Week of March 30, 2009

Fishing beyond the Great Lakes

Lake Erie

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Fishing beyond the Great Lakes

Snakehead Battle Moves to Arkansas

Battle lines in the war on the northern snakehead – the invasive Asian fish that infiltrated Maryland and Virginia waterways in 2002 – have moved west to Arkansas. Discovery of the voracious predator in Big Piney Creek, a tributary of Arkansas's White River, has alarmed state and federal wildlife experts, worried that spread of the fish will threaten native fish populations.


The predatory fish, marked by a protruding lower jaw, pose a risk to many endangered species in various parts of the country, including 16 amphibians, 115 fishes, and five crustaceans. They can breed five times a year and travel over land as well as water.


In a desperate bid to stop the fish before it reaches White River National Wildlife Refuge, 40 to 60 miles downstream, and the lower Mississippi Valley, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help undertake a major action in late March. Together with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), Service officials will spray 195 miles of waterways and ponds with rotenone and Antimycin A. The chemicals are toxic to fish, but residues in dead fish are not harmful to

insects, birds, and mammals that eat them, according to an environmental assessment prepared by the Service and the AGFC.


After spraying, the Service will help the AGFC monitor results and restock the treated areas with native game fish – largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish.


"We're hopeful we can keep the fish from reaching the refuge," said Dennis Sharp, manager of White River Refuge. "We certainly do not want to see them established here. This opens the door to the whole lower Mississippi Valley."


Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Lindsey Lewis hopes that habitat closer to the refuge proves inhospitable to the invasive fish. "The habitat they prefer – shallow, swampy, and full of dense aquatic vegetation – is very different," said Lewis. Further downstream toward the White River, the creek widens, becomes muddier and has less vegetation.


Contact: Dennis Sharp, White River National Wildlife Refuge 870-282-8200 or [email protected]


Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for March 27, 2009

Weather Conditions

A very large storm system brought heavy rain to parts of the Great Lakes basin this week.  Locations across east central Wisconsin picked up in excess of 2 inches of rain, while many other locations saw rainfall over an inch.  Another large system is expected to bring more precipitation to the region for the upcoming weekend.  With the storm's track still uncertain, the potential for heavy rain and/or snow exists for the northern Great Lakes.  Areas across the south will see mostly rain.

Lake Level Conditions

Currently, Lake Superior is 4 inches above its level this time last year.  Lakes Michigan-Huron and St. Clair are 13 and 6 inches, respectively, above what they were a year ago.  Lakes Erie and Ontario are 2 and 1 inches, respectively, above last year's level.  Over the next month, Lake Superior is projected to rise 3 inches, while Lake Michigan-Huron is predicted to rise 4 inches.  Both Lakes St. Clair and Erie are forecasted to rise 2 inches during the next 30 days.  Lake Ontario is predicted to rise 3 inches in the next 30 days.  Over the next several months, Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are predicted to remain at or above their levels of a year ago.  Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario, however, are projected to be at or below last year's levels for the next few months. 

Current Outflows/Channel Conditions

In February, the outflows through the St. Mary's, St. Clair and Detroit Rivers were lower than average.  The outflow from the  

Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers were above average.


Lake Superior is below its chart datum elevations and is expected to be below datum over the next few months. Also, water levels on Lake St. Clair can fluctuate greatly due to ice in the connecting channels.  Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.  Ice information can be found at the National Ice Center's webpage.





St. Clair



Level for Mar 27







Datum, in ft






Diff in inches






Diff last month






Diff from last yr







Lake Erie

Panel sets Lake Erie Yellow Perch and Walleye Catch Limits 

YPSILANTI, MI – The binational Lake Erie Committee, comprising fishery managers from Michigan, New York, Ohio, Ontario and Pennsylvania, last week recommended a 2009 total allowable catch (TAC) of 12.012 million pounds of yellow perch and 2.45 million walleye.  The yellow perch TAC represents an increase from last year while the walleye TAC represents a decrease.  The committee based this recommendation on the current strength of yellow perch stocks in Lake Erie and on the fact that walleye recruitment has been poor or moderate during the previous several years, with the exception of 2003.



Stock assessment of yellow perch showed increases in abundance in all areas of Lake Erie relative to 2008.  Therefore, the committee recommended an increase in allocation of yellow perch to 12.012 million lbs in 2009 from 10.160 million pounds in 2008.  An area-based sharing formula determines the allocation of these fish among the five jurisdictions on the lake.  For 2009, Ontario’s allocation is 5.714 million pounds, Ohio’s allocation is 5.277 million pounds, and Michigan’s allocation is 0.186 million pounds.  New York and Pennsylvania will receive 0.142 million pounds and 0.693 million pounds respectively.  In 2008, actual yellow perch harvest was 8.33 million pounds or 82% of the TAC.  A yellow perch management plan is under development and should be completed during 2009.  The plan is designed to establish guidelines for yellow perch fishery management in Lake Erie.



