Now researchers from the Ohio Division of Wildlife are conducting research to learn more about Lake Erie's third most sought-after sportfish.
Information collected will help biologists determine what fraction of the smallmouth population is removed by fishing each year, as well as the extent to which smallmouth bass move about the lake. This, in turn, will help determine appropriate management strategies and regulations for this popular species.
"Angling pressure for these fun-to-catch fighters has increased five-fold during the 1990s," said Gary Isbell, executive administrator for the Division's Fisheries Management Section. "Although catch-and-release practices by the majority of bass anglers has helped sustain Lake Erie's smallmouth population, increased fishing pressure leads to increased harvest. The current studies will help us better determine harvest and other biological factors that are affecting the bass population."
In 1999, Division biologists collected bass in areas near South Bass, Middle Bass, and North Bass islands during the spring and early summer. The bass were tagged and examined for length, weight, age, and sex before being released. Information supplied by anglers who catch these tagged fish will help the Division learn more about smallmouth bass movements, habitat use, stock composition, spawning habitats, early life history, and the number of bass harvested by anglers annually. Additional tagging is being conducted at artificial reefs off Cleveland - also considered bass hot spots - through a cooperative project with the Ohio Sea Grant Extension Program.
Besides the tagging studies, the Division is sponsoring research being conducted by The Ohio State University. Researchers are using scuba gear for underwater observations to document spawning habits and interactions between smallmouth bass and exotic species, particularly gobies. The goby, that plentiful, little bait-stealing invader species that entered the Great Lakes in 1990, has been observed preying on eggs and fry of smallmouth bass.
Tagged fish bear a metal tag inserted in the lower jaw. When reporting a tagged fish, anglers are asked to include the species of fish caught, the five-digit tag number, date the fish was caught, location caught as specific as possible, fish length, whether the fish was kept or released, and the angler's name, address, and telephone number. Anglers who release a tagged fish should not remove the tag, only record the tag number.
Anglers who catch a tagged smallmouth bass in Lake Erie are encouraged to report it to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Lake Erie Fisheries Unit, 305 E. Shoreline Dr., Sandusky, Ohio 44870; phone: (419) 625-8062.
Melissa Hathaway is an angler and the Lake Erie Information Officer at the Ohio Division of Wildlife offices in Sandusky,Ohio.
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