The Perch debate.

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The Perch debate.

Unread post by capt.dan » January 10th, 2019, 10:16 pm

As a man born very near Saginaw Bay in 1952, coming from a serious 100 times a year fishing oriented family, and living through many years of perch abundance, which included several late1960's/early 1970's years, when catching pales full of 12 inch long spring slabs off the rock sea wall in Caseville was not uncommon. Unless you've been asleep or detached from Saginaw Bays diverse resource and ecosystem for the past 25 years, understanding its natural, cyclical and changing environmental dynamics leaves one with only that lame "What the hell happened to our perch" argument. I was reminded of the comparison ALMOST IMMEDIATELY watching the video of the urgent statements from our DNR fisheries a few years back, that suggested removing some older Michigan Power Dams remained key to establishing successful and natural walleye spawning reproduction in our rivers and streams. Enter the zebra mussel, their devastating thinning of the bottom of the food chain zoo plankton, our fisheries mangers failure to see it happening, and the quick resulting collapse of not only Lake Hurons Salmon populations, but to their main food source and prey the Alewife. Almost immediately, the naturally spawned walleye numbers began to show up in climbing number in DNR creel surveys. Seems it wasn't walleye spawning water quality after all, or any new up-river access problems or availability to more un-dammed/spawning rich river acreage. But it was the un-seen/un-projected removal of a very effective predator of walleye YOY, when the high alewife numbers themselves collapsed.

Since that time we have an exploding, self sustaining walleye population and many other changes that have effected virtually every fish specie and everything going on in the Bay. I owned and ran a bait/sports shop for 4 years, from 1984 to 1988. I would often seign my own minnows for the shop. Back then the Lakes water table was high on the bay. Virtually every ditch and cut were filled with flowing water well into the summer months. I had many spots to net minnows and chubs back then. And those productive netting spots often included tons of small juvenile perch in the catch. With only a 10% coincidental catch & keep law when netting your own minnows, I dumped tons of little perch back into the systems.

The 90's started a Great Lakes water table/cycle decline. Those same ditches and cuts, those perfect perch spawning nurseries, simply became to low at their Bays connection junction or simply dried up. We lost Some 42 inches of lake water depth in those next 15 years. That cycle/trend has begun reversing itself in the last few years and all of a sudden the perch size and numbers are seemingly more abundant again. Not only that, but the perches stunted 5 to 6 inch spawning viability size has unexpectedly increased, leaving some Fisheries guys scratching their heads, wondering themselves what's going on.

Below is a picture of some Jumbo perch that the wife and I caught from the Saginaw River last spring 2018. This success picture could have easily been taken 48 years AGO, with perch we caught from the sea wall rocks at Caseville. I'd be very satisfied with a modest 25 perch limit this size any day of the week.
29543190_1673418692747675_877488999940280564_n.jpg (63.79 KiB) Viewed 587 times
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Unread post by Ruler2112 » January 12th, 2019, 12:42 pm

Interesting read, though I question how well the perch are doing in today's system.

Went out maybe a dozen times this fall & kept 15 one day, all 7-8" with exactly 2 fish over 9" throughout the entire fall combined. Late summer/early fall perch fishing from the boat was even worse - seem to be a very few pods of fish that are active and if you can find one for a while, you do well, but 99% of the time, 99% of the people do squat. :(

Everybody I know personally who fishes reports a similar lack of success with perch this past summer/fall.

One thing that's clear from this post is something I already knew - the people running the fishery really don't know what they're doing as much as they try to pretend. About 5 years ago, I had the best perch fishing of my life in the late fall; that spring at a DNR meeting, the guy was telling us how bad the perch were doing. When I asked about all the perch I'd gotten, his exact words were "Yeah, we don't know where those fish came from." :shock:

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