OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK

Anglers expected to 'hammer' Erie walleyes

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Management of Great Lakes waterways and their wildlife is vital. On Lake Erie, recreational and commercial angling quotas are set by the Lake Erie Committee, a group of senior fisheries managers from Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Ontario.

Last week the committee issued 2014 recommendations that are to be reflected in state and provincial size and creel limits. Pennsylvania's recreational fishing harvest is to be capped at 4.027 million walleye (an increase since 2013) and 11.081 million pounds of yellow perch (a 9 percent decrease).

Days after the release of the Lake Erie Committee report, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission posted 2014 creel limits that said the creel limit for walleye will remain unchanged at six per day and the yellow perch harvest will hold at 30 per day.

Fish and Boat Lake Erie biologist Chuck Murray, who represents the state on the Lake Erie Committee and helped draft the quotas, said there's no discrepancy in the harvest quotas.

"States can't go over the compulsory quotas set by the Lake Erie Committee," he said. "In our case, we're under the quotas. Our perch and walleye creel limits can remain where they were in 2013 because our harvest is under the cap. There's lots and lots of perch. It doesn't justify changing the creel limits."

Walleye numbers, he said, are also below average.

Murray said a recent study based on 17 years of data showed that 6 percent of Pennsylvania Lake Erie anglers catch their creel limit of six walleye (15-inch minimum), and 21 percent catch their 30-fish limit of perch (no minimum size April 1-Nov. 30, 7 inches Dec. 1-March 31).

"The thing about perch and walleye, they're maintained through natural reproduction. There's no stocking [in Lake Erie]," Murray said.

There is, however, concern about the walleye.

Due to the natural population cycle, the 2003 year class was extremely abundant -- the largest year class in monitoring history.

"Now those fish are 10 years old," said Murray. "They've gotten big. In 2013 half of the walleye harvested in Pennsylvania were from the 2003 year class. We'd like to see young and older fish -- it's not good to see one year class dominating. That said, in 2014, we're going to see anglers hammering those big 2003 fish."

Agency drama

At their recent meeting, Game Commission board members issued an unusual statement presenting their side of a squabble with former executive director Carl Roe and an insider deal in which commissioners intended to pay a settlement to grease the wheels of his retirement in January.

Cooler and legally-minded heads prevailed when Gov. Tom Corbett's administration refused to approve the payment, quietly nullifying months of drama.

The statement didn't explain how the board-Roe spat improved the status of Pennsylvania wildlife or assisted hunters.

Dam safety

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold a stakeholders meeting to discuss the ongoing dam safety project at East Branch Clairon River, 10:30 a.m. April 16 at the East Branch Dam Maintenance Building, 631 East Branch Dam Rd., Wilcox, Pa. Details 412-395-7500.

Deer qualifier

Whitetail Management, the non-profit archers group recruited by Allegheny County and other landowners to trim deer populations in parks and problem areas, will hold its annual qualifier May 5 at North Side Sportsman's Club. For details and registration contact Joe McCluskey at bohunter28@comcast.net.


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