Mustering enthusiasm about yellow perch is difficult as CNN issues live reports on the bombing of Baghdad. I will, however, leave the warin the hands of President Bush and the Almighty and turn to more local issues.
Yellow perch fishing at one time signaled the beginningof the fishing season. These fish are among the first of the speciesto spawn each year. As the fish congregate before and during spawning, so did anglers congregate to chase them.
Yellow perch stocks plummeted in many areas and grew in others. Areas with increased building activity, such as Anne Arundel County, saw stocks drop; more sparsely populated areas, such as upper Eastern Shore tributaries, had increased yellow perch activity.
The response of the Department of Natural Resources fishery managers to this problem was to close down recreational yellow perch fishing in 1989 when they closed most recreational fishing areas.
The watersheds of the following river systems were closed to yellow perch fishing: Chester, Choptank, Magothy, Miles, Nanticoke, Patapsco, Patuxent, Severn, South, West and Wye rivers. In addition, they established a minimum size of 8 inches and a daily creel limit of five fish.
Commercial yellow perch fishing continued in upper Chesapeake Bay tributaries,apart from a prohibition on sales during February.
Minimum size was to increase by a half-inch each year until it reached 10 inches, and then all river systems were to open. The DNR did not increase the minimum size in 1990, probably because commercial netters requested no increase.
New yellow perch regulations have been released by theDNR because managers have "evidence of an increase in reproduction and stocking success."
In view of this success, the DNR is opening the Patuxent River, Wye River and Tuckahoe Creek. The minimum size for yellow perch in this area is 9 inches. The other systems listed above remain closed.
Impoundments such as ponds and reservoirs are not affected by
In addition, anglers must use barb-less hooks to catch yellow perch from Feb. 1 to March 15 in all areasthat permit yellow perch fishing. The minimum size of 8 inches will remain in those river systems previously open to yellow perch fishing.
In my opinion, the DNR has made yellow perch fishing too difficult, discouraging most anglers. All that was required to reduce therecreational harvest was a reasonable minimum size and daily creel limit. Closing half the state to yellow perch fishing was not necessary.
The yellow perch left many of the river systems not because they were overfished, but because the habitat degraded to a point at which fish could no longer survive.
The Severn and South rivers enjoyed marvelous spring yellow perch runs. The building boom of the 1970scaused such deplorable water conditions that the perch moved up the bay to more tolerable conditions.
I'd like the DNR to survey yellow perch fishermen just to see how many people participate in this cold-weather fishery and how many fish are caught. If the DNR were awareof the facts, it would drop most of the yellow perch recreational fishing restrictions quickly.
In addition, the DNR should establish a commercial yellow perch quota to keep commercial landings at a safelevel. It seems downright unfair to restrict the recreational fisherman while the fox is put in charge of the hen house.
I believe theDNR is doing a fine job with rockfish. Let's see a little of that same action on the yellow perch.
Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensedcharter boat captain from Pasadena.