Oak Harbor, OH — Anglers can help fishery managers by taking yellow perch they catch this year in Lake Erie to be scanned for microchips at one of seven stations along the coast. A collaborative project among the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Ohio Sea Grant aims to study fish behavior, migration, population size and the rate of death by natural causes using data the public’s scanning efforts will provide.
“This research will help fisheries biologists better understand movement patterns of yellow perch, which in turn will assist agencies to better manage the yellow perch fishery,” said Patrick Kocovsky, a fishery biologist with the USGS Lake Erie Biological Station.
The microchips, called PIT tags, are about the size of a grain of rice and work similar to a pet microchip. Because of their small size, it is impossible to tell if a fish is tagged without scanning it. The part of the fish containing the tag is removed as a part of normal cleaning, so tagged fish are safe to eat.
Anglers can simply take their catch of yellow perch to one of the scanning facilities and pass their coolers through the scanner.
Sport fishing on Lake Erie is a $1 billion industry and important to Ohio’s coastal economies, and one of the most important species is yellow perch, according to Tory Gabriel, fisheries outreach coordinator and extension program leader for Ohio Sea Grant.
“With this project, anglers have a chance to provide data to the fisheries managers and, in the long term, actually help in keeping Lake Erie a world-class fishery,” Gabriel said.
More than 4,300 yellow perch were tagged during the 2013, 2014 and 2015 spawning seasons. Scanners on commercial trap net boats and at cleaning houses have scanned more than 4 million fish so far.
Preliminary results of the study show that yellow perch tend to stick together in groups and stay within a limited area of Lake Erie.
“This is another case where the tagging of animals has provided valuable information and insight toward the understanding and management of species,” said Carey Knight, fisheries biologist with the ODNR Division of Wildlife, adding that partnerships with other organizations helped the study go smoothly.
Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 33 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For more information, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.
ODNR Division of Wildlife
USGS Lake Erie Biological Station