Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Time Line -
Dedicated to providing all the information which seems to points to a pattern by the WDNR of favoring the commercial fishing industry, despite State Statue, the cost and the damage to various sport fisheries. (representing the opinion of the authors of this website and contributing authors.)
Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Conservation Groups
Year Commercial Harvest lbs. % female  

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Old page sport heritage ----------------------------------------------------------- OSH

1953 264,000     Commercial Lake Trout fishery is closed, shifting commercial pressure to other species.
1954 440,000      
1955 791,000     Spread sheet of Commercial fishing back to 1882
1956 764,000      
1957 992,000     commercial fishing of alewives started.
1958 1,237,000     Commercial perch harvest up almost 500% since the closure of Lake Trout.
1959 462,000      
1960 1,048,000     Current Graded Mesh Survey
1961 1,697,000      
1962 1,037,000      
1963 1,799,000      
1964 1,731,000      
1965 157,000     Perch overfished first time (alewives blamed) ;5 yr average of 1.5 million lbs average harvest before vs 52,000 after 1965, only took 12 years after the Trout closure to fish out the perch.
1966 76,000      
1967 62,000      
1968 25,000      
1969 37,000      
1970 60,000     State of Michigan closes commercial fishing
1971 55,000   Value of commercial harvests by year USGS
1972 91,000      
1973 69,000      
1974 39,000     Half way point for commercial alewive harvest, with 271 million lbs. taken. First 4 million of 30 million walleys stocked in Door Co.
1975 55,000      
1976 86,000    


1977 33,000     Wisconsin Legislature (Chapter 418, Laws of 1977, Section 923 (37) (d) 3) - Revision of Laws for the WDNR, including 'an economically viable' and stable commercial fishery and an active recreational fishery. Economically viable? how do subsidies from sport license money starting in 1989,do that? Way to break the law? Short version of just (37) click here. Active recreational fishery, not for perch starting in 1995 with the shortage of those fish.
Commercial Herring fishery closed.
1978 23,000     179,000 inland strain yellow perch planted in Lake Michigan off Milwaukee. Walleyes stocked in Green Bay,
1979 7,000     Commercial Walleye fishing closed.
1980 6,000      
1981 57,000     200,000 Green Bay strain yellow perch stocked in Milwaukee Harbor, 20 million more walleyes stocked in Green Bay
1982 47,000     No limit on commercial harvest of perch, sport harvest is 50
1983 156,000     Last 10 million of 23 million walleyes stocked in Lake Michigan off of Manitowoc
1984 270,000     Commercial Carp fishing closed. See some other commercial closures and cuts
1985 249,000     Commercial perch harvest up 40 fold, just 4 years after the second stocking of perch by WDNR.
1986 372,000 46%   7.5 " average size of sport caught perch, 8.9" for commercially caught; First 2 of 10 million walleyes stocked Milwaukee over next 8 years. Best response ever by commercials in reporting perch tags, was beer the reason? .
1987 545,000 44%   Just 9 years after the first stocking, commercials report taking about 1.6 million perch, so much for the WDNR protecting a fish population that had to be stocked to save it, while the stocked Walleye fishery was closed 8 years ago.
1988 431,000 44%   Entire 20 million perch population only able to support sport harvest (per Dr. Wilberg);  
FM-40-88 introduced to define Northern Pike as an illegal fish, thereby permanently protecting them from any future commercial fishing.
1989 267,000 31%   Wisconsin Commercial Quota System put in place for perch trying to cut down on violating & 15 million feet of net set off Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha Co,'s - harvest split 60/40 by weight, favoring commercials. The reward for taking, more and larger perch is to give commercials, more large perch.
Quota system installed by WDNR now damages the perch fishery in the following ways:
-Allows commercials to target pre-spawn perch, fishing in March & April as never before to almost 33% of total effort.             Longer season means fewer checks by wardens (only 2.5% of all trips) and /or increased cost of monitoring the fleet.
-Encourages setting larger mesh nets to catch larger perch, mostly female and placing them on the spawning reefs.
-Pounds of fish caught in those nets, unknown, due to gross violations in reporting, see CanAm, see Dr. Wilberg.
Surveys find recruitment now drops to all most nothing, and %females which had been stable at around 40%+ , quickly drops to 5% before the WDNR is forced to close commercial fishing of perch in Lake Michigan.
How long would a walleye or salmon fishery survive if nets were strung across the river during spawning runs, but yet the WDNR allowed the placements of nets on perch reefs for 48 weeks of they year.
1990 253,000 39%   CanAm sting starts. 12 of 39 commercial fishers have 80% of quota. Northern Pike commercial fishery closed.
1991 282,000 28%   One-third ($61,000) of expenditures for commercial fishing management during the 1991-92 fiscal year were derived from sport license fees. First Walleye shows up in Milwaukee creel survey after almost 7 million walleyes stocked.
Third year of commercial perch fishing under Quota system, estimate an average of 74% of all critial spawning female perch were caught by commercials, for each of the past 3 years. So starts the destruction of the perch fishery in Lake Michigan?
1992 282,000 18%   Comercial alewife fishery closed after a total of 624 million lbs. but not Smelt, even though their number are down. Salmon are found to be starving? Alewife predation blamed for failure of young of perch, what alewives? See 1997.
1993 266,000 14%  

