Fishermen will soon have to cut back on the yellow perch they bring in.
Effective July 1 sport fishermen in Lake Erie, west of Huron, will be subject to a bag limit of 25 on perch -- an all-time low.
In the lake's central basin, which starts east of Huron, the bag limit remains 30.
The bag limit was reduced to help protect the fish population, said Jeff Tyson, fisheries biologist supervisor with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife Lake Erie Unit in Sandusky.
"We have to enforce it. It's a resource issue," Tyson said. "It's in the best interest of the anglers to adhere to that because we're trying to rehabilitate the population in the western basin."
The 25-perch limit begins west of the Huron Pier in downtown Huron and extends northeast into the lake, Tyson said.
ODNR put up signs about the reduced limit at state-owned boat ramps, marinas and bait shops to remind anglers, Tyson said.
Fishermen who violate the limit could face fines, restitution fees and -- in extreme cases -- jail time and loss of their fishing license.
Wildlife officials will take steps to enforce the bag limit with random checks on the lake and at local marinas and bait shops.
Seven Wisconsin men went over the legal limit of walleye Memorial Day weekend and paid more than $6,400 in fines and restitution fees last week. Two of the men spent three days in jail.
"Are people going to get away with it? Probably," ODNR Division of Wildlife spokesman Tom LaVergne said. "But they're only messing themselves up. The point is to protect the yellow perch."
Port Clinton Fisheries Inc. manager Rich Stinson said the perch limit reduction will negatively affect his business.
The fish-cleaning business processes about 1,500 pounds of yellow perch each week throughout the summer. With the reduction, his workers could lose about $2,000 in income each week, Stinson said.
"We're going to be hurt here," Stinson said. "It's going to turn a lot of people off because they keep reducing."
Tyson said if fishermen don't respect the bag limit, officials will have to reduce it even more.
"If we don't adhere to that regulation, we may not see that population rebuild," Tyson said.
Stinson said he understands the need for the increased regulation, but hopes they will consider increasing the limit next year.
Wildlife officials will consider increasing the bag limit to 30 fish per fishermen per day next year if the population can rebuild.
"We will reexamine it next year and see where we're at," Tyson said. "And see if we can't bump it up."