine deer last season. Only one deer may be antlered, and a hunter cannot exceed a county bag limit. Antlerless permits may be used from Sept. 26 through Nov. 29, 2015.

Small game hunting seasons will continue during the second gun weekend, Dec. 28-29, 2015. Also on Wednesday, the ringed-neck pheasant and chukar hunting seasons were extended one week to Jan. 10, 2016.

The Ohio Wildlife Council voted to approve the proposals after receiving public input from Ohioans at open houses and a statewide hearing in March. Open houses gave the public an opportunity to view and discuss proposed fishing, hunting and trapping regulations with the ODNR Division of Wildlife officials. For Ohioans who were unable to attend an open house, comments were accepted online at wildohio.gov.

The Ohio Wildlife Council also approved changes to Ohio’s list of threatened species. The peregrine falcon, previously threatened, was removed from the list. The population of peregrine falcons in Ohio, and throughout the eastern United States, has made a significant recovery through conservation efforts. The ODNR Division of Wildlife will continue to monitor peregrine populations, but on a smaller scale. This will allow biologists to focus on recovery efforts for other species which need additional attention. The Rufa red knot, previously unlisted, was added to Ohio’s list of threatened species.

Small-game hunting and furbearer trapping season dates were also passed on Wednesday. Season dates and bag limits for migratory birds, including mourning dove, Canada goose, rail, moorhen, snipe, woodcock and waterfowl will be set in August in compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s framework. The Ohio 2015-2016 hunting and trapping season dates can be found at bit.ly/1516Ohiohuntingseason.

The Ohio Wildlife Council is an eight-member board that approves all of the ODNR Division of Wildlife proposed rules and regulations. Council meetings are open to the public. Individuals who want to provide comments on a topic that is currently being considered by council are asked to preregister at least two days prior to the meeting by calling 614-265-6304. All comments are required to be three minutes or less.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Is Lake Erie's 2015 fishing forecast rosier than reality would suggest?


I’m not going to take credit for this anymore than I will offer snarky commentary about the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s annual Lake Erie sport fishing forecast.

Typically these forecasts are roseier in appearance than my wife’s flower garden.

Oh, shoot, I went ahead and made a snide comment, didn’t I? Oh, well, here’s the Wildlife Division’s official crystal ball look at this year’s Lake Erie sport fishing prospects.

COLUMBUS, OH - Anglers in pursuit of Lake Erie’s sport fish should experience another successful year as they pursue a variety of fishing opportunities in 2015, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

“Similar to 2014, we expect fishing to be good again this year, especially when you consider the mix of species and sizes that are seasonally available to Ohio anglers on Lake Erie,” said Jeff Tyson, Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the ODNR Division of Wildlife. “While fishing success will vary among species and seasons, the lake’s population of walleye, yellow perch, black bass, white bass and steelhead are all stable, with a very broad distribution of sizes for each species.”

As a result of the 2015 quota allocation, the walleye daily bag limit is four and the yellow perch daily bag limit is 30 per angler in Ohio waters of Lake Erie until April 30, 2015. The daily bag limit will be six walleye from May 1 through Feb. 28, 2016. From March 1 through April 30, 2016, the daily walleye bag limit will be four. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season for walleye. The yellow perch daily bag limit is 30 from May 1 through April 30, 2016, with no minimum size limit. Lake Erie anglers can find walleye and yellow perch bag limit information at ODNR offices, in special publications at bait and tackle shops and at wildohio.gov.

Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system that involves Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction regulates their catches to comply with quotas and minimize the risk of over-fishing these species. Quotas for the upcoming fishing season are determined through consensus agreement by these jurisdictions through the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which were just recently announced for 2015.

Walleye
Ohio walleye anglers in 2015 will catch fish mostly from the 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007 and 2003 hatches, with some fish from the 2008 and 2012 year classes. Walleye from the moderate 2010 hatch will range from 18 to 23 inches, while walleye from the 2007 hatch will be more than 20 inches. The 2003 and 2007 hatches are likely to carry most of the Central Basin fisheries. These walleye will contribute to the population that has a good number of fish over the 26-inch range. Large walleye from the strong hatch in 2003 will continue to provide “Fish Ohio” opportunities (greater than 28 inches), with this year class nearing the size that may give Ohio a new state record walleye.