CanAm Ends 406,000 lbs of illegal perch admitted being taken, yet WNDR Quota Analysis finds no need to change commercial quota limit of 320,000 lbs (about 960,000 perch) to offset illegal harvest and despite current lack of females.

CanAm finds fishers failed to report fish caught. This could be a tool for law enforcement, as trips and net usage are easier to check. This would show up as efficiency, fish caught per trip and net use. If you check the commercial fishing database, it is surprising to see, for some fishers, efficiency drops after 1988 (quota system) while others fishers improve.

1994 254,000 11%   The WDNR appears to be still be in violation of NR 1.01 (9) (a),(b) & (c)
1995 126,000 10%   WDNR Quota Analysis NOW(?) finds need to cut perch harvest so FM-2-95 introduced to cut perch limit by 65% to 107,000 lbs for commercials. Michigan DNR stocks 145,402 perch in Lake Michigan, at Little Bay De Noc, 'These yellow perch plants were all transfers of surplus fish from inland rearing ponds or fish that were removed from inland lakes to reduce population densities.'
1996 20,000 5%   Sport harvest is lowered to 5 and commercial perch fishery temporarily closed; 11 Lake Superior Lake Trout fishers bought out for $1.4 million. 1995 limit of 11,600 Lake Trout raised to 13,430 in 1997, why wasn't the limit set to 6,480 as per agreement?  I believe that sportsmen were ripped off of $1.4 million.
WDNR finds the department lacks adequate law enforcement to monitor commercial fishers. Anyone surprised the perch disappeared?
1997 0 11%   WNDR early perch study and broodstock project, purpose to harvest 10 skeins of perch eggs, can only collect 6 which are hatched and kept by Binkowski;
What kind of questionable practice is taking all the perch eggs you can find near a historic perch-spawning reef, claiming use for broodstock, only to then NOT return those fish back into the lake at that site. Almost an entire year’s genetic memory removed with the goal of preserving them? Not to have returned those perch was I consider a perversion of the original intent and a tragic lose of valuable, possibly unique genetic traits. Where is the public's promised broodstock?
Alewife stomachs examined for predation of larva perch, no perch found in alewife's stomach by WNDR.
1998   20%   Zero perch egg skeins found on Green Can reef but the best perch year class in over 8 years ??!!! Did some of those perch eggs get dropped back in the lake after hatching?;    Perch Population est. at all time low, 674,000 perch for all of zone 3.
Marinette Perch Investigation, shows high number of violations, small penalties.
Workshop on Perch Stocking, page 6 only mentions the 1981 stocking, why was info as to 1978 stocking withheld? Also why didn't anyone think it strange that just 5 years after the first stocking, commercial harvest was up 2500% off it's 1980 low? Also note why Mr. Anderson, a commercial fisher, was against stocking perch again. Is the WDNR also against stocking perch for the same reason, to keep a commercial perch fishery? If so, WHY?
1999   42%   9.6" average sport perch. Per USGS Green Bay commercial perch were worth 66 cents each. EPA estimates sport value
2000   64%  

Recommendations of the Great Lakes Commercial Fisheries Task Force. (it's big so takes time to download)
Some points, discussion to increase inspections 8 fold, access to GPR funds to replace est. $350,000 per year of Fish & Wildlife Account (FWA) monies. Don't want to raise fees to levels which would be self supporting as required by law? Hope to stop needing FWA monies within 5 years. I get nervous when someone talks about needing to increase subsidies to $2 million per year and then ask for Tax dollars, anyone else? 192 perch reported in WDNR Milw. creel survey vs. 0 walleyes

Per a NOAA report : "Yellow perch Perca flavescens is the most important nearshore sport fish in Lake Michigan, comprising nearly 85% of all recreationally caught fish and forming the basis of a multi-million dollar fishery. Furthermore, yellow perch is an important ecological link between the nearshore and pelagic food webs".
So why is the WDNR protecting and encouraging the commercial fishing of perch instead of protecting not only the perch themselves but the number one recreationally caught fish?