The Lake Erie Committee set a binational TAC for walleye in 2009 of 2.45 million fish, compared to the TAC of 3.594 million fish in 2008.    Actual walleye harvest in 2008 was 2.917 million fish, or 77% of the TAC.  The Committee’s Walleye Task Group—comprising scientists and field biologists—reported that walleye hatches had been weak in 2002, 2004, and 2006; below average in 2005 and 2008; and moderate in 2007.  The last above-average walleye year class in Lake Erie was the colossal hatch of 2003.  The Lake Erie Committee noted that the walleye fishery continues to be reliant on that ever-diminishing 2003 year class.  The number of walleye in Lake Erie is expected to decline from 18.4 million fish in 2009 to 15.7 million fish in 2010.  Because these abundance levels represent a fishery in “rehabilitation” status, the committee believes the reduced TAC is reflective of the current and projected state of the resource.


Lake Erie agencies together monitor the status of walleye spawning and recommend walleye TACs to ensure the future of the fishery.  Based on the data collected and interpreted together by the Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions on Lake Erie, the reduced 2009 TAC will allow the agencies to adhere to their objectives of allowing harvest while protecting future spawning and substantially manage the resources.


Under a 2009 TAC of 2.45 million fish, Ohio will be entitled to 1.252 million fish, Ontario 1.055 million fish, and Michigan

0.143 million fish.  The TAC is recommended by the Lake Erie

Committee and is allocated to Ohio, Michigan and Ontario by an area-based sharing formula of walleye habitat within each jurisdiction in the western and central basins of the lake.   The walleye fisheries of eastern Lake Erie remain outside the allowable catch management area.



“The walleye and yellow perch fisheries of Lake Erie naturally fluctuate from year to year based on the success of annual spawning and survival,” said Lake Erie Committee chair Mike Morencie of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  “To manage around these fluctuations, the Lake Erie Committee needs to continually monitor the state of the fishery, consider the probable future state, and recommend annual harvest allocations.  The committee bases its decisions on a consensus understanding of the science that all jurisdictions collect and evaluate together.  All jurisdictions—Canadian and American—are motivated by a desire to allow sport and commercial harvest balanced by a need to take the steps required to ensure future harvest.”


“All Lake Erie Committee members remain committed to building and maintaining a close, working relationship with those who depend on the walleye and yellow perch fisheries for food, income, and recreation,” Morencie continued.  “Moreover, the members work hard to advise stakeholders about long-term trends in the Lake Erie fishery and how those trends might affect future allocations.   For example, the committee is deeply concerned about the frequency of weak walleye year classes during the past decade.  The 2003 year class remains the only strong year class present in the fishery.  As time goes on without adequate recruitment, future harvest levels will decline.  As the committee did last year, we advise constituents that the outlook for higher walleye catch limits is unlikely for the foreseeable future.  Although the outlook for the yellow perch fishery is solid for 2009, the committee is cautious about the future strength of that fishery.”


Committee vice-chair Bill Culligan of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation added: “The Lake Erie Committee understands how its recommendations relate to the needs and benefits of Lake Erie stakeholders.  The committee has placed much emphasis on incorporating the human needs into the decision-making process and will work continually to improve this commitment, through the establishment of a human dimensions task group.”



The Lake Erie Committee comprises fishery managers from Michigan, New York, Ohio, Ontario and Pennsylvania. The committee’s work is facilitated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, a Canadian and U.S. agency on the Great Lakes.  Each year the committee recommends a total allowable catch for walleye and yellow perch.  Total allowable catch represents the number of fish that can be caught by sport and commercial fishers without putting the stocks at risk.  The individual agencies implement the recommended total allowable catch.  For more information, visit the Lake Erie Committee online at www.glfc.org/lec.


Sea Grant, DNR Hosting Regional Fisheries Workshops

Michigan Sea Grant Extension and the DNR have scheduled a series of day-long workshops concerning research and programs related to Great Lakes fisheries. The information may be valuable to anglers, charter boat captains, resources professional and other interested stakeholders. The public is invited to attend.


Subjects include sea lamprey status, food-web dynamics, catch-and-effort reports, and regional fisheries forecasts.


Workshops scheduled for this spring include:

►Bad Axe Lake Huron Regional Fishery, April 4, Franklin Inn,

1050 E. Huron, Bad Axe;

►Alpena Lake Huron Regional Fishery Workshop, April 18, Eagles Meeting Hall, 1960 M-32 West, Alpena;

►Grand River Haven Regional Fishery workshop, April 25, Charles Conklin Post #28, 700 Harbor Dr., Grand Haven;

► Straights Area Regional Fishery Workshop, May 2, Little Bear East Area & Community Center, 275 Marquette St., St. Ignace.