Yellow Perch
Expect good perch fishing in 2015, with the largest fish in the eastern areas of the Central Basin. Perch anglers should encounter fish ranging from 7 to 13 inches from the 2012 through 2007 hatches in this year’s fishery, with major contributions from the 2012, 2010, and 2008 year classes. Fish from the average-to-better hatch in 2007 will contribute fish in the greater than 10-inch range.

Black Bass
Smallmouth bass fishing in 2015 is expected to be fair but improving. Smallmouth bass catch rates increased in 2014 compared to 2013 and were the highest observed since the mid-1990s. Smallmouth bass caught should be excellent size (14 to 22 inches, weighing up to 6 pounds). The best fishing for smallmouth bass will continue to occur in areas with good bottom structure, which is the available habitat across much of the entire Ohio nearshore area and islands areas. Continuing the trend from previous years, largemouth bass fishing should be excellent in 2015. This emerging fishery is producing high catch rates and some large fish in nearshore areas and harbors across Ohio’s Lake Erie. All black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released from May 1 through June 26, 2015. Beginning June 27, 2015, the daily bag limit for bass will be five, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.

Steelhead
Steelhead anglers should enjoy another year of great fishing in 2015 in Ohio’s Lake Erie open waters and in tributaries. Peak summer steelhead action on Lake Erie can be found offshore from June through August between Vermilion and Conneaut, with catches measuring 17 to 29 inches. Most Lake Erie anglers troll for steelhead in deep waters using spoons with divers or downriggers until fish move close to shore in the fall. The daily bag limit remains at five fish per angler from May 16 through Aug. 31, 2015, and two fish per angler between Sept. 1, 2015, and May 15, 2016. A 12-inch minimum size limit is in effect throughout the year.

White Bass
White bass continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The 2015 catch will be dominated by fish from the 2012, 2011 and 2010 year classes. Fish from 2007 could be as large as 16 inches. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and nearshore areas of the open lake during the summer. There is no white bass daily bag limit or size limit.

Other Species
Bays, harbors and main lake shorelines offer excellent fishing for panfish, as well as occasional northern pike and muskellunge in vegetated areas.

Anglers are reminded that fishing conditions on Lake Erie can change hourly, and adjustments are often necessary to improve success. Anglers should take into account factors such as water temperature, cloud cover, water clarity, boat traffic, wave action, structure, currents and the amount of baitfish in the area. Anglers are also reminded to carefully monitor Lake Erie weather and to seek safe harbor before storms approach.

Updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available at wildohio.gov or by calling 888-HOOKFISH (888-466-5347). Information is available from ODNR Division of Wildlife staff from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Fairport Harbor station (440-352-4199) for the Central Basin and at the Sandusky station (419-625-8062) for the Western Basin.

Information on the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, fishing reports, and maps and links to other Lake Erie web resources are available at wildohio.gov.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
JFrischk@Ameritech.net

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ohio's steelhead fisheries program gets - and deserves - high marks


By bits and pieces, trial and error, Ohio’s steelhead program has proven itself in the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of anglers.

Tumbling down the rabbit hole first by stocking coho salmon into a couple of Lake Erie tributaries in Northeast Ohio during the late 1960s and up until 1988, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources then hitched its wagon to the Chinook salmon for one decade.

When the agency saw that king salmon returns were no better than they were for coho salmon, the Wildlife Division also began to augment the program by pouring young brown trout into other Lake Erie tributaries, all of which were also located in Northeast Ohio.

Somewhere along that rabbit hole fall a light bulb went off and the Wildlife Division’s fisheries section hit on the idea of stocking rainbow trout, a.k.a., steelhead trout.

“I’m proud of the fact that Ohio became the first Great Lakes state to stock steelhead only,” said Phil Hillman, fisheries management administrator for the Wildlife Division’s Northeast Ohio office in Akron.

Hillman made his scientific-based observations – both technical and anecdotal – during the annual Lake County Outdoor Writers Fish Camp. Hosted by the Lake County Visitors Bureau and Lake Metroparks the quarter-century-old Fish Camp is an annual coming together of writers and guests to experience first-hand the Wildlife Division’s highly successful and enormously popular steelhead-fishing program.

Tinkering even further the Wildlife Division abandoned stocking trout raised at its London (Ohio) hatchery and instead began obtaining steelhead eggs from Michigan.

Specifically these eggs are obtained still from fish captured from Michigan’s Little Manistee River, a Lake Michigan tributary. Michigan sets up its trout-catching weir sometime in early March, strips the females of its eggs, keeps a goodly number for itself and pawns the rest to Ohio and Indiana.

These eggs have been – and are still being - hatched out of the state’s cold-water Castalia Fish Hatchery near Sandusky.

This new breed of steelhead trout and subsequent management strategy became a watershed, eureka, moment for the Wildlife Division’s cold-water, Lake Erie tributary trout stocking/fishing program.

And the cost to raise these trout for stocking purposes is one-tenth that for muskies: $1 per fish for the former and $10 per fish for the latter, Hillman says.

And to think the state’s nearly 50-year-old salmonid program began because then Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes bled scarlet-and-gray.

“Governor Rhodes ordered the Division to begin stocking cohos because Michigan was stocking cohos into Lake Michigan,” said a chuckling Hillman.

Hillman said also that Ohio is “in the same ballpark with all of the other states in terms of the catch rates for steelhead trout.”

“We’ve seen a two- to three-fold increase in fishing pressure with the catch rates also going up,” Hillman told the outdoor writers. “And we’ve seen anglers from nearly every other state come here specifically for steelhead, including anglers from Montana and Texas.”

That highly evolved catch rate likewise has spawned a locally brewed growth industry annually worth tens of millions of dollars.

So too has the program led to the development of various fishing clubs and organizations that champion the Wildlife Division’s steelhead program.

Such groups as the Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders arose due to the program. Meanwhile, the Eastlake-based Chagrin River Salmon Association retained the program’s historic salmon roots while it grew into a club that’s embraced the Little Manistee strain of steelhead trout.

So successful is Ohio’s steelhead program and its hatchery system that Ohio State Auditor’s research says the job cannot be done better privately, Hillman says.

Likewise, says Hillman, other states have begun to emulate the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s program, hoping to score similar praise.

A good chunk of Ohio’s success at its grow-stock-catch steelhead program rests on the broad shoulders of the state’s anglers themselves, notes Hillman.

Angler surveys note that steelhead anglers by and large have clutched the two-fish-per person-per-day creel limit so close to their fishing vests that estimates point to a return rate of 90 percent.

Further, says Hillman, the fishery is self-regulating to some degree. It doesn’t take much for a steelhead angler to withdraw his cell phone and report a trout-fishing violation to the Wildlife Division, says Hillman.

Which is in sharp contrast to what is often the case with the Maumee River run of walleye that seems to draw out the worst in some anglers, Hillman says as well.

What lies ahead this year for stocking steelhead trout is the insertion of up to 425,000 trout – each measuring six to nine inches long and called “smolts” – into five Lake Erie tributaries: The Chagrin, Grand and Rocky rivers (about 90,000 fish each), the Vermillion River (about 55,000 fish), and Conneaut Creek (about 75,000 fish with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocking another approximately 75,000 fish measuring six to eight inches each into its stretch of this stream).

That some of these fishes will stray into such non-stocked streams as the Ashtabula River along with Cowles, Wheeler, Arcola creeks and other small Lake Erie tributaries helps demonstrate that Ohio’s steelhead fisheries program remains an “imperfect” one, says Hillman.

And that so-named imperfection is complicated by several other factors that range from possible climate change conditions to the most feared of all, the persistence of the sea lamprey.

This nasty parasitic creature lives quietly in certain Lake Erie tributary streams until adulthood when it then migrates into Lake Erie. Once there an adult sea lamprey- which can grow to nearly three feet in length - becomes a horror of a freak show, an organism that can kill up to 40 pounds worth of host fish.

Yet while eradication is virtually impossible for several reasons, international efforts continue to try and minimize the threat, Hillman says, noting that tributaries of various Lake Erie and the other four Great Lakes stream are treated with a chemical to kill the sea lamprey’s larval stage.

Of growing concern, however, is that scientific evidence is suggesting that the sea lamprey’s ramped up population may be due to spawning occurring in both the Detroit River as well as Conneaut Creek, says Hillman as well.

Even so and while Ohio’s steelhead program continues to see prickly problems such as the intrusion of the irksome sea lamprey, the successes are more than keeping one step ahead in the game.

And to think the program’s genesis was kicked started by a governor who just could not stomach having Michigan win the game of one-upmanship.

 

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state