By Sharon Hill, Windsor Star
Publishing date:

April 1, 2019 ·  2 minute read

The commercial fishery in Lake Erie around Wheatley harbour will be the hardest hit by lower perch quotas set last week.

The allowable catch limit for yellow perch in Lake Erie has dropped by as much as 32 per cent for the part of the lake near Chatham-Kent, Tim Tiessen, president of the Ontario Commercial Fisheries’ Association, said Monday.

The quota is dropping by about 20 per cent for commercial fishing boats operating south of Essex County. The part of the lake near Elgin County that includes the Port Stanley harbour will fare a bit better with a quota decrease of 10.5 per cent, he said.

“That’s going to be hard for the fisherman,” Tiessen said from Wheatley. “That’s sort of a devastating cut for Essex and Kent counties and a substantial cut for Elgin County too.”

On the plus side, the quota for walleye is going up about 20 per cent across Lake Erie.

The binational Lake Erie Committee of fishery managers from Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario recently decided the total allowable catch limits for 2019 based on assessments of how the two fish populations are doing in Lake Erie.

The walleye allowable catch limit across Lake Erie is rising from about 7.1 million fish to 8.5 million walleye in 2019. Ontario is allowed about 3.6 million fish but the commercial fishery won’t know exactly how much they can catch until that is translated into a weight, Tiessen said.

“We’ve had a number of good hatches over the last five years of walleye on Lake Erie with last year being a record hatch. So the lake is exploding with walleye,” Tiessen said.

Often when there’s a lot of walleye as a top predator it puts pressure on the smaller fish, he said. That’s likely why the perch quotas are down. The commercial fishing boats and crews will have to stretch out the allowable perch catch over the season.

The commercial boats are already out catching walleye. The boats use different gear to catch the larger walleye than perch.

The allowable catch for yellow perch in 2019 has been set at more than 8.5 million pounds of perch which is a decrease from the almost 10.5 million pound limit last year overall in the lake. Of that Ontario gets about four  million pounds which is divided up for the commercial fishery by geographical areas of the lake.

Perch populations are lower and the allowable catch could “continue to decline” in the central basin of Lake Erie, a Lake Erie Committee press release said last week. The allowable catch for Lake Erie takes into account the commercial fishery on the Ontario side and sport anglers on both sides of the border.

In 2015, Lake Erie’s commercial fishing and processing industry was estimated to have an annual economic impact of more than $244 million.