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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Karl posted a link to the new web page and lake data that is now available. I was particularly interested in the Saugeye data and most interested in Rocky Fork ( my home lake). Here is a link to Rocky Fork's data: https://ohiodnr.gov/static/documents/wildlife/fishing-forecasts-reports/d5/lakes/Rocky Fork Lake Saugeye Survey up20.pdf

I actually went through all the regions and compared the data sets. First I must say I am disappointed in the variances between what the different districts have posted and wonder if it is a reflection of work done or just a failure to report. After looking at the survey data for Saugeye I will offer my thoughts.
First only district 4 offered any electrofishing young of year data (that I noticed) and the rest posted gill net surveys for larger fish. I'd be interested in initial yoy survival too. when I look at the charts for gill net surveys, two things jump out: 1) Growth rates are much higher than I expected (i will recant and accept I was wrong in previous post on growth rates) 2.) That very few fish are living past 3 years old. when you look at the catch rates per unit effort the very smallest group across 10 years is greater than 18". When you extrapolate out the numbers you find that 69% of the population is under 18". Only 10-15% are above 22". I'd like to see total population estimates added to the data along with Young of year.

If you have followed many of the Saugeye post you know I am against Saugeye length limits. I think this data supports my argument. Why are we protecting a species of fish as a trophy fishery when ~85% will never be available as trophies ( >22") ? Predominately the age of fish, as shown by these data, most available is 15-22" and within the length limit. So you can ague that this works for the length limit, but the question is how many drop out of the population before that? I also ask, if people were allowed to keep smaller fish would they be off the lake sooner and thus allow more of the 15-18" group to survive to grow? Conveniently for the argument for limits they include 15" fish in this group. I would like to see the length weight sheets. I bet a large part of that group is <16". I am not sure what size mesh the gill nest are, but I imagine they are large enough that Young of year pass through and they target larger fish. So the age size structure is not totally true and it would be really nice to see some electrofishing data added to build a more reliable estimate of age length structure.

Over all it looks like our Saugeye are doing quite well
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That's been part of my argument all along too, MIke; that a lot of fish are being wasted. I went over the numbers for the whole state and none of the systems with length limits added a significant number of larger Saugeye after the length limit. Typically, length limits are used to control over exploitation of breeding stock, with Saugeye that is not a concern as they are a "put and take" stocking and there is no need to protect breeders. Past research shows that at least 50-60% of the stocked Saugeye die off before they ever reach age 3 and legal length. when you consider that 70%+ are males and grow much slower and live shorter lives it should be a no brainier to allow harvest at any size that anglers want. Hey, a 12" inch Saugeye has a decent fillet on it. I have fished Rocky Fork for 50 years and we caught way more big Saugeye before the length limit. People were keeping limits of smaller fish and more of the population was left to grow. Now, Many people tell me stories of catching 50-60 shorts in a day to keep 3-6 fish. I wonder how many of those throw backs die. I have done the same thing, where in the past I'd keep 6 decent fish and go home after 3-4 hrs. A typical limit looked like this before: 2 18-24, 3- 14-19 and a 12 incher just to go home on.

My opinion is actually based on many years of working in fisheriies as well, I'm not just some internet now-it-all. This new generation of biologist makes me scratch my head and go what the heck?
 

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Interesting view. Personally I love the 15" size limit. It has worked wonders for my home lake. When they started it a few years ago I was apprehensive, but I'm a believer now. Early on with the size limit it seemed tough to catch a keeper at all. My buddy and I have actually had several 40+ saugeye days without a keeper in the bunch. All sub 15" fish. Now after a few years of the size limit I catch far more 18" to 20" than I do shorts. I had a limit early this year that went 24" to 28"...totally unheard of at this lake before the size restrictions. While it may not help at every lake, it sure helped my home water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Lewis, what is your home lake, if you don't mind sharing? I would like to compare the data. I can think of one lake (Indian) where the over all catch rates were much higher than any other lake and that would also mean more large fish. I also think Indian get's a lot of angling pressure on those young stocks. Now when data and creel surveys show a species is being over exploited then in fact that is a valid use of creel and length limits. Random adoption of these regs is not. when a problem is identified then you apply solutions, in other cases they just create problems. It is true that every lake is different.
 

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I'm more intune with a 12" size limit for saugeye. Its what I imposed on myself at a certain lake before limits. Now you only get a couple keepers.
 

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I'm more intune with a 12" size limit for saugeye. Its what I imposed on myself at a certain lake before limits. Now you only get a couple keepers.
Try changing tactics,or spots. Not trying to puff my chest but there are PLENTY of keepers to be had out there.
I fish all over and around Columbus for saugeye and do think the lakes/rivers I fish are in great shape when it comes to saugeye.....

I dont completely disagree with what southernsaug has been saying. He knows far more then me about the science behind it all then I do. Way more! I just obsessively go out and try to catch them. And I didnt fish for them much at all in the late 90's. But for the 20 years I've chased them the last few have been my best. For numbers and for fish from 21-25". Not many over 25" though.
So in my un educated opinion I dont think the size limit has hurt the lakes i fish. But i cant say it has helped it either. I am a much better fisherman then just 10 yrs ago. So hard to say for me.
But i am very content with what is available to us right now as far as saugeye fishing goes!
Last fall was my best for numbers ever. In just two 4/5 hour trips I caught close to 100 saugeye. Mostly 17-19" with a few bigger an a couple smaller. With plenty of 10+fish trips before and after that.
My biggest only going 26" though.
 

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Try changing tactics,or spots. Not trying to puff my chest but there are PLENTY of keepers to be had out there.
I fish all over and around Columbus for saugeye and do think the lakes/rivers I fish are in great shape when it comes to saugeye.....

I dont completely disagree with what southernsaug has been saying. He knows far more then me about the science behind it all then I do. Way more! I just obsessively go out and try to catch them. And I didnt fish for them much at all in the late 90's. But for the 20 years I've chased them the last few have been my best. For numbers and for fish from 21-25". Not many over 25" though.
So in my un educated opinion I dont think the size limit has hurt the lakes i fish. But i cant say it has helped it either. I am a much better fisherman then just 10 yrs ago. So hard to say for me.
But i am very content with what is available to us right now as far as saugeye fishing goes!
Last fall was my best for numbers ever. In just two 4/5 hour trips I caught close to 100 saugeye. Mostly 17-19" with a few bigger an a couple smaller. With plenty of 10+fish trips before and after that.
My biggest only going 26" though.
You've got them dialed in!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Saugeyefisher, Sure there are bigger fish out there, but so many are not getting utilized that will never get there before they disappear from the systems. Your statement that the length limit hasn't helped either is kind of the point. If I only look at stream fish then the last three years have been great for big Saugeye. The big ones are leaving the lakes. My buddy and I caught 61 Saugeye over 18" last fall from September through January 10th. Many in the 22-25" range, all stream fish below lakes. In the two lakes I fish my biggest is 21 to 23 inches (don't remember for sure ) in the last 4 years and I caught very few over 15", but hundreds under 15. Your right it's not helping. Just look at the survey data, the very smallest sample groups are the larger fish (which is true in any system length limit or not) and this hasn't changed before or after the length limits. I would just like to see the fishery used most efficiently. I know many people would be happy to keep smaller saugeye (say 12") and occasionally a larger one. It simply has not significantly changed the population dynamic to more large fish. Every lake is different and there probably are a couple that did see an increase, but most didn't. I see the same post repeated over and over here....double digit short fish and 1-3 keepers or no keepers. Then there are those given days you get on the big ones. Some guys have figured out the methods for the big ones, but most anglers haven't and probably will not commit the time and effort to hone in on them.
 

