Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On the perch-fishing hunt for Emerald shiners

‘Tis begins the seasonal search by Lake Erie yellow perch anglers for an ample supply of emerald shiners.

In many cases all along the lake shore, bait stores are experiencing a difficult time securing the perch fishing-preferred bait fish. And when a store is blessed with a shipment the shiners sell out quickly.

Thus, as often as not, Lake Erie yellow perch anglers have to resort to buying either fathead minnows or golden shiners. It’s that or turn to a cache of frozen and preserved emerald shiners that were collected when stocks were abundant.

“What we often see this time of year is that the bigger adult emerald shiners move offshore and sit just above the thermocline. There, they become food for walleye, steelhead and even yellow perch,” said Kevin Kayle, manager of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

Meanwhile, the near-shore population largely consists of juvenile emerald shiners, Kayle says also.

“But they’re not much bigger than two eyes and a wiggle,” Kayle says.
Matters are complicated even further by the monthly waning and waxing of the moon.

As the moon inches toward its maximum brightness, capturing emerald shiners of any size becomes considerably more difficult.

That is because the emerald shiners are attracted by beams of light utilized by licensed minnow collectors. Add the flooding light of a full moon and the shiners scatter and are more difficult to net.

“There is some truth to that; at least that is the word from those who trap shiners,” Kayle said.

The desperate search for fishable sized emerald shiners will throttle back beginning in mid- to late-September and into October, Kayle says.

“That is when we see the lake water turn over and become cooler closer to shore. It’s when we see the seasonable movement of emeralds back toward shore,” Kayle says.

Kayle did say, though, that Lake Erie’s emerald shiner population is stable and healthy, with good hatches being recorded every couple of years.

The Wildlife Division even conducts some annual research as to emerald shiner density in Lake Erie, Kayle says.

“And we’re seeing good densities here in the Central Basin this year,” he said.

As a Lake Erie yellow perch angler himself, Kayle says he works to ensure that he has an ample supply of emerald shiners always on hand. To do that Kayle keeps a stock of frozen shiners always on the ready, he said.

“I just use a salt-water solution and I’ve found that it doesn’t matter whether it’s iodized table salt or non-iodized salt. But I don’t keep them in the freezer for very long. They can turn to mush if they’ve been in a freezer for too long; they get freezer burn,” Kayle said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
JFrischkorn@News-Herald.com

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