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It’s not easy being yellow

Tom Jackson • May 27, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Local fishermen have a new place to search for yellow perch.

State officials are in the second year of stocking Fremont Reservoir with the muchdesired fish.

Last year, the Ohio Division of Wildlife put in about 98,000 yellow perch fingerlings. They followed that up with 140,000 yellow perch fry this spring.

Mike Wilkerson, fish management supervisor for Ohio’s District 2, said the state hasn’t sampled any fish in the reservoir yet, but last year’s batch ought to be 6 to 7 inches long by now. They should grow to 8 to 10 inches by next year, and get to more than that by 2016.

Ohio stocks 13 lakes each year with yellow perch raised at a state fish hatchery, including Raccoon Creek Reservoir in Clyde. The 13 lakes do not include Lake Erie, where Mother Nature is responsible for maintaining the yellow perch population.

State officials expect to continue stocking Fremont Reservoir with yellow perch every year, Wilkerson said. The cost of the fish stocking program is covered by fishing licenses. In fact, virtually all funding for the Division of Wildlife comes from the purchase of fishing and hunting licenses, he said.

The new lake was built amid millions of dollars of cost overruns.

And the decision to turn the lake into a fishing resource was not without controversy.

The Department of Wildlife gave the city $5 million of boat fuel tax revenue in 2008 to help cover the cost of the reservoir. In return, the city was supposed to pass an ordinance allowing gasoline engines to be used by boats in the lake.

Passage didn’t come easily.

Minutes for the Aug. 15, 2013, meeting show local residents and city officials spent a considerable amount of time debating the issue, with some worried gas engines would contaminate the city water supply.

The opponents of allowing gas engines on the lake included Mayor Jim Ellis, who told the council the city had done nothing wrong in trying to keep gas motors from the reservoir and that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources had orchestrated a public campaign to say the city is not fulfilling its obligations. He said he doubted a court would order the city to pass the ordinance.

Fred Snyder, a retired fisheries biologist, said there was little danger gasoline would contaminate the lake and asked the council to OK the measure. Rick Unger, president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, also spoke in favor of the ordinance.

Council members approved the ordinance 5-2, with council members Dallas Leake and Julie Kreilick voting no, and council members Bob Gross, Tom Kniseley, Bob Marker, Don Nalley and Angie Ruiz voting in favor.

Ellis said Wednesday he wasn’t worried gas engines would contaminate the water supply. The water department looked at that and could not see any real risk, he said.

“I just thought the residents of Fremont overwhelmingly didn’t want gas-powered engines on the reservoir” he said.

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