The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife is reminding all those who enjoy hunting and fishing to check the expiration date on their licenses before heading into the field this year.
March 1 is the traditional start of Ohio’s fishing and hunting license year. However, new license options give those who enjoy the outdoors more choices than ever before. If your hunting or fishing license has expired, you can purchase a new one online at wildohio.gov and at hundreds of participating agents throughout the state.
Ohio’s annual resident hunting licenses for the 2020-2021 seasons are $19 and available beginning March 1. Hunting licenses are valid immediately after purchase through Feb. 28, 2021. Ohio’s resident fishing licenses are $25 and are valid for one year from the date of purchase. An Ohio fishing license can be purchased up to 30 days prior to its expiration date.
After an online purchase, including by smartphone, anyone with an online account can obtain a free reprint of a license or permit (this option is not available at agents). Customers now have the option of choosing automatic license renewal when purchasing online. The selected license will renew automatically and ensure the license buyer always has a valid license.
Funds from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, along with excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment directly impact wildlife management and habitat conservation efforts here in Ohio. In 2019, the Division of Wildlife purchased thousands of acres of high-quality habitat which will now be open for public use. Funds also support improvements to fishing access, shooting ranges, and wildlife areas. Visit wildohio.gov to learn more.
• The outlook for the Lake Erie walleye fishing for 2020 remains very strong. In fact, anglers are taking advantage of ice free water and are catching limits already slow trolling crankbaits. Expect the jig bite to start in a few short weeks when they move into shallower water to spawn.
In 2018, the Division of Wildlife estimated that there was a whopping 41 million walleye in Lake Erie thanks to a phenomenal 2015 hatch. They estimate that this past year’s hatch was above average as well so we can expect the walleye boom to continue. In fact, traditionally, the bag limit drops to four per angler during the spawn and usually remained four until April 30th to protect the reproducers. But because of the strong population, this year the limit will remain six per angler all spring long.
The 1980’s have always been considered the boom of Lake Erie walleye fishing but I believe we are experiencing the best years right now. The walleye harvest rate in the 1980s was an impressive .05 walleye caught per hour, or one walleye caught during two hours of fishing. Last year, unofficially the harvest rate soared to .08 fish per hour, basically doubling the 1980’s record. The ODNR August trawl surveys show that this year’s hatch was exceptional as well so we can expect the walleye fishing to be phenomenal for years to come.
As well as the walleye fishing has been, the perch fishermen have been crying the blues especially this past fall. Surprisingly, the August crawl survey showed a strong population of perch as well as a very good 2019 hatch. We had a big-year class in 2018, and a similar year class in 2019. The yellow perch index was 467, more than the 20-year average of 317. The Western Basin perch hatches have been stronger than the hatches around the Central Basin.
So why were the 2019 perch harvest rates so drastically low? It was generally considered that the large walleye population was feeding on the perch hurting their overall numbers but the August trawl surveys show that isn’t so much the case. There are a lot of theories why the perch fishing has been so tough, but it’s generally agreed that it is more of a behavior change of perch than anything else.
Biologists have noticed a distinct diet shift, with perch foraging on invertebrates such as spiny water fleas and midge and mayfly larvae instead of emerald shiner minnows and other small fish. The popular panfish are also not being found in their traditional haunts, or relating to the lake bottom where they usually feed on minnows. So the perch are there, but traditional fishing methods are no longer working like they used to. Anglers are going to have to adapt their methods to match what they are feeding on if they want to improve their harvest rates in 2020. Either way, the spring and summer fishing should be awesome so be sure to take advantage of it.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.