Bob France had the right question about the perch explosion for fishermen around Chicago.

With all these perch, there are many questions. We start with France.

“This perch population wasn’t there two years ago?” members of his Facebook group wondered. “Last year Burnham [Harbor] was stuffed with 4- to 6-inchers, seems to be a rebound in population?”

Simply yes.

More specifically, Illinois’ Lake Michigan program manager Vic Santucci emailed, “They are probably from the 2015 year-class, but we can’t say for sure until samples from our spring surveys are aged over the winter.’’

That data from Illinois and other states should be available at the Lake Committee meetings held by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in late March.

A typical smaller perch that makes up the majority of the catch on the Chicago lakefront.’
Credit: Dale Bowman

“The bulk of those are probably the 2015 year-class (especially the 5-7 inchers),’’ agreed Ben Dickinson, Indiana’s assistant Lake Michigan fisheries biologist. “The larger ones in the 7-9 inch range are probably from earlier year-classes, such as 2011-2014. Those were fairly weak year-classes though. Prior to 2015, the last good year-class measured by Ball State was in 2009.

“Those 2009 year-class fish are now 9-10 inches or so. Seems like most of the reports I see are of sorting through dozens to hundreds of 5-7 inchers to get a limit of 9-10 inchers.’’

With that, Dickinson touched on a question many of us had about conservation of perch.

I roughly figure fishermen are catching one keeper of 8 inches or longer from five perch hooked or one keeper of 10 inches or longer from 15 perch hooked. Some days, that 10-inch or longer keeper is more like one in 50.

I asked Santucci if he thought it mattered in terms of conservation or impact on the fishery.

“Most studies with other species (e.g., bass and sunfish) suggest hooking mortality is generally low (less than 5 percent),’’ he emailed. “If this is the case for caught-and-released perch in Lake Michigan, sorting through a few more perch to get a suitable-sized keeper shouldn’t hurt the population.’’

With that, to some nuts-and-bolts questions.

“The past few days I’ve fished Navy Pier past dark,’’ Dale Rehus tweeted last week. “I’ve been kicked out by the new security guard. Told me NO FISHING after dark.’’

Navy Pier spokeswoman Payal Patel emailed, “I was just told by our director of safety and security that fishermen are welcome to fish from 5 a.m. until Navy Pier closes.’’

In general (holiday hours vary), from Monday through Thursday close is at 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m. Check hours by clicking here.

Dickinson also sent a reminder about the reciprocal waters around Cal Park. Key sentence is “The agreement means Illinoisans holding both a resident Illinois license and a nonresident Indiana license can fish in the reciprocal area, taking the daily limit for whichever state they choose, but NOT for both states.’’ Let me put that simply, one limit.

One last thing. Don Ayres reminded that mudpuppies are protected in Illinois. Particularly for those fishing Navy Pier, where mudpuppies are occasionally caught this time of year, handle and release mudpuppies carefully.