Anglers: walleye and yellow perch regs on Saginaw Bay

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved changes to walleye and yellow perch recreational fishing regulations in Saginaw Bay on Thursday, Oct. 8. The new regulations went into effect immediately.

For walleye, the daily possession limit is increased from five (5) to eight (8) fish and the minimum size limit is reduced from 15 to 13 inches. For yellow perch, the daily possession limit is reduced from 50 to 25 fish.

It's important for anglers to remember that fishing seasons for walleye were not changed for these waters. The Saginaw River is considered an inland water, so walleye season closes on March 15, whereas the waters of MH-4 are considered Great Lakes waters and are open year round.

Walleye have recovered and are very abundant in Saginaw Bay, and while this recovery is considered a success story, walleye are now depressing the available prey base. Some of the consequences of less available prey are slower walleye growth and poor survival of juvenile yellow perch. Yellow perch are reproducing very well (like walleye), but young perch are not surviving which may be in part to walleye predation. As a result, the adult yellow perch population has been greatly reduced.

The waters of Lake Huron where these regulation changes for walleye and yellow perch will change are known as Lake Huron management unit MH-4, including the Saginaw River up to the Center Street Bridge which is immediately upstream of the Rust Avenue Boat Launch in Saginaw. Fishing seasons for walleye and yellow perch were not changed for these waters.

"Both walleye and yellow perch are of great importance to anglers and the local economy in the Saginaw Bay Area," said Jim Baker, fisheries manager for Southern Lake Huron. "Historically, yellow perch were even more popular than walleye because they are easy to catch and easily available to anyone with a fishing rod - including shore-based anglers who can't fish Saginaw Bay waters."

The new regulations go into effect immediately and will remain in place for the 2016 fishing season (open April 1). These regulations are part of Fisheries Order 215. For future reference in regards to these regulations, anglers will be encouraged to call a toll-free phone number each year to get up-to-date information about possession limits for walleye and yellow perch on Saginaw Bay.

"Addressing a resource issue of this magnitude requires a package of management actions, including modifications to walleye fishing regulations, reductions in yellow perch harvest (for both recreational and commercial fishing), increased control on local cormorant populations, and even embarking on a research project to assess the possibility of re-establishing cisco in Saginaw Bay," said Lake Huron Basin Coordinator, Todd Grischke. "With these changes to recreational fishing regulations, anglers can assist the DNR in achieving its goal of stabilizing the predator/prey ratio and making yellow perch and walleye fishing the best it can be."

It is important to note these regulation changes will be the starting point for a new management process where future possession and size limits will be tied to the status of the walleye population. If the population diminishes, the regulations will become more conservative, but if the population remains high then regulations will remain liberal.