Registration, which begins at 8 a.m. at Grand Haven, 8:30 a.m. elsewhere, is $20 at the door, which includes lunch.

For more info www.miseagrant.umich.edu/fisheries/fishery-workshop.html

DNR Says Fish Kills Common in spring

As the ice and snow melt on Michigan’s lakes, it’s not uncommon to discover fish kills or die-offs, the Department of Natural Resources reminds lakefront property owners and recreational boaters and anglers. Typical Michigan winters with heavy snow and ice cover create conditions that cause die-offs of fish and other aquatic life such as softshell turtles, frogs, toads, and crayfish.  


“Winterkill is the most common type of fish kill,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Kelley Smith. “Particularly in shallow lakes and streams, it can have large effects on fish populations and fishing quality.” 


Winterkill occurs during especially long, harsh winters, such as occurred in Michigan this past winter. Shallow lakes with excess amounts of aquatic vegetation and mucky bottoms are particularly prone to this problem. Fish and other aquatic life actually die in late winter, but may not be noticed until a month after the ice leaves the lake because the dead fish and other aquatic life are temporarily preserved by the cold water.


“Winterkill begins with distressed fish gasping for air at holes in the ice and ends with large numbers of dead fish that bloat as the water warms in early spring,” Smith explained. “Dead fish and other aquatic life may appear fuzzy because of secondary infection by fungus, but the fungus was not the cause of death as winterkilled fish were actually suffocated

from a lack of dissolved oxygen under the ice.”


Trace amounts of dissolved oxygen are required by fish and all other forms of aquatic life. Once the daylight is greatly reduced by ice and snow cover, the aquatic plants stop producing oxygen and many die. The bacteria that decompose organic materials on the bottom of the lake require oxygen and work to use up the remaining oxygen in the water, once the plants stop producing it. This winter, many locations had perfect conditions for winterkill with heavy ice and snow cover, and a number of locations likely ran out of dissolved oxygen to support fish and other aquatic life.


“The DNR is still concerned about Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia virus (VHSv) infections, particularly after a stressful winter such as the past one, and requests the assistance of anglers and citizens in reporting fish with symptoms of this disease,” said Smith.


Information on VHS can be found at www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing.  If anglers or citizens see unusual fish or other aquatic life kills or see fish with clinical signs of VHSv, please e-mail information about the fish kill to [email protected].  If you suspect a fish kill is caused by non-natural causes such as a chemical spill, please call your nearest DNR location or Michigan's Pollution Emergency Alert System at 800-292-4706.

DNR reminds anglers 2007 Inland Consent Decree provides for certain activities by tribes

The Department of Natural Resources reminds the public that certain fishing opportunities for tribal members under the 1836 Treaty of Washington are different than those allowed for state-licensed recreational anglers under Michigan law, and that these activities may be observed this spring.


As established under the 2007 Inland Consent Decree, tribal members may use spears or conventional fishing tackle to take walleye and steelhead in some waters of Michigan covered by the 1836 Treaty during periods when these waters are closed to fishing for State-licensed recreational anglers.


A map of the portion of Michigan covered by the 1836 Treaty of Washington can be found by following this link to the DNR Web site:



“We appreciate anglers’ concerns when they see something unusual occurring, but we ask people not to interfere with Tribal members who are exercising their rights under the 2007 Inland Consent Decree,” said Nick Popoff, the DNR Fisheries Division’s tribal coordinator. “If you think a violation is in progress, you can call the DNR’s Report All Poaching line (800-292-7800) and report it.”


The area ceded under the 1836 Treaty of Washington includes the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula. For information on the 2007 Inland Consent Decree, check the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

New York

DEC issues reminders And Tips for Trout and Salmon Opening

With the traditional April 1 opening day for New York's trout and salmon fishing seasons, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued tips and reminders for anglers in every region. Although early season 

trout angling in northern and mountainous reaches of New York may be slow due to lingering cold weather and melting snow, conditions in other areas of New York should be good for early-season angling. Waters on Long Island, the lower Hudson Valley and western New York tend to warm up earlier and provide the best early-season fishing opportunities.


OLEC to Fund Studies of Lake Erie Algal Blooms and Fisheries

TOLEDO, OH - The Ohio Lake Erie Commission (OLEC) will provide grants for four studies that will investigate the causes and impacts of Lake Erie algal blooms, as well as physical habitat distribution within the Lake Erie fishery.


