Environment

Summit Tackles Lake Michigan’s Yellow Perch Paucity

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March 10, 2014 — Hoosier anglers seeking answers about Lake Michigan’s elusive perch population have a chance to talk to lake ecology experts this month.

A summit on the status of yellow perch in Lake Michigan is set for March 22 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The event, sponsored by The Lake Michigan Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, will address the deep decline of yellow perch in Lake Michigan waters over the last two decades.

Vic Santucci, a Lake Michigan program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says the crash in the region’s perch population started in the in the 1980s, and — though the waters have seen some recruitment since then — it has not been consistent.

“We’re in a low level compared to those peaks in the 80s and early 90s,” he says. “We want to educate people on the current status of the population and the fishery and give them a public forum to weigh in to the managers around the lake.”

Santucci says the meeting is also a chance for water management to plan creel surveys on the amount of yellow perch available by measuring sport fishing.

The bag limit for yellow perch is 15 while fishing Indiana waters, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, but it was reduced in past years when waters ran low in the popular catch.

A 2012 report from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shows the creel survey data on yellow perch in 2009 indicated the overall sport harvest in Lake Michigan increased from 20,000 perch in 2008 to 51,000 in 2009. Then, there was a dramatic decline in the sport harvest in 2011, with only 17,000 fish, according to the report.

“They put together this task force to actually look into that,” Santucci says of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “It is a recruitment issue. The little perch we have been not surviving and the recruitment issues could be due to invasive species.”

Santucci says the free seminar will include a history of the Lake’s ecology, information on the life cycle of the yellow perch, and figures on the current adult population.

More information on registration is available online at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s website.

Organizers say a webinar will also stream online for fishers who cannot attend.

By: Hilary Powell

 

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