MILWAUKEE (AP) _ One of Lake Michigan's more popular fish could be on the rebound after years of declining numbers. A recent survey indicated the lake's Wisconsin waters may contain more baby yellow perch than a decade ago, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

DNR biologist Brad Eggold said one likely reason is the state's decision in the mid-1990s to stop commercial perch harvests on Lake Michigan except for the bay of Green Bay. He also cited the reduction of the recreational daily catch limit from 50 to five.

That has allowed more perch to live long enough to reproduce multiple times, Eggold said.

A DNR survey of juvenile perch last fall found more than double the previous record set in 1989, when the agency began annual surveys. Still, the overall perch population in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan waters is down by as much as 90 percent since the late 1980s and early 1990s.

One factor that has been cited is a disruption in the food chain linked to a flood of invasive species, such as zebra mussels. The DNR has also pointed to unfavorable weather patterns.

The agency's report on the survey cautions the perch population remains a major concern, despite the increased numbers of young perch.

Eggold said the survey results were extremely promising, but nobody is predicting the population will return to the glory days of the 1980s.

``It may be that recovery to population levels that we enjoyed prior to the early '90s is not a realistic expectation given the altered environment,'' the DNR report said.

Commercial fisherman Mark Maricque of Green Bay said numbers of yellow perch in the bay have been up the last three years, and he's optimistic that will hold true in the future.

``I think there's a chance we'll get back to what it was'' before the big drop after the 1980s, he said.


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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,