Saturday, August 10, 2013

Wildlife Division's rule change open houses are democracy in action

Even for anglers having hot fun in the summertime does not include attending statewide hearings on rule changes to Ohio's fishing regulations.

Then again, when the most serious of the proposals involves reducing the number of yellow perch an angler can keep per day from some obscure inland lake this lack of interest becomes understandable.

Even when in one case just two visitors took the time to stop by during the three-hour open house held today (Saturday, August 10) at the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

“Our summer open houses to discuss proposed fishing and hunting rules are always leaner in terms of attendance than the ones in the winter,” said Kevin Kayle, manager of the fisheries research station.

“In many cases the proposals represent housekeeping chores; trying to tie up loose ends and clarify the rules.”

Kayle said the proposal to shrink the daily bag limit on yellow perch taken from inland waters has little to nothing to do with actual fisheries management.

Instead, says Kayle, the proposal is intended to help lift the fog on the subject and as found within the annual fishing law digest.

What happens is that some anglers read the fishing law digest and see the 40-per-day limit on yellow perch and then mistakenly believe it applies everywhere in Ohio, including Lake Erie.

And as most anglers know, the daily bag limit on Lake Erie-caught yellow perch is 30 fish.

“It doesn't happen a lot but it does happen,” Kayle said.

Another proposed change is to lump saugeyes and saugers with walleyes into the daily bag limit for Lake Erie and its tributaries.

The thing is, says, Kayle, with some frequency saugeyes especially have appeared on the stringers of spring-time anglers who are on the hunt to catch walleye from the Maumee River.

Mostly these saugeyes are stragglers from impoundments further up the Maumee River watershed, says Kayle.

Another modification the Wildlife Division is seeking is the allowance of outboard engines of up to 10-hp on 182-acre Highlandtown Lake. Presently only electric motors and hand-propulsion are allowed there, says Kayle.

Further, the Wildlife Division is seeking adding some lakes to the state's list of inland lakes with a 30-per-day limit of crappie.

Meanwhile the limit would go away on other inland lakes. Among them would be Long Lake, part of the Akron-area's popular 1,192-acre Portage Lakes chain.

Still exempted from a daily bag limit of crappie would Pymatuning Reservoir, a system that is jointly managed with Pennsylvania and which uses that state's angling rules for the entire body of water.


A few items impacting hunting also are in the proposed rule change pipeline.

They include restricting wild turkey hunters to carrying no more than one hunting implement.

Another would remove the 3,002-acre B&N Coal Lands from the state's list of wildlife areas open to the public. This request is being made by the B&N Coal Co., the proposed rule change information says.

Of course, citizens are free to exploit the opportunity provided by the open houses. They can do this by chiming in with there own suggestions to the Wildlife Division's ledger of proposed rule changes.

And since I was one of the two persons attending the fisheries research station's open house I filled out a response form with two suggestions.

The first request involves the state's “frog and turtle regulations” and found page 11 of this year's fishing law digest. Here the state says that licensed anglers can shoot frogs or snapping turtles and soft-shelled turtles with long bows (presumably including compound bows) though not crossbows.

My reaction to this exclusion has always been “Why?”

I mean, crossbow have been legal tools for the taking of small-game and big-game animals in Ohio for years and years.

To continue this discriminatory policy after such a lengthy time does not make sense and I doubt can be justified by any stretch of logic, especially since crossbows are legal to use in angling for rough fish.

The second point on my regulatory wish list isn't so much a request for a change in the law.

Rather, it's a plea I've repeatedly made to a few Wildlife Division officials.

Alas, these officials either forgot my verbal request or else stored it in the round file, never to be retrieved - let along alone remembered - and acted upon.

My request: Add the bullhead to the list of eligible Fish Ohio species. The agency doesn't even have to be a hair splitter by differentiating between black, white, yellow (or even purple of there is a purple bullhead).

But the bullhead is about the most ubiquitous game fish species found in Ohio. Big-shouldered rivers and small, lazy-running streams, monstrous lakes to small farm ponds, public waters and private lakes, they all contain robust populations of bullheads.

What's more bullheads are egalitarians about who can catch them. They are taken by ice anglers in the dead of winter, by folks using cane poles with a knot of nightcrawler and even by dedicated bass man flipping the latest soft-plastic bait.

So while I am disappointed the bulk of Ohio's anglers and hunters take a detour around these twice-annual regulation open houses I am thankful the Wildlife Division hosts them.

That is, so long as the agency finally recognizes the legitimacy of my request to add the bullhead to the list of Fish Ohio qualifying fish species.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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