Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two-fer: Walleye concerns and a minnow bust

An annual gathering of outdoors writers to the banks of the Grand River on Tuesday was highlighted by several points, most of which came and went without a great deal of discussion.

One subject that did prick the attention of the journalists as well as charter captain Ron Johnson involved Lake Erie's shrinking stock of walleye. Fish are increasingly being difficult to find in the large numbers needed to please paying customers.

The fact that Ohio and other Lake Erie fisheries partners are so dependent on the dwindling population from hatches that occurred earlier this decade paints a grim picture for next year, too, Johnson believes.

His fear is that 2011 quotas will require the Ohio Division of Wildlife to slash the daily summer bag limit from six fish to only four fish. That drop very easily could drive many for-hire charter captains out of business, Johnson says.

Johnson further illustrated the sad state of Lake Erie's crop of walleye by contrasting it with the seemingly increasing population of yellow perch. Here, the 72-year-old Johnson says, whenever walleye populations fall the lake's yellow perch population rises.

This reversal of fortunes is because walleye like to feed on small perch. Take away the walleye and many more yellow perch will survive to grow large and fat, Johnson believes.

On another Lake Erie yellow perch-related matter, it seems that emerald shiners have vacated the near-shore areas. So bad is the lack of shiners that very few bait stores have them in stock, compounded by some difficulty in even getting fathead minnows.

Bait collectors are blaming the current full moon phase. Much of the shiner collection is done at night near piers that have artificial lighting. The shiners are attracted to the light because that is where their forage is attracted.

With a full moon the emerald shiners are much more widely dispersed and thus are largely unavailable to bait collectors.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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