MOUNT VERNON — Winter still has a grip on Central Ohio, but that doesn’t mean fishermen can’t start getting plans made for the upcoming season. 2010-11 licenses go on sale March 1, and shortly, the weather will turn into prime fishing weather.
The new regulations are out, but for the most part, there are few changes this season. Perhaps the biggest change will be the imposing of size and bag limits on crappies in lakes across the Buckeye state.
“There have not been a lot of changes, but there have been some that will affect people here in the county,” said Knox County Wildlife Office Mike Miller. “Knox Lake is now going to have a 9-inch size limit on crappies, and that’s on both white crappie and black crappie. There is also a daily bag limit of 30 fish. There has not been any limits on bag limit or size in the past, so that will be something different this spring. Some other lakes near here that are going to have this new regulation as well are Alum Creek, Griggs, Hargus and Hoover. If someone likes to travel over to Leesville Lake or O’Shaughnessy, those are also affected. Pleasant Hill and Clear Fork also have the same size and bag limits.”
While the crappie population in many lakes is good, the limits are being imposed to help make them better.
“This is being done to improve the crappie fishing in the lakes,” said Miller. “Years ago, Knox Lake had a really good black crappie fishery, but as the weed beds in the lake died out, the crappie fishing died out. Then, about seven or eight years ago, (the Division of Wildlife) took about 400 white crappie and reintroduced those to the lake. Since then, the population has grown, mostly because the habitat has changed in the lake. You can still catch some black crappie, but it is mostly white crappie now. We’ve monitored the population in the lakes each fall, and it was determined that the size limit and bag limits would improve the crappie populations. The hope is, by instituting this, there will be much better fishing in years to come.
“The hope is we can have a really good crappie lake like we do a bass lake. Knox is one of the top 3 bass fishing lakes in all of Ohio. It used to be No. 1 in total bass caught and angling pressure. Now, it has dropped back into the top 3 or top 5. It is considered a trophy lake because of the 18-inch size limit on largemouth bass.”
Miller encourages all fishermen to pick up a copy of the new rules and regulations and read through it as to avoid any misunderstandings. It is also a good way to pass these next couple of weeks before the licenses go on sale.
“It is really important that when people get their new fishing license, they read over the regulations, particularly under the site-specific regulations,” said Miller. “It is important because it is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree to have undersized crappie of exceed the bag limit. Each violation is a misdemeanor, so technically, each fish is a separate violation. Most likely, though, a person would only receive one summons or citation. There is also restitution values for each violation.”
One other change implemented by the Division of Wildlife this year will affect any fishermen heading up to Lake Erie. Bag limits and size limits for walleye and yellow perch will now be set on May 1 instead of earlier in the year.
“The other change this year deals with Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch limits,” Miller said. “Those are going to be set later in the year — May 1. Those are currently not set, so if you are going to Lake Erie later in the year, you have to pay attention to what those limits are. Currently, for walleye, until the last day of February, the limit is 15 inches with a daily bag limit of 6. From March 1 through April 30, the bag limit is 4. With yellow perch, there is no minimum size, but if you are west of the Huron pier it is a 25 bag limit. If you are east, it is a 30 bag limit.
“Bag limits go from midnight to midnight,” Miller added. “It is based on one day.”
PUBLIC INVITED TO COMMENT: The Division of Wildlife will hold its annual open houses on Saturday, March 6, at each of the five district offices across the state. The hearings will be held from noon to 3 p.m. At each open house fish and wildlife biologists as well as wildlife officers will be on hand to answer questions as well as take suggestions and comments.
“That is the opportunity for the public to have input into the wildlife regulations,” Miller said. “All you have to do is show up between those hours, and ask questions. Each area is broken down in specific sections — forest game, upland game, migratory birds, deer, etc. You can ask questions, pick up information and submit suggestions in writing. You can spend as much time as you want or as little as you want. It is a good opportunity to be involved in the process. Sometimes good ideas do pop up from it, and sometimes things don’t happen because of the feedback.”
The District 1 office, which serves Knox, Morrow and Licking counties, is located in Columbus at 1500 Dublin Road. For more information, call (800) WILDLIFE or go online to www.wildohio.com to view the proposed regulation changes and hunting season dates.
REPTILES TAKING CENTER STAGE: The second annual Ohio Reptile Research and Conservation Conference will be held in Columbus on March 13, and is open to the public. The conference, sponsored by the Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Biological Survey, will focus on reptiles and amphibians found in Ohio.
“There are going to be speakers from all over Ohio doing presentations about native Ohio snakes, lizards, turtles and amphibians,” said Miller. “It is a great opportunity for people to be able to network with other herpetologists and naturalists; there is a lot of information there.
“There is a registration fee that includes all conference materials, breaks and a box lunch. You can do onsite registration for the same fees, but with no lunch. Also, as an added bonus, all registrants will receive an inaugural Ohio Wildlife Legacy stamp. That alone is worth $15.”
For more information, contact (614) 457-8787 or e-mail .