HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 15) – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) today announced that the 2022 creel limit for Lake Erie Yellow Perch will remain at 30 per day and the creel limit for Walleye will stay at six per day.
The PFBC Lake Erie Research Unit evaluates the populations of Yellow Perch and Walleye in Lake Erie annually. If populations reach critically low levels, management actions are taken to prevent overharvest and rebuild the numbers of Yellow Perch and Walleye in the Lake. All jurisdictions on Lake Erie adhere to this system.
"The 2021 assessment showed that both Yellow Perch and Walleye populations in the Pennsylvania waters of Lake Erie remain at levels that don't require regulation changes," said Chuck Murray, PFBC Lake Erie Unit Leader. "Based on this assessment, the 2022 creel limits are being maintained at the standard limits."
At its March 25 meeting, the Lake Erie Committee, which consists of fisheries managers from Pennsylvania; Ohio; New York; Michigan; and Ontario, Canada, allotted to Pennsylvania a Yellow Perch total allowable catch (TAC) of 530,000 pounds, an 18% increase from 2021, and 3% below the long-term average of 546,768 pounds. The 2022 level includes a Yellow Perch TAC for Pennsylvania's commercial trap net fishery of 100,000 pounds.
Currently, Pennsylvania is a very small part of the total Yellow Perch harvest in Lake Erie. Yellow Perch harvest has averaged about 52,000 pounds over the last five years. In 2021, Pennsylvania only harvested 21,000 pounds (0.6%) of the 3.3 million pounds harvested lake-wide.
The Yellow Perch and Walleye populations in Lake Erie are maintained strictly by natural reproduction. Good "hatches" and survival of young fish are necessary to provide fish for sport and commercial fisheries. The Lake Erie Walleye hatches have been record-setting over the last five years, while Yellow Perch hatches have been poor during the same period. Both fisheries reflect these trends. Walleye fishing is excellent while Yellow Perch fishing remains below average. Sport fishing is very self-regulating and anglers tend to fish for species based on the quality of the fishery. In 2021, 89% of Lake Erie boat anglers targeted Walleye, while only 2% targeted Yellow Perch.
Based on a 2022 abundance estimate of 76 million Walleyes age two or older, the Walleye population has declined about 9% from 2021 and approximately a third (28%) of the Walleye abundance will be two-year-old fish with an average size of 13 inches. It takes three years for Lake Erie Walleye to fully grow to the 15" minimum size limit.
The PFBC's objective is to keep harvest limits at conservative levels without being too restrictive to fisheries, but also be able to act promptly if Walleye or Yellow Perch populations reach critically low levels. The PFBC adopted a regulation in 2012 which established flexible creel limits for Walleyes and Yellow Perch based on the annual quotas established by the Lake Erie Committee.
Under the regulation, the PFBC sets daily creel limits for these species by April 15 each year.
"Adaptive fishing regulations are based on the most recent fishery assessment results and are better aligned with the current status of the Yellow Perch and Walleye stocks," added Murray. "This regulatory flexibility gave fisheries managers the ability to change daily harvest limits prior to the onset of the summer boat fishing season on Lake Erie."
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission