Anglers looking to finish off the cleaning of their catch need to carefully review the current 2012-2013 Ohio Fishing Law Digest.
The digest spells out what can and cannot be done regarding how fish fillets and whole fish products must be packaged for the journey to their final destination.
Among the rules is an expansion of one that before impacted anglers working Lake Erie’s Western Basin.
In the digest under the General Information category is the notation that “It is illegal to possess fish in any form other than whole or cut into complete fillets with the skin attached... until the angler reaches their permanent residence.”
And that’s the rub, says noted area night-time walleye fisherman Larry Fielder of Euclid.
In the past, Fielder says, most anglers did not have to identify the catch through the attachment some physical artifact, such as a dollop of skin affixed to a walleye’s so-called “cheek piece” or an entire length of skin over-coating a fillet sliced from a yellow perch.
That has all changed under an expansion of a rule that largely impact only those anglers fishing Lake Erie’s
“Under the new law I can’t take my processed fillets over to your house for a fish fry,” says Fielder. “There’s a lot of guys who are up in arms about this.”
Fielder said that in many - if not, most, case - anglers remove the skin during the filleting process. And frequently this chore is conducted once an angler returns to the dock and long before reaching home.
“And if a fisherman hasn’t read all of the fine print in the fishing law digest he won’t be aware of this new rule,” Fielder says.
Fielder did say that he understands the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s motive behind the move, that being, to ensure that an angler has not caught and kept more fish than he or she is entitled to as well as trying to sneak home with a fish that might have been either illegally undersized or taken out of season.
“This is going to be a tough thing for some anglers to follow and they’re only going to get caught,” Fielder says.
For the Wildlife Division the expansion to include all the waters of Ohio - among them being Ohio’s entire Lake Erie shore - is another enforcement tool to catch fish poachers, says Gino Barna, the agency’s Lake Erie law enforcement administrator.
“The reason being that over the years we’ve seen real problems with anglers having fish in the cooler that we couldn’t identify,” said Barna. “That was especially true in the spring.”
Barna says it is fortunate that Ohio have such good fishing that anglers don’t have to observe a several-day possession limit. Instead, their limitation is governed by a daily bag limit, Barna says.
“But it seems that people just take advantage of our rules,” Barna says. “Really, it’s the same type of law in many other states and even Canada.”
It’s an enforcement tool and isn’t going to be applied to everyone, “just the bad guys,” Barna says.
Barna did say that he was “surprised” that the rule is being highlighted in red in this year’s fishing law digest.
Typically whenever a rule is added, expanded or changed it is emphasized by being printed in red letters.
“We aren’t going to go to a fish cleaning stations. What we’re after are the guys who are going out two and three times a day,” Barna said also. “We’re going to use a lot of discretion.”
The penalty for such a violation is a fine of up to $250, 30 days in jail or both. This penalty is the same for violations such as fishing without a license, Barna says.
Signage is being printed for distribution, mostly along the Lake Erie shore line, with several hundred posters to be distributed this spring, Barna also says.
“I know it’s going to cause some problems but a lot of other states do it, too,” Barna says.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn