Maryland Delays Commercial Harvests of Yellow Perch

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Maryland has restricted the 2008 commercial yellow perch fishery after complaints by recreational anglers. Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday that commercial fishermen won’t be allowed to catch yellow perch during the first two weeks of March. The closure dates are typically when 70 percent of Maryland’s commercial yellow perch harvest is caught. “It’s a very short, very intense fishery,” said Harley Speir, head of DNR’s Fisheries Service.

DNR officials conceded that there’s no scientific reason they are cutting off the commercial harvest, which averages about 55,000 pounds a year. Recreational anglers complain that commercial watermen don’t give them a fair shot at competing for yellow perch because of fyke nets that catch perch during the early spawning runs.

“These efforts represent another step in our multi-year endeavor to develop a new, more sustainable yellow perch management plan,” said Acting Fisheries Service Director Harley Speir. “DNR will continue to review the objectives and strategies in the Yellow Perch Fisheries Management Plan in the coming months and use this revised plan to frame the regulatory proposal for 2009.”

Spier explained why the commercial harvest will be cut when the stock is not in danger, saying “One of the things fisheries management tries to do is maximize social as well as economical benefits.”

The new regulations prohibit the use of fyke nets in tributaries upstream of any point of less than 200 feet in width during February 2008 and extend the prohibition on commercial harvest and sale of yellow perch through to March 14. This aims to enable yellow perch to migrate to historical spawning rivers and streams. Additionally, DNR designated two restoration creeks, McIntosh Run off Breton Bay (St. Mary’s County) and Northeast Creek off Northeast River (Cecil County), where recreational harvest and commercial harvest will be prohibited from February 1 through March 31.

The regulations will apply to the 2008 season and will take effect on Jan. 28, 2008. The final regulations will appear in the Maryland Register on Jan. 18.

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