Helping bass thrive in Ohio

Assessment is key in managing Ohio’s bass populations as it provides our state’s fisheries managers with information that can be used to tweak regulations to benefit the fish and anglers.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife hosted the Ohio Bass Forum last Saturday in Columbus as biologists, administrators, bass tournament organizers and others interested in bass management discussed what is being done to help bass thrive in the Buckeye State.

In a series of presentations by key managers of inland and Lake Erie fisheries, Ohio’s dedication to improving the state’s bass fishing opportunities was readily apparent.

“Assessment is the backbone of fisheries management,” said Rich Zweifel, the Division of Wildlife’s inland fisheries administrator.

He explained the range of regulations that have been applied to various Ohio lakes, all intended to recruit more catchable-size bass to their respective populations.

In general across Ohio, “keeper” bass are those measuring 12 inches or more. Anglers are allowed to possess up to five keepers daily. Zweifel explained the 12-inch limit is intended to protect small bass from harvest.

In some inland lakes, the length limit is 15 inches. Lake Milton, for example, was under the 15-inch limit for several years, though today the minimum keeper size is 12 inches. The larger size limit is to increase the average size of fish. Knox Lake, meanwhile, is under an 18-inch limit, which was put in place to develop a trophy fishery.

Zweifel also reported on so-called “split” and “slot” regulations (neither used in Northeast Ohio), which are imposed for reasons specific to certain waters.

He noted that when regulations are imposed, enough time must pass to enable biologists to collect data and understand the effect on the fishery. Data gathered by Division of Wildlife electroshocking crews provide snapshots of the populations of bass in Ohio waters.

Ohio does not operate a stocking program for largemouth or smallmouth bass. When populations are low, anglers might think stocking would be the answer to make more fish available.

Stocking doesn’t always work. Steve Tyszko, an inland fisheries research biologist, noted that food and habitat are factors that impact bass populations. Given that only so much food and quality habitat are available in any given system, stocking of bass is judged not to be useful in Ohio lakes.

Electroshocking surveys showcase the numbers and size of fish. More detailed examinations indicate growth rates. Informed by the data, fisheries managers set up regulations that are hoped will improve our lakes’ bass populations.

Anglers’ cooperation is necessary for the managers to get a true look at regulations’ effectiveness. Those who witness violations of fishing regulations are encouraged to report them to local wildlife enforcement.

Trout coming to Glacier Lake

While adding hatchery bass is not in the cards for Ohio anglers, stocking of trout has become an annual program here. Thousands of rainbow trout will be stocked in Mill Creek MetroPark’s Glacier Lake, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced.

Glacier and 63 other Ohio lakes will receive stockings now through May 19 as long as they are free of ice. The rainbows are 10 to 13 inches long and are raised at Ohio fish hatcheries. Daily catch limit is five trout per angler.

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