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Volume XVII, Issue 2 - January 8 - January 14, 2009
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Yellow Perch Update

Some changes have been proposed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for the 2009 season:

1. A 50/50 split of the harvest between recreational and commercial fishermen. In past years, the commercial harvest was approximately 90 percent of all fish taken.

2. Raising the recreational limit to 10 fish (previously five).

3. Opening previously closed areas to recreational angling.

4. Allowing commercial harvest from January 1 thru March 10 with no daily landing limit.

It is refreshing to see recreational fishing for yellow perch supported by DNR, but I am not at all sure the population is ready to withstand the increase in the recreational possession limit while still permitting commercial netting during the spawn.

Send your comments on the proposed changes to Paul Piavis: ppiavis@dnr.state.md.us

Dreaming of Yellow Perch

In five short weeks, doing can replace dreaming

Frigid temperatures and howling winds have thwarted most of my hopes for outdoor time — but not my dreaming. I’m dreaming of the yellow perch run. It’s only five weeks away, the fish gods and the weather willing.

I’m determined to get in on the action as soon as it starts. I have found the fish sporting to catch and incredibly delicious. Plus, my first New Year’s resolution was to get the fishing season started early, and this species fits that requirement.

Doing some basic research on the yellow perch over last winter, I had occasion to talk with Paul Piavis of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Paul is in charge of DNR’s yellow perch program and has a thorough knowledge of this particularly valuable fish.

Known mostly to us old timers as a yellow ned, or simply a ned, the yellow perch is the first fish of the year to become available to anglers of the Tidewater. While white perch and rockfish are still napping deep in their Bay wintering grounds, the yellows are schooled up, hungry and on the move. Eager to spawn, they begin traipsing up natal tributaries by the third week in February.

This late-winter, early-spring migration, which many think of as dependent on water temperature, is really triggered more by the photoperiod (length of the day) than by any other initiating condition.

The males ascend the rivers and feeder streams first and remain until the last female has come and gone. The larger roe-bearing females arrive in surges. When water temperatures reach 47 to 48 degrees, they begin to spawn. The eggs are laid in long, gelatinous strands on submerged structures such as logs, tree branches, vegetation and rocky strata. The strands will then be fertilized by any number of males.

The fry hatch in two to three weeks, depending on water temperature. They feed on zooplankton as they move downstream, seeking more food and safety from predation.

Fishing ’Em

Mature yellow perch are aggressive feeders during the spawn and can be caught by even casual anglers using minnows, grass shrimp and worms of all types. In the chilly waters of the early spring they bite best on live bait; as the water temperatures rise into the high 40s, they can be successfully targeted with flies, spinners, spoons and small plugs.

The spring yellow perch run was once a tremendously popular angling tradition on the Tidewater. Over the last 15 years, their numbers declined in many rivers due to pronounced water quality problems and commercial overharvest. But the species now appears to be on the rebound.

Excellent spawns in 2003 and 2004 should result in two very strong class years returning for 2009, with fish in the 11- to 12-inch size. With a lifespan of over 12 years, yellow perch can reach 18 inches in length and up to three pounds weight. As a table fish, they are better than excellent; not a few anglers claim them as the best there is.

Finding ’Em

Present in virtually all of the Bay tributaries, yellow perch also substantially populate freshwater impoundments such as Piney Run, Liberty, Loch Raven and Prettyboy reservoirs and Deep Creek Lake. Impounded neds follow a similar springtime spawning pattern, migrating to the shallows and feeder streams to spawn in February and March.

The Maryland Guide to Freshwater Fishing identifies all of the locations that hold good sweet-water populations of yellow perch. Get yours free from Maryland DNR Freshwater Fisheries Division: 410-645-6776.

Tidewater tributary locations open to public angling that have good populations of spawning yellow perch are identified on the DNR Website (www.dnr.state.md.us) at the Maps and Ramp Guide webpage of the Fisheries section.

Also on that site, you can learn more about the fish, the state management program or assist in new, DNR yellow perch data gathering activities.

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