Lake Erie Perch Harvest is Up 312% from July '07!

Lake Erie Perch Harvest is Up 312% from July '07!

By the most recent creel survey results from the NYS DEC for July there is not better time to be perch fishing than right now. The harvest was 4981 perch in July '08 compared to 1601 in July '07, a 312% increase! For the month of July '08 the harvest rate (harvested fish per hour) is up 107.7% over last July. For the season (May '08 to July '08) the harvest rate is up 162% that tells me there are a lot of perch to be caught this summer. Angler effort is up this July 192% over last July and 147% for the season. The over-all perch harvest for July '08 was 3459 perch, up 312%, in July 07 only 1108 perch were harvested, the season harvest so far is up 268% over 2007. This is a tremendous increase and it reflects well on the state of the perch fishery. Walleye results are up as well for July and the season; we have a great fishery. This should be obvious Lake Erie is one of the Great Lakes.

Frankly, I am quite puzzled by the creel survey results when I look at factors that should have caused the figures to continue to trend down. The price of gas is 34% higher than in July '07. I know anglers are fishing less due to the price of fuel. Fishing license sales this year are down 18% from 2007 so we know there are fewer people fishing. This summer windy conditions seem to be more common restricting the days (opportunities) anglers can get out on the lake; at least from my perspective. Many anglers were outraged at the price and availability of emerald shiners last summer and this was blamed on the drop in perch angling effort in 2007. The price is the same in 2008 or slightly higher due to the increased in fuel prices. The effort figures (up 191% over July '07) surprises me. Does the higher angler effort suggest an answer? Despite fewer anglers caused by lower license sales, higher gas prices, less opportunity, and expensive bait; are anglers are fishing longer on each trip? Longer time on the water (more hours) would increase the effort. Have the local bait shops and the bait distribution networks resolved last year's issues with the supply of emerald shiners? Have the anglers that stayed away from fishing last summer due to the price of bait and the new regulations, accepted the changes and begun to fish again?

I believe the increased effort indicates an attitude change and acceptance of the new regulations, and higher costs. The inconvenience of certified bait and higher fuel prices, when compared to the value of the catch (perch are about $15 a pound at the market) and the experience, it is still inexpensive to go fishing. The great harvest figures tell the story, everyone who fishes for perch are catching them with abandon so despite the negatives on paper get out and enjoy the fishing!

by Tom Marks


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