SANDUSKY, OH -
It just might be the largest year class of yellow perch in recent history. It may be so large that we have nothing to compare it to.
Research scientists are keeping their fingers crossed, but they are having a hard time disguising their joy over the 1996 spring hatch of yellow perch in Lake Erie.
After several lean years in which yellow perch stocks appeared to be in trouble, the 1996 year class looks as if it may exceed the 1984 and 1986 hatches.
Young-of-year fish picked up in survey trawls across Lake Erie show this year's walleye hatch was very good and yellow perch hatch was excellent.
"We are quite pleased with the hatches of both walleye and yellow perch this year, considering the cold conditions they experienced this spring," said Roger Knight, supervisor of the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit at Sandusky. "The perch hatch is probably the best we've seen in a decade, while the walleye hatch is likely the second highest in the past five years. Hopefully these fish will survive to become part of the fishable population two to three years down the road."
Environmental factors play a big part in the success of a spawn. Cold, windy weather and rough lake conditions tend to destroy larvae, especially that of walleye. Other factors affect the survival rate of young of year, including summer water temperatures and conditions, abundance and quality of food, and the abundance of predators and competitors.
Commercials are reporting incidents of perch cannibalism in which mature perch are found with young perch in their mouths or stomachs. This may contribute to perch mortality, but it may also be taken as an indicator of the abundance of young-of-the-year perch.