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I forgot about Hoover not having a size limit. And compared to alum who does have a size limit. Is a much tuffer lake to get fish above 15".
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I went back and looked at the gill net surveys and it does appear that Alum was getting exploited pretty hard and the profile of larger fish has changed with the length limit. Also, when you look at stockings the number of smaller fish are directly related to some robust stocking in hoover in the last few years. I also scanned some of the other lakes around the state and I have to say what we're catching is directly related to what was stocked. Of course a lot of the lakes that do not have length limits are not being surveyed,so there's no comparable data. I'll concede that in lakes like Alum that show signs of over-harvest a length limit is a viable strategy, if bigger fish are what anglers want. That comes with sacrificing many of the smaller ones, so it's a choice....do anglers want more or just bigger, in those lakes. Hey, they raise more every year and stock. If stocking disappears so do the Saugeye. My two home lakes are Paint Creek and Rocky Fork and stockings have not had as high a priority as the central Ohio lakes (I don't have a problem with the priority system, put the fish where the most fishing is) and we've had some recent years with reduced stocking. That just exacerbates the problem of available keepers. The catch rates are significantly less per unit effort in the lower rate of stocking lakes. I will concede there are applications for it, but it is not a good general strategy. I truly hope I am wrong and monster Saugeye start filling live wells....I'll bet against it.
 

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Interesting data. I don't fish for saugeye regularly, but more periodically. I catch more at Alum than at Hoover the last couple of years. I also have gotten bigger ones at Alum than at Hoover. Problem with Alum is that fish stack up in the deep water in front of the dam, then late winter when flooding rains come they dump the water at a high rate and lose a metric ton of fish in a few days!!

I know the size limit was pushed by anglers, and that's why we primarily have it. It might even be just a feel good regulation. lol

Based on the information SS shared, and the data in the collection bank it seems most lakes would do better with a slot/bag restriction that protects the older fish, that is if they're looking to produce a trophy type saugeye lake. For example: Anglers may keep 5 fish between 12 - 20" and only 1 fish > 20" per day.

That way the dinks get a chance to reach a decent eating size, and nobody is filleting a bunch of big sows in one night!! Just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
You make a good point crittergitter. A slot/bag restriction would indeed address both points of interest. Allowing the angling public access to both table fair and doing something towards providing more trophy fish. With Saugeye the limiting factor still remains they are a short lived fish (compared to others)for the most part, so those larger fish just are never going to be around long enough to build a robust trophy system. The toughest hump to overcome is the fact a large percentage of them are males and males live on average 3-5 years. Still the limit on taking larger fish would help as it protects the limited amount of larger females in any system. Just look at those charts and you see that in every lake the >22" fish are a very low part of the overall population with average per hour catch rates of ~.25 fish. When catch rates for the 15-22" fish is at least triple that.

I have seen this strategy applied elsewhere in the walleye lakes of the north and north central U.S. I have connections in Pierre S.D., where lake Ohae is, and they had a similar dilemma in the Missouri River lakes system. A 15" length limit was imposed on Ohae and in a few years the lake was over run with just barely sub legal walleye. It was so over-run with sub legal that they were concerned the forage base couldn't support the population as a whole. So they changed the limit to keep ten less than 15" and 4 over and I think they also put a limit on only 1 over 24" or something like that. Now, I got hammered on here when I made this comparison once before because Ohae is a huge system and naturally reproducing , but the principle holds true regardless. It's not always good science just because it sounds good and popular, you need supportive data. Anglers have good intentions, but typically don't have access to crucial data.

The fact the survey data is being shared is great.

I dislike the shotgun management of creating regulations widely across systems just because it seems like a neat thing to do and popular. The data and biology of each system should be considered for every lake when implementing specific regs. I think we all agree some things are indeed good science in general use, but I do not ascribe to creating specific regulations, where there is not a problem. I do not believe there was a problem across the state with the Saugeye fishing, but I do believe some specific lakes where being hit too hard (Alum being one) and did need some help.

I accept I am mostly in the minority on this and so be it. Still I believe we all arrive at a better place when we hear diverse opinions. I like the discussion. One last thought; what is a trophy Saugeye? If anglers want trophy Saugeye why do regulations allow any harvest below say 20"? The fact is most people want to take Saugeye home to eat, not hang on the wall. Saugeye are right there with crappie, most are going home to be eaten.
 
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