2001   64%   Chub nets catches 20% of all perch taken from Lake Michigan for the year. DNR warnings not heeded?
2002   62%  

FH-04-02 cut sport season 15 days in June to save large female perch to spawn; Yet per catch records, up to 54 times as many females were caught commercially in the 15 days before spawning 1989-1993?
Why aren't the 10"+ females in Green Bay protected? Another double standard?

Sportsmen lose 15 days perch fishing to protect remaining female perch, yet Broodstock perch from 1997 were available to replace those netted perch, why didn't the WDNR use them for restocking? Because to stock perch is to end commercial perch fishing forever? It would appear that the WDNR is more concerned with protecting commercial perch fishing, then perch?

2003   48%   160% ($321,000) of expenditures for commercial fishing management during the 2003-04 fiscal year were derived from sport/wildlife license fees. This in light of perch being worth 10 times as much if sport caught.
2004   40%  

Dr. Wilburg's finalized perch study, finds female perch were overfished 1986-2002, with the the result that there probably aren't enough to repopulate the lake, also estimates that illegal harvest during CanAm was 1.9 million lbs. (about 6 million perch).
Perch live longer when nets are not present, of 1998 year class perch caught, 67% for Lake Michigan vs 4% for GB. Green Bay commercial perch worth 44 cents each. Michigan's larger perch worth up to $3 .

2005   36%  

1.2 million perch are stocked in Lake Superior; Value of WI Perch Aquaculture is $204,000 vs. $50,500 for Green Bay Commercial Harvest. Glover finds perch really don't move much on Lake Michigan off Milwaukee .

2006   47%  

10.3 " average size of sport caught perch, down from 10.9" peak in 2003. At $4 per hour to the economy, millions have been lost every year from lack of sport perch fishermen, for Racine, Kenosha and Milw. counties alone. here too

"Economics alone demands that government do everything possible to maintain a viable sport fishery. Compared with an estimated $2.1 million economic impact of the five Illinois commercial operators, the Chicago sport perch fishery sustains and estimated value of $80 million". read here

Why are so many pounds of public fish being given to so few commercial fishers?

2007   52%  

4 (out of 38) commercial fishers have 76% of the quota for all LM perch; 168 perch reported in WDNR Milwaukee creel survey vs. 15 walleyes

Hearing for increasing the commercial quota in Green Bay. Question 24. "Comment: Commercial harvest can decimate a yellow perch population. Response: This is correct."

1971 to date, about $318 million (adjusted for inflation) of public fish have been given away to Wisconsin commercial fisherman. source USGS. Click here. How big does this number have to be, to not receive sport license monies?

2008   49%  

Indiana study finds overfishing of Lake Michigan Yellow Perch, supporting Willberg's conclusions.

May -Spring Hearing, Question 58 - should commercial perch fishing on Lake Michigan be closed permanently? The vote was 69 counties 'yes' vs. 3 counties 'no'. Please call and remind your representative of this.

June - Perch for tomorrow Article by Paul Smith. What's with the conflicting data? If a limit of perch is 35 in Michigan and 5 in Wisconsin, why are mussels blamed, are there 7 times as many mussels in Wisconsin waters? Are there really any studies finding YOY (young of year) perch to be starving? Or is lack of YOY perch due to lack of females? WDNR stated that stocking of perch is “not realistic”, but then why in the past, did they stock perch? Salmon, Trout, Walleye, none of those YOY seem to survive either, so why is it realistic to stock those species but not perch?

Good new bad news from the Conservation Congress:
The resolution to close Lake Michigan Grids 1901,1902, and 2002 in order to protect perch from nets was unanimously approved to go forward to the spring hearing for a vote by the public.
The bad news: The WDNR rejected Question 58 from April’s Conservation Vote which passed 69 to 3, to permanently close commercial yellow perch fishing. Per the WDNR, it considers the perch fishery closed? Then why do perch show up in NR25? This despite the fact that 90% of all commercial catch is Whitefish and Chubs. Why so worried about so few fish that haven't been taken in over 13 years?
I guess that the public’s frustration of trying to protect their perch doesn’t compare to the WDNR wanting a chance to have the perch overfished yet a third time? If the Legislature isn't going to hold the WDNR to their own rules, then why have them?

