It's Friday, and for thousands of people in Wisconsin, that means a fish fry, but you may find something missing from the menu.
A perch shortage is hitting area restaurants, and Lent is right around the corner.
WISN 12 in Milwaukee is reporting that Perch has already been removed from the fish fry menu at St. Paul’s Fish Market. Other restaurants are experiencing the same thing.
"There's tons of options out there as far as fried fish is concerned," said St. Paul Fish Market Executive Chef JP Toske.
WISN 12 News reported about a severe shortage of lake perch last fall, but now, with Lent about to begin, it is prime fish fry season in Wisconsin.
Greg Carlson found perch on the lunch menu at Steny's Tavern in Milwaukee but figures he may soon have to pay more for his favorite fish.
"I have somebody who actually checks out the price of fish on the market and when it goes up, and it's just gone up," Carson said.
The Great Lakes perch shortage is a bit of a mystery even to the experts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences.
But Harvey Bootsma, who works at the school, said one major factor is invasive species consuming much of the plankton that newly hatched perch need to survive.
"Those young fish have a real hard time getting to 1 year of age just because there's not enough food for them," Bootsma said.
There's not enough food for the perch, and so there’s not enough perch for the fish fry crowd.
"At this point in time, right now, there's no perch," Toske said.
That may disappoint a lot of fish fry fans, but probably won't keep them away.
The experts said that often these things go in cycles where fish populations will drop and then rebound. But they have not seen the lake perch population bounce back for quite a few years now, so they say this looks fairly long term.
Photo: Getty Image