Originally posted by: L.M. Ray on 4/9/2005 9:09:21 AM
NEW: Short-sighted to hike quotas for walleye
Mark Lamb -- Fri, Apr/8/05
Plain Dealer Columnist
There are swarms of young walleye swimming in Lake Erie, a bonanza class that hatched in 2003. In two years they have quickly grown from two tiny eyes and a wiggle to footlong eating machines.
Those small walleye make up an estimated 71 percent of the Lake Erie walleye population. Yet in a quixotic decision, after three years of low walleye quotas to protect and enhance Lake Erie's most popular game fish, the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has abandoned the mission.
Last week, the LEC more than doubled the lakewide total allowable catch (TAC) of walleye for 2005 from 2.4 million to 5.8 million fish from a population estimated at 42 million. That number marks a surprising 140 percent increase, despite just one good hatch over three years.
Ohio (2.9 million) and Ontario (2.5 million) split the majority of the walleye TAC. Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York get small shares of the fishing wealth.
The decision to allow the pint-sized class of 2003 walleye to dominate sport and commercial catches this year - including female walleye not mature enough to spawn until 2007 - is one fisheries managers could regret as early as next season.
The LEC predicts this year's walleye harvest and natural attrition will result in a lakewide population of 31 million walleye in 2006. Barring another amazing hatch in 2005, the walleye population will struggle because of bad hatches in 2000, 2002 and 2004.
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