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Bowfishing Ohio Port Clinton

These initial facts are pretty clear: angler David Berg of Mentor, while fishing the Lake Erie shoreline at the mouth of the Grand River in the Fairport Harbor area in northeast Ohio, at about 2 p.m. on April 18, caught a huge yellow perch.

This behemoth measured 15.75 inches long, and loaded with eggs for the spring spawn, its girth went 13.75 inches. When Berg put this Goliath of a perch on the scale at a nearby bait shop, the weight registered at 2.9 pounds.

Since the current official Ohio state record yellow perch is a 2.75 pound fish that measured 14.5 inches long and was caught in Lake Erie by Charles Thomas of Lorain on April 17, 1984, a couple things looked obvious: the fishing for super-sized perch is pretty good around the middle of April, and Berg’s catch came almost 32 years to the day after Thomas set the Ohio record, and that Berg’s fish appeared to claim the state record.

But the issue gets a little murky at this point.

In Ohio, record fish are determined on the basis of weight only, and all potential record fish must be certified by the State Record Fish Committee of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio. As with any award or distinction of significance, there are certain guidelines that must be met to maintain the integrity of the record book, and this is where’s Berg’s fish gets tagged as a “potential” state record, despite reports to the contrary.

The rules read that all potential record fish have to be examined by an Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist to determine it is the correct species. This might seem odd, since the species should be obvious to any angler, but ask the guy who several years ago insisted his modestly sized sheepshead was actually a state-record white perch. Berg’s fish was very clearly a yellow perch, and a state biologist confirmed this.

The rules also state that the record fish can not be taken from a pay lake, where years of supplemental feeding can produce freakish results. Berg’s fish came from our largest public fishing lake, so he was in the clear on that point.

A critical requirement of the process is that the “fish must be weighed on certified scales” and a copy of the county auditor’s certification must accompany the Ohio record fish application form. Berg had his fish weighed at Harbor Bait & Tackle in Painesville, and it clocked in at a whopping 2.9 pounds, but the scale’s certification was not up to date at the time.

The scale at the bait shop had been certified in the past, and it was recertified the day after the potential record perch was weighed. But, was it weighed on “certified scales”? No. At the time of the weigh-in, the scale in use was not current on its certification.

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