Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ohio Division of Wildlife calls on Lake County with its Lake Erie fisheries summit

The Ohio Division of Wildlife took its 2018 Lake Erie Sport Fishing Summit on the road April 21st.

By pitching its big top in Lake County, the agency’s periodic informational campaign came to rest in the Central Basin. Its venue was Lake Metroparks’ Painesville Township Park, a unit with a commanding view of Lake Erie, one that stretches west past the Grand River harbor and east toward the Perry Nuclear Power Plant.

Incorporating 10 segments with breaks and lunch wedged in-between, the summit featured items that addressed various fields. These subjects were presented by the Wildlife Division and several of its partners that also each keep close scientific tabs on Lake Erie, including the Central Basin – a location that some of the 60 or so invited attendees said was in need of more attention by all officials.

Topics during the six-hour-long summit included one that focused on a practical subject for sport anglers. This was a presentation of a citizen-initiated project on how walleye see colors differently under water clarity changes. And ultimately which lure color that walleye anglers said their target species seem to prefer when the water is clear, when silt dominates the water column, and when Lake Erie’s algal blooms are particularly heavy.

At the other summit presentation extreme was a 30-minute talk by a scientist associated with The Ohio Sate University’s Aquatic Ecology Laboratory. This talk featured the scholarly driven subject material “The phenotype of an organism is determined not only by its genotype and environment, but also by the genotype, phenotype, and environment of its mother.”

So from the pragmatic to the professorial, such summits are engineered to provide a wealth of diverse data to one of Lake Erie’s primary and devoted constituency groups; recreational anglers, said one of the program’s chief architects, Travis Hartman, the Wildlife Division’s Lake Erie Program Administrator.

“We had a similar summit the Western Basin in 2013 and so we wanted one for the Central Basin,” Hartman said. “We also are looking at the possibility of hosting a summit every other year, but we’ll see how this one goes.”

Hartman said the Wildlife division does host summits of similar sorts that relate to Ohio’s inland bodies of water but those meetings tend to “fish species specific.”

“That really doesn’t work as well for Lake Erie which is so much more multi-species oriented,” Hartman said. “The thing is, the Central Basin is so unique when compared to the Western Basin that we believed it needed - and was deserving of - its own summit.”

The thing is, too, says Hartman, that Lake Erie as a whole embraces not just a wide range of stakeholders from various commercial, recreational and scientific interests it also brings into play a host of inter-connected educational and government partners.

Which is why and how the Central Basin summit saw presenters from such diverse – but related – fields as the Wildlife Division, OSU’s Aquatic Ecology laboratory, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Lake Metroparks, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio Sea Grant Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey – Great Lakes Science Center, and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.

“We really believed that we need to include in this summit our many Lake Erie partners,” Hartman said.

That joint concern has led to a joint effort at pulling together for the good of Lake Erie – a situation that had not always existed, said Roger Knight, Fishery Management Specialist with the Great lakes Fishery Commission and who formerly had Hartman’s job with the Wildlife Division.

“The problem wasn’t that people weren’t trying; the problem was that the people were trying on their own by working independently,” Knight said. “(And) it’s easy for a new administration to come in not knowing about the lake’s fisheries let alone much caring about it.”

Knight focused on that topic by noting how following World War II, technology and the human desire to exploit the Great Lakes fisheries in general overcame the resource’s ability to keep pace. A collapse of the fisheries – including on Lake Erie – was inevitable, Knight said.

Thus from the ultimate acknowledgment that human activity had bested Lake Erie’s fisheries ultimately arrived a multi-jurisdictional consensus-driven strategy that benefits both the fisheries resources and the users, including recreational anglers, Knight said as well.

“People can walk away from this plan at any time but the idea is to find and reach common goals and strategies,” Knight said.

Yes, but those goals and strategies are sorely needed to focus even more attention on the Central Basin, noted some summit attendees.

“It’s great, and I didn’t know that the history of the lake’s fisheries (presented by Knight) was so fascinating,” said Al Kurrat, a summit attendee and a member of the Eastlake-based Chagrin River Salmon Association.

Yet Kurrat said the Wildlife Division and its Lake Erie partners “need to do more” to address the peculiarities of the Central Basin and its fisheries, especially the management unit’s stock of yellow perch.

Thus the Wildlife Division and its summit partners need to listen as much as to talk, Kurrat says.

“Hopefully they can address some of the issues and concerns we have here in the Central Basin,” Kurrat said. “But this is really good information and I hope it continues.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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