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Be aware of a couple of changes on the water

Two important topics are in the news this week. Though they seemingly have little direct connection to each other, both are important changes that affect the quality safety of our experiences on the water.

A new federal regulation went into effect Thursday, requiring operators of all motor boats less than 26 feet long to be connected to an engine kill switch while the boat is traveling on plane. Also, the Ohio Division of Wildlife has set the daily possession limit at 10 for yellow perch on Lake Erie from Huron east to Fairport Harbor.

The kill switch requirement is intended to save lives, while the lowering of the Erie perch bag limit in the Cleveland-area waters is established to enable populations to rebuild.

Long required for competitors in organized fishing tournaments, kill switches connected to boat drivers are designed to instantly shut off the engine when the operator is ejected in a collision or boat flip. Shutting down the engine prevents a runaway boat from circling back and striking those who might be tossed from the vessel or other nearby boats.

Most boats are equipped with kill switches that feature lanyards that should be attached to the clothing, PFD, ankle or wrist of the boat driver. When the driver falls overboard, the lanyard cord pulls from the switch, which shuts off the electrical power to the engine.

Many boaters, however, fail to connect the switch to their body, thus rendering the engine cutoff device useless in the event of an accident.

The new law requires operators to wear the engine cutoff cord while traveling on plane. Low-speed activities like trolling, traversing a no-wake area or docking are exempt from the requirement, as are boaters that drive from a helm in an enclosed cabin.

Yellow perch, meanwhile, are high on the list of fish targeted by anglers throughout the Lake Erie region, as many of us grew up to measure our angling prowess by the number of fish on the ice in our coolers. It has not been uncommon in recent years for Erie anglers to quickly catch their limits of “jumbos” in some portions of the big lake.

Erie historically supported a large population of yellow perch, but their numbers dwindled in the 1960s as commercial gill-netters overworked the water to satisfy the appetites of people who prized perch as table fare.

Perch populations rebounded after Ohio banned commercial gill netting and established seasonal harvest quotas in synch with other states and the province of Ontario for yellow perch and walleyes.

The result, many well know, is that Erie today is the Walleye Capital of the World and the perch fishing is far better than it was 40 years ago when conservation-minded people worried the big lake was dying.

Good perch fishing remains in the western basin waters and the Bass Islands region, as well as the far eastern counties of Ohio and further east into Pennsylvania.

The Cleveland area, however, has experienced a declining population, based on surveys conducted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. For the period from May 1, 2021, through Feb. 28, 2022, the daily limit will be 10 yellow perch.

“Science-based management shows us that we have to act quickly to ensure that the yellow perch population has time to improve in select areas of the central basin,” said Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker in a news release.

From now until May 1 when daily possession is lowered between Huron and Fairport Harbor, the limit remains 30 fish. Also, the limit will remain 30 perch in Erie waters west of Huron and east of Fairport Harbor throughout the 2021 season.

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing, will be released May 11. He appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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