Quarterly Guest Commentary Letter
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The Perch are Gone, The WDNR is still here. It should the other way around!
Who Should the People Believe?

Why should the perch anglers, the media, NRB members, and State Legislators believe anything coming from the mouths of inept Fisheries Managers or DNR biologists? We now know what happen to the Yellow Perch fishery in southwestern Lake Michigan. It’s now been determined the parties responsible for its collapse. Of course the sport perch anglers, disregarding the DNR’s rhetoric, knew all the time were the problems were. It was the commercial perch nets, along with the abetting DNR’s fishery personnel. They set policy based on their professional judgment, which we always questioned. Like non-remorseful cheap criminals the WDNR’s fisheries personnel also denies they did anything wrong. And with that attitude they are determined to repeat their previous errors with continual mismanagement of our Zone 3 Yellow Perch.
History of the Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Decline and Why The Current Rules
All concerned perch anglers have heard the same rhetoric, since the sixties from the four different DNR's bordering Lake Michigan. But the simple truths are Lake Michigan was, badly managed, over fished, under policed, and exploited by the DNR’s, and commercial fishers just as all the oceans on the planet are. And is still being done by commercial Chub nets in Lake Michigan, that are killing Yellow Perch and other sport species. This is being done with the blessing of the DNR’s. The WDNR and the IDNR are contradictions in perch management. The WDNR with their 45 day closed season would like everyone, to believe they are better managing the resource by protecting the spawning perch. And Illinois says they are doing so by closing the season during a high harvest month, which is July. There lies the contradiction. We know that there are spawning perch caught in commercial nets in Zone 3, so neither State really cares.
The perch problems are not about exotic species, climate changes, alewives, Gobbies and other distracting junk, its about past and present stupid fish management practices period!
Historically the Native Yellow Perch in Lake Michigan have, like all species with a price on their heads, been exploited to near extinction. The exception was L.M. waters with out Commercial perch nets. Examples, in 1986 of the three southern Lake Michigan counties of Wisconsin there were 15.1 million feet of commercial perch nets, which equal 3000 miles of net over a 45-mile distance. This was done with the blessings the Secretary of the WDNR, the WDNR, NRB members, and other policy makers. Year after year, how could any perch survive that net coverage? Needless to say those nets destroyed the prime female Yellow Perch spawning biomasses in Zone 3. Those nets wiped out all the following generations of Yellow Perch and Zone 3. The anglers are still paying the price and will continually pay, without another perch restocking programs.
As late as Oct. 2001 there was a huge commercial kill of the 1998-year class of perch off Milwaukee County. The huge size of the commercial Chub nets, we estimated killed over 96,000 perch. Those nets are stilling present and killing perch in Zone 3. This is being done with the blessings of the WDNR and other WI. policy makers.
Comparing Sport Angling and Commercial
Whereas perch movements restrict sport angler’s harvest, so does weather, wind, darkness, and seasons and the sport anglers, with proper controls, can not harm the resource. Whereas commercial perch nets kill 24-7 every day of the year and are presently killing perch.
What would’ve Happened Without Nets
Biology, logic, and common sense suggest that without the nets the perch by their shear biomass numbers would have reproduce in all areas of Lake Michigan successfully year after year, with some years much better than others just as was going on eons before. And with better controls starting back in1986 would still be doing.
Who’s Responsibility for the Decimated Perch?
In 1986, after the decline of the perch by over fishing additional restrictions were placed on sport and commercial fishers. But wait, there were still Yellow Perch left in Zone 3 so instead of a commercial closure the WDNR gave the Netters one more opportunity to kill the remaining Perch in Zone 3. This was done with the blessing of the WDNR and other policy makers. The commercials went to work; quotas were abused and over 900,000 lbs of illegal perch taken in nets in each of the following three years. The little remaining female spawning biomass was, with that slaughter, wiped out and the sport anglers paid the price because of the WDNR's mis-management of our perch resource. This was done with the blessing of the WDNR and other policy makers. Why weren’t the perch nets removed? What was this DNR brain trust doing with their education? Why were quotas set so high? Where was the WDNR enforcement of these quotas? Were enforcers on some Lake Michigan pier watching for an angler with a few perch over the limit?
By 1996 the Perch were Decimated
In 1996 additional restrictions were placed on sport anglers and no more commercial perch netting, again the DNR’s were to late, the Yellow Perch were done in. During the previous ten years what were these DNR biologists and fisheries managers doing? How much creditability can ever be given DNR fisheries personnel that with all the resources at there disposal they lacked the intelligence and common sense to pull those commercial nets sooner? The sport anglers sitting on the piers knew that and I testified to that in 1986. The WDNR hires PHD’s to give creditability to they’re stupidly. But university degrees in the WDNR do not equate to intelligence in the WDNR Fisheries Div. The collapse of the Yellow Perch in Zone 3 proves, that coupled with their stance that hundreds of millions of 15 different species of fish, all stocked successfully in L.M. there is only the Yellow Perch stocking that "is a ridiculous idea". Sounds like something from the WDNR’s Fisheries Div., and it was!
Why The Current Most Restrictive WI. Rules
By this, point (1995), the perch fishery was ruined in southwestern Lake Michigan. A four-state summit meeting decided things were to be divided by the amount of damage each state did to the perch resource. The State of Michigan had no commercial perch fishing since 1968 and did little damage to the resource so their sport anglers are allowed 35 perch and there is no closed season. Indiana had 5 commercial perch fishers, their sport anglers are allowed 15 and no closed season, Illinois had 15 commercials, so they have 15 limit and 31 day closed season. Wisconsin had 55 commercial perch fishers, thousands of miles of killer perch nets off WI’s southwestern shore, so the sport anglers have a 5 perch limit and a 45-day closed season. Its that simple. Again you can thank the WDNR’s biologists and fisheries managers for attempting a job beyond their capabilities. Their stupidly continues today with a high ranking DNR fishery person saying that stocking perch, "is a ridiculous idea", not base on the previous successful 1978-1984 perch stockings in Zone 3, but on his professional judgment. . And the WDNR’s continuing their lunacy by not to inconvenience the commercial fishers by have them move their Chub nets to deeper waters in Zone 3 of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan thus protecting the few remaining perch in Zone 3?
Most of this was happening when George Meyer was Secretary of the WDNR and appointed by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board so that type of system is no better than the present Governor appointment system.

