Research and Surveys
Lake Erie Research
The Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Fairport and Sandusky Fisheries Units have several encompassing projects that allow us to assess conditions on the lake. Three of these are the Lake Erie Creel Survey Project, the Fish Assessment Projects, and the Commercial Fishery Monitoring project. We include this assessment information in our annual Status Report.
The creel project utilizes seasonal employees to interview anglers (fishers) across the marinas and ramps on Ohio’s portion of the Lake Erie shore. From these surveys, we can get estimates of how many people are fishing, for how long, what they are fishing for, what rod and reel combos they are using and how successful they were. We can also collect information on numbers and sizes of fish harvested and released. We take scale samples off selected fish so that we can determine their ages.
Our fish assessment project allows us to get another look at Lake Erie fish populations, collecting some of the same kinds of data as our creel project, and allows us to bring some fish back to the laboratory for more detailed analyses.
In the assessment survey, we can also gauge the forage (bait or food) fish populations and determine how successful the hatches were for the current season. We can determine age, sex, maturity, diet and overall health of forage, sport and commercially important fish species. We monitor water quality and take water temperature and oxygen readings in many different locations. We determine when and where the thermocline sets up in the central basin.
Sampling aquatic invertebrates, such as mayfly and midge larvae, and phyto and zoo-plankton has become important as we monitor changes in the food web under conditions of declining lake productivity.We can also monitor the spread and impact of exotic species (such as zebra mussels, round gobies and spiny water fleas) in Lake Erie’s central basin. All this information helps us to determine fish condition, species status, harvest patterns and lake wide ecosystem health.
Ohio manages its’ portion of Lake Erie in cooperation with the other neighboring Great Lakes states and the Canadian province of Ontario. Together, we compile fishery data and research information to set lake wide management strategies, including agency quotas on walleye, yellow perch, and world-class gigantic muskies. In this spirit of multi-agency partnership, we can maintain healthy fish populations for future generations.
We monitor the Ohio commercial fishery which primarily operates out of Lake Erie’s western basin and major central basin ports. There are seine and trap netting operations that remove yellow perch, white bass, white perch, whitefish, catfish, and many rough fish species like sheephead, carp, gizzard shad and buffalo. Lake Erie Fisheries Unit personnel contact commercial fishers to obtain up-to-date harvest information, and to get age and growth information from their landed catch. For more info on avoiding commercial nets see Great Lakes: Commercial vs. Recreational Conflict.
A 1,500-foot section of Mac-O-Chee Creek is once again meandering through western Ohio thanks to a recent floodplain restoration project. Returning the creek to its natural state is benefiting the fish, wildlife and water quality of this Mad River tributary.
The Mac-O-Chee was straightened in the early 1900s, a practice frequently used in days gone by. Straightened streams often lack features such as floodplains, pools and riffles that provide important fish habitat and flood water storage.
Floodplains are natural filters when streams reach flood stage. They break down pollutants and trap sediments, while helping to prevent flood damage by storing water during high-water events.
Restoring the Mac-O-Chee’s floodplain and putting the meander back in the creek is enabling this waterway to support greater populations of fish such as the brown trout – a popular target of Ohio anglers – and the endangered tongue-tied minnow.
Another benefit: anglers will have the opportunity to experience the improved habitat first hand as the entire restored area is open for fishing.
Vegetation has been planted along the shore to create a natural environment, allowing pollutants to be filtered by the plants, keep water temperatures low, maintain healthy levels of dissolved oxygen, and create fish and wildlife habitat.
The floodplain restoration effort was a cooperative effort between the Division of Wildlife and the Piatt Castles in Logan County. The private contracting firm, Oxbow River & Stream Restoration, Inc. was hired to design and build the project.
The newly restored creek will be a focal point of a planned environmental center for land study at Mac-A-Cheek Castle.
Our goal is to enable learners of all ages to explore the history and science of the area around the Castle. We plan to use workshops, tours, and programs sponsored by our nonprofit organization, the Mac-A-Cheek Foundation for the Humanities, to help accomplish this.
Old Woman Creek Research Station
Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve is part of a network of 28 coastal reserves connected nationally through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to address state and regional coastal management needs through research, education, and stewardship.
Located in Huron, Ohio on the south-central shore of Lake Erie, Old Woman Creek is one of the state’s few remaining examples of a natural estuary. As a transition zone between land and water, the site contains a variety of habitats including marshes and swamps, upland forests, open water, tributary streams, barrier beach and near shore Lake Erie. The Reserve supports a diverse assemblage of native plants and animals representative of freshwater estuaries.
Old Woman Creek is of particular significance because it is the only Great Lakes freshwater estuary in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The Reserve is managed as a cooperative partnership between NOAA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Old Woman Creek is also an Ohio State Nature Preserve.
The National Estuarine Research Reserves uses its network of living laboratories to help understand and find solutions to crucial issues facing America’s coastal communities. The Reserve’s administrative offices are located in the Mike DeWine Center for Coastal Wetland Studies overlooking the estuary’s eastern shore. The Center provides laboratories for ecological research and serves as a focal point for public visitation and education programs.