Berlin Pond: Catch limit to be reduced Jan. 26
BERLIN — Yellow perch in Berlin Pond aren’t completely off the hook, but their chances of staying out of some anglers’ creels will improve measurably starting a week from Saturday.
That is when daily limits for perch in the pond will be reduced from 50 to 10 as part of a revised “test waters” designation, officials from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said this week.
The department adopted the designation in the immediate aftermath of last year’s Vermont Supreme Court decision striking down long-standing restrictions on the recreational use of the 256-acre pond. The designation initially focused on bass, making it “catch-and-release” only for those fish through Dec. 31, 2015.
According Rich Kirn, the state fisheries biologist, the rationale that drove the temporary bass ban is also behind the plan to reduce the daily limits for perch on a pond that hadn’t been seriously fished for more than a century.
Kirn said studies of unexploited fish populations, like those in Berlin Pond, suggest they are often composed of “a high proportion of old, slow-growing fish” that are vulnerable to angling when opened to fishing.
That was a concern right off the bat with bass, according to Kirn, who said the department took a wait-and-see approach when it came to perch — in part because it didn’t have much in the way of reliable data and no way to judge how aggressively the pond that was previously off-limits would be fished.
Kirn, who has been monitoring the pond since ice fishing started this month, said early results have been good, with high catches of large yellow perch.
“We have seen fishing pressure steadily grow during the past couple of weeks with lots of large perch being caught,” Kirn said. “While many anglers are catching relatively few fish, others have been successful in nearing or reaching their daily limit.”
According to Kirn, the average size of those fish — 11 inches — is somewhat larger than he expected based on a spring survey.
Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry said he was signing the revised “test water” designation based on up-to-date information.
“Now that we have some data from recent creel surveys, we recognize the need to act immediately,” he said.
According to Berry, the limit should “protect the fishery as a sustainable resource while allowing anglers to enjoy taking home a few perch for dinner.”
Over time, Kirn said, the fish populations in Berlin Pond will adjust to fishing.
“We expect the yellow perch population density, fish size and growth rates will change,” he said, explaining the department will continue to monitor the pond and use the information it collects to develop appropriate fishing regulations.
“Our plan is to sustain this fishery for the long term, and we feel the test-water designation will help support that goal,” he said.
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