Rich Carter, executive administrator of fish management and research for the Division of Wildlife, has some good news for Lake Erie anglers.
Great walleye hatches from 2014 and 2015 are expected to contribute to exceptional fishing opportunities in the lake this year and anglers looking for yellow perch in the Western Basin should have some exceptional fisherman’s luck.
Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system that involves Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. Each jurisdiction regulates its catches to comply with quotas and minimize the risk of overfishing.
Quotas for the upcoming fishing season are determined through consensus agreement by these jurisdictions through the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which were just recently announced for 2017.
Currently, the walleye daily bag limit is four, and the yellow perch daily bag limit is 30 per angler in Ohio waters of Lake Erie until April 30. As a result of the 2017 quota allocation, the daily bag limit will be six walleye from May 1 through Feb. 28, 2018.
The yellow perch daily limit will be 30 from May 1 through April 30, 2018, with no minimum size limit. Lake Erie anglers can find walleye and yellow perch bag limit information at Ohio Department of Natural Resources offices, in special publications at bait and tackle shops, and at www.wildohio.gov.
Division of Wildlife biologists offer these predictions for your Lake Erie fishing forays:
Walleye: Fish from the 2003 and 2007 hatches are likely to carry most of the Central Basin fisheries, and a good number of these walleye will be over the 26-inch range. Large walleye from the strong 2003 hatch will continue to provide “Fish Ohio” opportunities with fish greater than 28 inches. That hatch also holds the possibility of a new Ohio state-record walleye.
Additionally, anglers should see a number of fish just under the 15-inch size limit from the excellent 2015 hatch. These fish should be released with as little handling as possible to help preserve them for future years. Many of these fish will exceed the size limit by the end of this fishing season.
Yellow perch: Expect excellent perch fishing with improving numbers of fish in the Western Basin. The largest perch in the Western Basin will come from 2012 and older year classes. Central Basin anglers should expect to find average numbers of yellow perch, with most fish coming from the 2012 year class and, to a lesser extent, the 2014 year class. Older fish from years prior to 2012 will provide the potential for trophy yellow perch.
While walleye and perch make up an important part of the sport fish population in Lake Erie, there are other opportunities lurking under the waves.
Smallmouth bass: In 2016, smallmouth bass catch rates were well above average for the fifth consecutive year and, in 2017, anglers should expect more of the same, including an excellent size range (14 to 22 inches and weighing up to 6 pounds). The best fishing for smallmouth bass will continue to be in areas with good bottom structure, which is the available habitat across much of the entire Ohio nearshore and islands.
Steelhead: Peak summer steelhead action on Lake Erie can be found offshore from June through August between Vermilion and Conneaut, with catches measuring 17 to 29 inches. Most Lake Erie anglers troll for steelhead in deep waters using spoons with divers or downriggers until fish move close to shore in the fall.
White bass: White bass continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The 2017 catch will continue to be dominated by fish from the 2012 and 2010 year classes. Fish from older year classes could be as large as 16 inches. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and nearshore areas of the open lake during the summer.
Updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available at www.wildohio.gov or by calling 888-HOOKFISH (888-466-5347). Information is available from Division of Wildlife staff from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Fairport Harbor station (440-352-4199) for the Central Basin and at Sandusky station (419-625-8062) for the Western Basin.
“Do not tell fish stories where the people know you “¦ but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.” — Mark Twain
Along the way
The Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS) is accepting sign-ups for beginners guided birding tours during the International Migratory Bird Day weekend.
OOS, in cooperation with the Division of Wildlife, will be conducting guided bird walks May 13 and 14 at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. These outings are targeted at novice or new birding enthusiasts and help people who are new to birding get better acquainted with the hobby.
The walks on May 13 will be held at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and the walks on May 14 will be held at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Walks are limited to 15 participants each and will be filled on first-come, first-served basis.
To sign up, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All emails should contain the applicant’s name, phone number, date and requested time slot. A return email will confirm the meeting place, date and time.
Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is listed as one of the top 10 birdwatching spots in the country. A typical May can see 80,000 visitors from across the country coming to the area to witness the spectacle of the spring migration.
• Tomorrow: 50-bird trap shoot, traps open at 11 a.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• Thursday and Friday: trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• June 11-16: Ohio Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, FFA Camp Muskingum, 3266 Dyewood Road SW, Carrollton. Space is limited: www.ohioforest.org/?page=ForestryCamp.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at email@example.com.
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