Not posting to start any debate about keeping big hens I think it is amazing the fishery we have and how few fish we actually remove. Good fishing everyone
Below is a copy from the section of Fish Order 215 that deals with the Lake Erie bag limit. As you can see, it is a sliding scale that is pegged to Michigan’s Total Allowable Catch (quota). For reference, our TAC last year was 345,000 walleye. That means we are at our cap of a 6 walleye possession limit. The annual meeting to determine the quota will take place at the end of the month, but as Jeff indicated, our TAC is expected to increase this year – meaning we would remain at 6 walleye. Our sliding scale was constructed to mirror Ohio’s, meaning the trigger point to reduce the bag limit would take place in both states. So for this year – there does not look like there will be any changes in walleye regulations in MI, OH, or Ontario.
And we get that question about harvesting pre-spawn walleye all the time this time of year. A quick look at any fishing forum that shows a guy with a 10-12 pound female will start the debate. And do have really good data on the walleye population – and there are no concerns.
The quotas are set conservatively to ensure sustainability of the resource. Furthermore, over the past decade, Michigan has harvested less than 50% of our walleye quota annually. So the combination of a conservative quota, coupled with the fact that we do not come anywhere near harvesting our allocation – means we have no concerns if anglers want to harvest a trophy to hang on the wall.
I think it is important to look at the numbers in order to put the Detroit River fishery into perspective. The Lake Erie walleye population estimate last year was 56 million walleye and from tagging studies, we know about 15% of the population runs the Detroit River each spring – that means about 8.3 million walleye! Based on our most recent creel survey during 2015, the annual walleye harvest in the Detroit River was only 135,000 fish. So there are no concerns with over harvest.
We have this debate annually as we see the first pictures of big walleye showing up on stringers on the internet forums each spring. But based on the number of fish, there are no concerns about recruitment limitations. And although these large, old fish can carry a lot of eggs – the quality of the eggs declines in these older fish. It is likely the 5-7 pound fish that carry the spawning because they are big enough to hold a large number of eggs and young enough that they are high quality.
And the numbers are very similar for Lake Erie. Again, Michigan harvests about 140,000 walleye annually in Lake Erie, and lakewide, the long-term average is about 5 million walleye harvested annually. The bottom line is that Lake Erie is not limited by the number of eggs that are produced