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Perch shortage affecting local restaurants as lent "fish fries" begin

MILWAUKEE-- When lent begins, so does fish fry season.

\"Milwaukee loves their fish fries every Friday night,\" said Nik Scheeler, Executive Chef at Packing House.

Packing House serves about 1,500 fish fry meals each week leading up to Easter, but as Scheeler piles up some panko crusted perch on a plate-- it's getting more difficult to stock up on the fish fry staple.

\"I've been ordering 5-6 days in advance, just to make sure that my order is in and filled by the time I need it on Friday,\" said Scheeler.

Packing House is among the few restaurants that still serve lake perch during fish fry season, many local restaurants have taken perch off the menu due to a shortage.

\"The commercial fishery for the main basin of Lake Michigan was closed 20 years ago,\" said Dr. John Janssen, a professor at UWM School of Freshwater Sciences.

Dr. Janssen says the quagga mussels in Lake Michigan are killing off phytoplankton, the perch's food supply.

\"Basic food for the animals in the water column are gone,\" said Dr. Janssen.

With less perch swimming in Lake Michigan-- most of the supply comes from Lake Erie.

\"There's been a lot of snow on Lake Erie this year, so getting the fish has been a little more difficult than usual,\" said Scheeler.

Aside from being difficult to get, Scheeler says demand prices fluctuate week-to-week, but as Packing House prepares for a big rush of customers on Ash Wednesday, they're going to do their best to keep perch on the menu.

\"The people who like their perch, love their perch,\" said Scheeler.
 

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