By MORGAN MANNS
As waterways are clearing of ice, they’re filling with fishermen and fisherwomen.
According to Mike Wilkerson, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Fish Management Supervisor, spring and fall months are the best time to fish because the fish are in peak activity.
“We typically see a decrease in the number of hours people spend fishing in the summer because as the water temperature increases, the fish don’t feed as much and are not as active,” he said.
Wilkerson said fish spawn, or reproduce, in the spring into the summer.
According to Wilkerson, there are a little over 100 species of fish throughout Ohio waterways, with roughly 60-80 of them in the Fostoria area. The most common kinds of sportfish in the area are walleye, saugeye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie and catfish.
“(The Division of Wildlife) has regulations on the sizes or total numbers of fish that can be kept,” Wilkerson said. “These regulations are meant to improve fishing conditions while ensuring the survival of the species’.”
Those fishing in Ohio may only bag 30 yellow perch per day; five largemouth bass per day with a minimum size limit of 12 inches; six catfish per day with only one over 28 inches; and six walleye/saugeye per day.
In Veterans Memorial, or Reservoir 6, there is a special regulation for crappie. Fishing enthusiasts may only catch the species if it is nine inches in length or longer and the daily limit is 30.
The measurement of a fish is taken in a straight line from the utmost end of the snout with the mouth closed to the utmost end of the tail fin when the tail fin is compressed, according to ODNR.
Wilkerson said a county officer will write a citation for individuals who take too many fish or fish that aren’t within the size limits. Fees vary from county to county.
“There are a couple reasons for the regulations,” he said. “One is to make sure everyone has a chance to catch the different species. That’s why we have bag limits. The other is to make better fishing opportunities. We want them to get to a certain size before they’re harvested so that they have a chance to reproduce.”
ODNR stocked Lake Lamberjack, or Reservoir 3, with trout Wednesday. The daily limit for catching trout is five. Wilkerson said trout fishing is a seasonal thing and that they typically don’t last into the summer months because they can’t survive or reproduce in the water’s rising temperatures. The trout comes from a hatchery in Castalia.
ODNR keeps track of fish populations in two ways: using different techniques to monitor species populations and surveying fishers on what species they’re catching and how many of each species they’re catching.
“It gives us an idea of what (species) are being caught the most and we can keep track of whether the population is going down or up,” Wilkerson said.
Fishing licenses are required for individuals 16 years of age or older if they’re fishing in any public body of water. Those fishing must have their license in their possession while fishing and must show the license to anyone on request.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, May 3 and 4 are Free Fishing Days in Ohio, which means that any Ohio resident may fish without a license.
The most important fishing equipment is the rod and reel, according to ODNR. Plenty of space is needed between the fisher and other people or objects to cast safely. Smaller baits are “attractive to more kinds and sizes of bait;” therefore, lures in the 1/8- to 1/4-ounce range are top pick. Fishers should choose colors that best reflect the color of live bait.
Wilkerson said beginners should use a simple rod and reel and simple bait, such as earthworms.
The survival of released sportfish averages 82 percent, according to ODNR. However, under certain situations, that percentage can decrease to nearly 25 percent. For catch-and-release fishing to succeed, released fish must not only swim away, but be able to resume normal functions, such as swimming, feeding, and growing.
Initial mortality typically occurs when a fish is hooked in a way that damages tissues, such as the gills or gullet, and results in severe bleeding, according to ODNR. Even if not initially wounded, a fish can suffer from “sub-lethal stressors,” such as prolonged exercise when being caught; degradation of the protective mucus when being handled or caught in a net; extended air exposure time during hook removal; and skeletal and muscular compression and extension experienced when fish are held vertically.
According to ODNR, the fish must be held horizontally to reduce the risk of skeletal structure damage.
For a fish to effectively transfer oxygen from the water to the blood stream, water must pass over the gill surfaces in a front to back direction, according to ODNR. Moving a fish back and forth in the water does not optimize oxygen uptake and can even be detrimental to recovery. Hold the fish steady or gently move it in an ‘S’ or a ‘figure 8’ pattern, so that it may naturally pulse the gills, inducing flow over the gill surfaces.
To minimize the amount of protective mucus removal, fishers should have wet hands when handling fish. By keeping this protective mucus in tact, the fish is less likely to suffer from damage to their internal organs.
“I could go on all day about fishing strategies and tips,” Wilkerson said. “The best thing is to get some advice from someone that does fish, find places where other people are fishing, and be patient.”
He said some people spend only a half hour on the waters fishing, while others stay out for anywhere from 6-8 hours.
“It’s not just about catching fish for some people,” he said. “It’s about being outdoors, enjoying nature and being with other people.”
For more information on fishing regulations, fishing tips or fishing in general, contact Wilkerson at 419-424-5000 or visit www.ohiodnr.com.