This site has just received some preliminary information regarding the possible domestication of the WI. Lake Michigan strain of Yellow Perch. There also may have an attempted sale or possible sale of 14,000 Yellow Perch. This site will post details as they made available to us.

FH-13-08, the new rules for commercial fishing - this would have been the proper time to save sportmen from being taxed $350,000 per year to subsidize the commercial fleet, with estimates having that possibly rise to $1-$2 million per year. Reporting fictitious harvest numbers on computers is just as easy to do as paper. Of course there are no provisions for automatic permanent revocation of license, just more monitoring, no matter how many violations. And guess who pays for that extra monitoring, think of it as the Repeat Offender Tax on your fishing license. click here for a great puzzle.

2009   60%  

2008 Yellow perch harvest report for Lake Michigan is out. The number of Perch caught is down 97% to just 20,650, down from 886,500 in 1992. No wonder the piers are deserted, only 869 perch caught from all of the piers on Lake Michigan. 73% off those 20,000 perch were caught in Milwaukee & Racine counties, or near the Green Can Reef.
Just how bad with the WDNR let it become?? See yellow perch harvest table .

Last year's Advisory Resolution (Question.58) not put to Legislature, despite overwhelming public support, why? If Northern Pike can be protected in 1988, then why can't perch be protected in 2009 ????

Why does the WDNR continue to allow commercial perch fishing even though it violates NR 1.01 (9) (a),(b) & (c) ?

Jan. I think the sportsmen are starting to be heard, keep it up. check out 4/n.
"It was suggested that it may be time to review the 50/50 sport/commercial allocation policy."
So how about an allocation policy of 100/0 with sportsmen getting 100% of the perch, to bring that policy in line with NR1.01 (9) & WDNR's own FH-04-02 ? Would also greatly lower perch mortality, see next.

Please also note 4/g : Cormorants could account for up to 30% perch mortality in Green Bay. Let’s NOT pay more money to the WDNR to control Cormorants instead of saving and making money by closing the commercial fishing of perch. How much lower would perch mortality be, without a few million ft of net in Green Bay. Why not protect the large female perch (which produce 15 times as many eggs) in Green Bay as the WDNR demands of Lake Michigan? see 2002, FH-04-02.

Apr. Spring CCongress vote, Question 75, to protect Lake Michigan yellow perch, prohibit all commercial fishing in grids1901, 1902, 2002, vote results, 3850 yes vs. 574 no, all 72 counties passed this with a yes vote.

Question 75 rejected by WDNR.
Read the reasons yourself, but the way I read them is that bascially, the rights of the public to protect and preserve waters and the perch in them, are overruled by the rights of commercial fisherman to their chubs in those same waters. That there aren't any chubs there now, not being relevant. Rejection also allows for the rights of commercial fisherman to perch, when the commercial perch season is opened again.
Want to see something really scary, substitute words, like trees and see if the same reasons used for not protecting fish can be used to not protect trees from let's say, developers, mining, lumber industry. Looks to me like the DNR can reject any call for refuges from exploitation, if they can find that no harm is currently being done by exploitation.
Criticality of habitat and low populations of wildlife, are not even mentioned. Not worth considering? Scared yet?

Resolution 410109- elimination of the Great Lakes Commercial Fishing subsidy.
Why did this resolution even have to be submitted, when Wisconsin Legislature (Chapter 418,Laws of 1977, Section 923 (37) (d) 3) states "The intent of the legislature in revising commercial fishing laws is to provide for multi-use management of the Great Lakes fishery, including an economically viable and stable commercial fishery and an active recreational fishery". Economically Viable ??!! How can an industry, being given $3-$4 million in public fish for free and requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars to subsidize the cost of enforcement, be considered economically viable? Any one see an active perch fishery at the lakefront in that last 15 years? Read 2000, Great Lakes commercial fishing task force page 14, "...we recognize that it will never be self-supporting". Even they say commercial fishing can't be viable without GPR funds.

FH-23-09 - increase the Whitefish quota 16%. While a few fishers share up to $300,000 of new fish every year, the sporting men & women of this State, see more of their sport license funds go to subsidizing the fleet? How is this not a tax on the sportsmen of this State? Also, since about 40% of the Whitefish quota goes uncaught every year, why is this even being put before the Legislature? So a couple of fishers can profit? Please contact your Rep. and ask them.

More subsidies for commercial fishers, AB-449, no sales tax on boat fuel, read here, check for your reps name. Who are taxpayers helping, a fisher making 127 trips to get $122,000 in free fish, or the one making 100 trips to get $6500 in fish? Can the Lake can support a Quota fishery any longer?