Carlton H. Alt
Wisconsin's Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Conservation Groups


Here's one from Steve in Glendale

Someone just told me the other day, “No matter how many or how few commercials, they are catching perch for the citizens that do not fish or buy a license”.

My reply (which is only my opinion):
“Who says that perch have to come from commercials and not aquafarmers, anybody buy a tree lately from state land? No, odds are you buy trees from a tree farm, something the lumber industry learned decades ago. Just like cattle ranchers replaced buffalo hunters and farming replaced gathering, and Catfish farmers down south.
The politicians need to know that the aquafarmers have been talking to others and the DNR about how much good they can do for the state. And do you think the DNR is telling the Madison politicians how good aguafarming would be to this state? I don’t think so.
If aquafarmers raise surplus game fish at a lower per unit cost, who loses their big bureaucracy with their hatcheries like Rosewood which is costing millions to upgrade? That’s right the WDNR, the same folks selling our public hatchery walleyes to sport clubs.
Here’s one for you to ask your politician friends. The state and city no longer collect garbage anymore, because private industry does it so much cheaper, what in the world makes anyone think that raising fish would be any different. The only thing really needed is a good vet to certify the fish are free of disease, easier to do on a small private pond then in the wild. Hell, I suspect that's why the DNR buys fish from aquafarmers in Minnesota, so, as stifle possible growth and the resulting competition here from aguafarmers. And guess what, a disease was still introduced to a public lake, along with the kidney disease for the salmon. 0 and 2 for the DNR, should we mention CWD? Time for politicians to start working for the people, and open their eyes. Aren’t the people allowed to buy their perch from the cheapest supplier? The DNR only encourages high prices in perch, which encourages commercials and politicians to keep the money flowing. How many commercials would be willing to see perch price go from $14 to $4-5 per pound? It’s likely that in the future, the Lake Michigan perch will fail the EPA test for PCB’s and other toxins, then things will change. It won’t be because a few perch are no longer coming to the market, but instead because that source of money to the selected few will have been eliminated by outside forces. And there will be a shortage of fish, because the aquafarmers were encouraged to go away.
Aren’t the people entitled to great pier fishing and perch charters in downtown Milwaukee, like in Lake Erie, aren't people allowed to take a risk on a perch charter business? Aren't bait stores allowed to sell more? The DNR is using public dollars to support an arcane business that for over the last 13 years was so inefficient, even when the fish were free, the commercials still have to be supported by the sportsmen and the public of this state. The people of this state deserve fair and open markets, not markets for the privileged 68 or the DNR protecting it's bureaucracy. It’s a joke, Michigan knew that in 1969, the public deserves the highest value for their public resource (Great Lakes fish), not a price so low that he has to be subsidized”.