The University of Toledo, Department of Civil Engineering will receive $15,000 for a project to determine the potential sediment contribution to Microcystis (a blue-green algae) bloom formation in the western Lake Erie Basin. Included in the research work, the project will address phosphorus in lake sediment as a potential trigger for algal blooms through re-suspension.


Ohio State University, Aquatic Research Laboratory will receive $14,750 to use remotely sensed data - satellite imagery - to help better understand physical habitat distribution in western Lake Erie and its influence on habitat use and recruitment of walleye and yellow perch. Also included is a test of the hypothesis that Maumee River discharge regulates yellow perch recruitment through nursery habitat creation. The research will create a database that will be made available to

the research community and public.


The Ohio State University Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology will receive $167, 040 for a study about phosphorus load, transport and biological use. Lake Erie appears to be undergoing a period of increasing eutrophication (excess nutrients) and it is unknown if this is due to increased biologically available phosphorus, a change in species ability to use phosphorus or some other related factor. The project will help to determine how dissolved reactive phosphorus and increased Microcystis and Lyngbya (algae) blooms are related and where the blooms initiate.


The Ohio State University, Ohio Ag Research & Development Center will receive $74,955 for a two part project. First, an evaluation of soil testing laboratories will be completed using a series of 600 soil tests sent to the twelve laboratories that primarily serve Ohio. The evaluation will focus on the analysis of the submitted samples and the recommendations provided to farmers based on sample results. Second, a data mining will be completed to review testing results for phosphorus and other soil characteristics from the labs.

2009 Coastweeks Honor’s Ohio's Valuable Coastal Resources

TOLEDO, OH - Ohio is preparing for its annual celebration of Lake Erie's diverse coastal region and the cultural and economic resources that contribute to the quality of life and vitality of the region.


The 2009 Coastweeks observance will focus on the preservation and protection of Lake Erie and its watershed through a variety of cleanup events along the shoreline and throughout its watershed. Ohio's program focuses on the theme, "I Can Help Lake Erie." It encourages people to recognize and advocate resource protection while balancing economic, cultural and environmental interests.


"Lake Erie has influenced the growth of Ohio through productive agricultural lands, industries, international harbors and as a recreational destination," said Ed Hammett. "Taking part in a Coastweeks cleanup is a great way for those who benefit from the lake to give back."


This year, Ohioans will demonstrate their commitment to clean, safe beaches and waterways on September 19, International Coastal Cleanup Day. The Ohio Lake Erie

Commission coordinates the state's observance, which allows thousands of Ohioans to find solutions for litter that pollutes beaches, streams and tributaries.


Environmental organizations, schools, scout groups, clubs, community groups and individuals throughout Ohio's Lake Erie watershed are encouraged to get involved in this year's Coastweeks by organizing an event.


Visit the OLEC Web site or call (419) 245-2514 to learn more about the 2009 Coastweeks, or to obtain an event planning brochure to organize a cleanup. The OLEC will provide the tools needed to promote an organization's Coastweeks events.


The Ohio Lake Erie Commission was established for the purpose of preserving Lake Erie's natural resources, protecting the quality of its waters and ecosystem, and promoting economic development in the region. The director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources serves as the commission's chairman. Additional members include the directors of the state departments of Transportation, Health, Development, Agriculture and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio Hunters donate 54,800 lbs of venison

COLUMBUS, OH - Ohio deer hunters donated more than 54,800 lbs of venison to local food banks through the 2008-09 deer hunting season, according to Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH) and the Ohio DNR.


The 54,800 lbs of venison equals approximately 219,200 meals for Ohioans in need. Last year, FHFH collected 20,902 lbs on throughout the season. A total of 1,096 deer were donated this deer hunting season compared to 418 in 2007-08.


Venison that is donated to food banks must be processed by a federal, state or locally inspected and insured meat

processor that is participating with FHFH. Hunters wishing to

donate their deer to a food bank are not required to pay for the processing of the venison as long as the program has funds available to cover the cost. There are currently 43 participating meat processors across the state. A list is provided at www.fhfh.org.


Since last year, FHFH has more than doubled the number of chapters from 12 to 27, with the need for more. Anyone interested in becoming a local program coordinator or a participating meat processor should visit the "Local FHFH" page at www.fhfh.org. The web page includes a current list of coordinators, program names and the counties that they serve.


Board Of Game Commissioners meet April 20-21

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners will be meeting on Monday and Tuesday, April 20-21, at the agency's Harrisburg headquarters. The Board will hear public comments on the proposed 2009-10 hunting and furtaking seasons and bag limits that were given preliminary approval in January. The Board also will receive agency staff reports

and updates.


A complete agenda for the meeting will be posted on the agency's website www.pgc.state.pa.us prior to the meeting. Minutes from the January meeting are available in the "Reports/Minutes" section of the homepage.


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