State officials reduced the Lake Erie daily yellow perch bag limit to 25 this year -- an all-time low.
Last year, sport fishermen could catch up to 30 perch per angler per day, but authorities reduced the limit to protect the fish population, said Kevin Ramsey from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Lake Erie Unit.
The reduced bag limit applies to sport fishermen navigating waters west of Huron, Ramsey said. In the lake's central basin, or waters east of Huron, the bag limit remains 30.
In 2007, sport fishermen exceeded their annual harvest quota of 700,000 pounds of perch by 20 percent, catching 840,000 pounds in the waters west of Huron, Ramsey said.
"You want to have healthy fish stocks," Ramsey said. "You want to protect the stocks out there and see what the next year or two produce for hatches.
"In the meantime, you have to take conservation measures to make sure you don't over-harvest," he added.
From 2004-06, the newly hatched population of yellow perch averaged about 58 fish per acre, "considerably below average," said Jeff Tyson, fisheries biologist supervisor for the Division of Wildlife Lake Erie Unit.
Last year the hatching population rebounded with 325 fish per acre, slightly above average, Tyson said.
"From a resource standpoint, we need to reduce," Tyson said. "We're hoping that the 2007 hatch will get the population back to that healthy limit. We hope to get back to that 30 limit."
The reduced limit is not seen as a disappointment, but a matter of balance for some fishermen, said Jerry Abele, captain of Head Hunter fishing charter and board member of Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.
"I know how things were abused in the past. It's not an unlimited resource," Abele said. "This is what supports all of us around here. I don't like to see the limit cut, but it's necessary to support things."
Ramsey said the bag limit could increase within the next two years, depending if the yellow perch population continues to increase.
Ohio is part of an inter-jurisdictional agreement with Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and the Canadian province of Ontario to ensure perch are not over-fished.
Ohio is limited to 4.4 million pounds of yellow perch each year.
Sport fishermen account for 65 percent of that amount, while commercial fishermen snag the remaining 35 percent. Commercial fishermen are not affected by the reduced bag limit since they have their own individual quota, Tyson said.