Perch shortage and its fight to survive in the wild

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The start of Lent, the Christian observance leading to Easter, is just two days away. That means the demand for yellow perch will go up, and much like previous years, a shortage for popular fish fries is a problem.

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It's a story Action 2 News has followed for several years as the population of yellow perch in our area lakes declines. Wisconsin's DNR says since the 80’s perch numbers have gone down, but there was some improvement in the early 2000’s.

Over the last 30 years, commercial and sport regulations have tried to protect the fishery.

Although the perch shortage isn't anything new, the fish, according to researchers, is up against changes constantly.

“It's everything from changes in population in the lake, we have introduced species, we have exotic species, in the lakes, we have differences in land use, as more and more people build on the rivers that feed the lakes and change the way nutrients flow into the lakes,” said Ken Webb, Associate Researcher at UWGB.

Webb said there's at least two invasive species also eating the food a young perch needs to survive. The Farmory in Green Bay, the first commercial bio-secure fish hatchery in the state, is looking to help.

“In here, they have a steady feed supply, so they don't need to worry about having no food, we keep the water quality pretty good and clean and they have all the food they want, there's nothing in here trying to eat them either,” said Annie Schmitz, Hachery Technician at The Farmory,

According to the DNR, high water on the bay which is three feet higher than normal right now, gives the perch a better chance for spawning and survival.

However, as Webb said, we're still getting most of our perch imported from Canada and having local hatcheries will help control the quality of the product. Webb said it also helps take some pressure from yellow perch in the wild.