Fishing tugs start 2019 season

PORT Dover’s fleet of commercial fishing tugs has begun its 2019 operations. Despite some ice still along the shoreline, at least five tugs were smelt fishing on Monday including BB Miller, Donna F, Omsteader, Brian D, R&G.
The Lake Erie Committee is not expected to determine the 2019 quotas until April 15, as set by fishery managers from Ontario, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Later the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources announces the commercial catch quotas.
There seems to be an optimistic feeling among fishermen that quotas will be close to last year’s level, as both perch and especially pickerel currently have strong population numbers.
A year ago quotas were 10.490 million pounds for Yellow Perch, walleyes were up to 7.109 million fish. It is said the allocations are consistent with the status of Lake Erie’s fish population, taking into account the goal of sustainable fisheries. Depending on final quotas, tugs can fish 20 to 30 totes of smelt per day, each tote can weigh 600 pounds.

Above: “BB Miller” returns to port Monday afternoon after its first day of fishing this year. The fishing tug returned with five totes of smelt. Each tote weighs at least 500 lbs. Below: BB Miller captain Rudy Vancas, at left, and Don Berg were one of this year’s first tugs to start the fishing season.     Photos by Earl Hartlen.

George Gibbons of Pleasant Port Fish Company in the Inner Harbour Basin reported last week that he would be ready to begin the 2019 harvest as soon as the ice situation is clear in the lake.
He is expecting this year’s perch quota will be about the same as last year. However, an increase in the pickerel quota is expected because “there is way too many out there” adding “they are all of the same size.”
Currently there are a few pickerel in the freezer at his plant from the 2018 catch. Mr. Gibbons is working on his tug ‘Eau Clipper’ in preparation for the beginning of a busy commercial fishing season.

Eric Ryerse reported it was early to begin operations for 2019 as there is still ice in the lake at the time of our enquiry late last week, but suggested with the right wind and rain “all of that could change quickly.”
In the meantime, the two Ryerse boats — ‘Iron Fish’ and ‘T James T’ — have undergone some maintenance work. He commented some boats based at Wheatley were out last week with reportedly small catches after a five-hour trip to suitable water.
A year ago Eric Ryerse began fishing on April 7. Although the 2019 quota is not yet released, initial spring fishing can legally begin based on a portion of what each fishing licence quota will be. The Ryerse tugs’ catch goes to Prestige Foods in Wheatley
Captain Joe Zimba of the tug Donna F told The Maple Leaf on Monday that he began fishing for smelt this week marking his 39th season. He had tried to begin fishing earlier in the season, but could not because of the ice conditions.
Recalling the 2018 fishing season, Mr. Zimba stated “smelt was alright, pretty decent until mid-October.” He noted then the winds changed and created too much current for smelt fishing. His crew consists of his son Kody and Joel Woard.

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