FH-21-08 allowing commercial fisher to re-enter the business after allowing a license to lapse. Another subsidy. Now commercial license income is only collected during profitable years, unprofitable years the sportsmen can contribute more funds and commercials less. I believe this to also be further proof that the WDNR can't provide for a 'stable' commercial fishery as required by the 1977 law. How does the WDNR even budget for enforcement of commercials, not knowing how many will even be fishing then next year? You can't, hence the sportsmen or taxpayer will have to pay the price?


Five years since the mentioned 2005 target date to end Fish & Wildlife Account monies subsidy of commercial fishing, resulting in another $3.5 million loss of funds, that should have been used for sport projects, deer herd management, fish management, to save fish and to save Lake Micihgan?

Do the sportsmen and women of this State have to hire an attorney and sue the DNR to stop taking Fish & Wildlife Account funds used to subsidize commercial fishing, in violation of the 1977 Law?

Read here an article about the Perch in Green Bay. Some interesting points, perch numbers are down 96% from 1984. Perch eat the invasive spiny water flea. Despite this, commercial fishing for perch start at just 7.5 inches. So many other fish that eat an invasive are protected from nets and stocked, why aren't perch?
Then Read here about spiny water fleas eating zooplankton like Daphnia, so they directly compete with small perch which eat the same things. So the WDNR by denying Lake Michigan the large perch (by commercial fishing) that prey on spiny water fleas, harms the same perch fishery even more, by helping starve the young perch?
And smaller perch have yet more problems - While consumption by large yellow perch was not affected by prey abundance. Small yellow perch gained less weight with larger rather then with smaller prey. WDNR shifting of the perch population to smaller perch on average, by use of commercial fishing, needlessly endangers the perch.

WDNR discriminate against perch by rejecting Question 58. Per notes (p4) protection of perch would only be 'symbolic', yet Walleyes, Herring, Alewives are protected by a zero harvest limit and Northern Pike by being removed from NR 25 in 1988 per a WDNR request.

Fisheries Management and Ecology, 2008, 15, 39–47, "Commercial fishers exploiting females as a result of sexually dimorphic growth may reduce spawning stock to levels low enough to suppress recruitment (Myers & Barrowman 1996; Myers, Bowen & Barrowman 1999)". Studied, Reported, and Proven, Historically accurate with years of proof, yet the WDNR refuses to close commercial perch fishing to protect and enhance the perch fishery and the jobs dependent on it.

WDNR "An absence of commercial harvest in Lake Michigan certainly has helped decrease the impact on fast growing larger female perch in the fishery, allowing them to spawn multiple years". See Wilberg as to the critical importance of these perch. So why allow commercial fishing of perch in Green Bay or in the future? So that female perch will be able to spawn only one year before caught in nets?

Remember those Perch eggs taken from Lake Michigan in 1997 for Brood Stock? Read the latest news here.

Question 81 on this Springs Conservation Congress ballot, should tax money or sport license money be used to subsidize commercial fishing? I believe this to be an illegal question, as the 1977 law finds that commercial fishing be 'economically viable', can't be subsidized. The question asks the public, in which way they would prefer to violate the law? The public should introduce new resolutions in every county, demanding that in order to protect sport monies, all commercial fishing be closed now and stay closed until it's 'economically viable' or until the Legislature changes the law and appropriates the necessary public funds. Enough, is Enough, license fees and sports money for sportsmen's use, not increased profits for private businesses?

What's best for the perch, is best for Lake Michigan, yet again and again, I believe that the WDNR, though their actions, have shown that they don't care what's best for Michigan instead they believe in what's best for the commercial fisherman.

We recommend you read Carl's corner. here

Let's start making the WNDR and politicians stop wasting money. The Quota system doesn't work, hasn't worked since day one, it doesn't protect the fish, and costs too much money. Stop trying to improve the Lake Michigan near shore fishery by stocking walleyes and exotic trout species. It hasn’t worked in 20 years and the money would be better spent on perch. Stop subsidizing commercials with sport monies, save the large female perch from the nets. Let's not allow the yellow perch be overfished for a third time. Treat the perch like Northern Pike, remove it from commercial species, time for the perch to finally be protected too. If you want to wipe out a salmon fishery, everyone know's you just have to string a net across thier spawning stream(s). I believe that is what happened to the perch, nets were strung across their spawning reefs until they were almost gone.Supporting data will hopefully be found here in the future. Join the Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Conservation Groups in the quest to save and bring back the Lake Michigan yellow perch.