2009 Lake Erie Sport Fishing Outlook is Promising
Walleye and yellow perch anglers should enjoy good fishing opportunities
COLUMBUS, OH - Lake Erie anglers should experience another year of quality fishing during 2009, according to biologists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
"Over the years, Lake Erie has consistently provided some of the best fishing in the country," said Roger Knight, Lake Erie fisheries program manager at ODNR, "We expect 2009 to be no different."
Excellent fishing opportunities await walleye and yellow perch anglers, as well as those who prefer other species like smallmouth bass, white bass, and steelhead, said Knight.
Lake Erie anglers have great access to fishing in the Western and Central basins due to the numerous public boat ramps, private marinas and shoreline areas. They also benefit from having the largest charter boat industry in the Great Lakes.
Anglers are reminded that walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system that involves Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction regulates its catches to comply with quotas and minimize the risk of over-fishing the species. Quotas for the upcoming fishing season are determined through consensus agreement by the jurisdictions through the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and are announced publicly in late March of each year.
Ohio walleye anglers will catch fish mostly from the 2003 hatch, with contributions from the 2001 and 2005 hatches, as well as some fish from the 1999 and 2007 hatches. Walleye from the 2003 hatch will be 18 to 26 inches long, while fish from the earlier hatches will range from 23 to 28 inches over the course of the fishing season. Fish from the 2005 hatch should be in the 17 to 20 inch range. Large walleye from strong hatches in the 1980s and mid-1990s still persist in the population, providing "Fish Ohio" trophy (more than 28 inches) opportunities.
"Walleye abundance and the sport catch have been declining over recent years in Lake Erie due to below-average hatches since 2003," said Knight. "However, the average size of fish caught in the 2009 fishery should be exceptional."
Anglers will also catch walleyes from the moderate 2007 hatch; however, most of these fish will be under the legal size of 15 inches until fall.
The daily bag limit remains four fish per person during March and April 2009, and six fish from May 2009 through February 2010. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season.
Perch anglers should encounter fish ranging from 7 to 13 inches from the 2007, 2005 and 2003 hatches in this year's fishery. Perch numbers should be similar to levels observed in 2008 in the Western Basin, but down slightly in the Central Basin. A moderate hatch from 2008 should boost the fishery beginning late next year.
"Overall, we expect to have good perch fishing in 2009, with the largest fish coming from the Central Basin," said Knight.
The daily bag limit is 25 yellow perch per angler in the waters west of Huron and 30 perch per angler from Huron eastward to the Pennsylvania border. There is no minimum size limit on yellow perch.
Smallmouth bass fishing in 2009 is expected to be fair. Although bass abundance remains below desired levels, those caught should be of excellent size (15 to 22 inches, weighing 2 to 6 pounds). Bass fishing is best in areas with good bottom structure, which is available across much of the entire Ohio near shore area.
A closed season remains in effect from May 1 through June 26, 2009, during which all black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released. Beginning June 27, 2009, the daily bag limit for bass will remain at five fish, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.
Steelhead anglers should enjoy another year of great fishing in Ohio's Lake Erie tributaries throughout the fall, winter and spring months. Good fishing opportunities will also exist on the open lake when schools of fish can be located. 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 dipsy divers or downriggers. The daily bag limit remains at five fish per person from May 16 to August 31, and two fish per angler between September 1 and May 15, with a 12-inch minimum size limit throughout the year.
White bass will continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in tributaries and the open lake. The catch will be dominated by hatches from 2003 and 2005, which will include many 12- to 15-inch fish. The 2006 hatch was moderate and should contribute 10- to 12-inch fish to the fishery. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and near shore areas of the open lake during summer months. There is no daily bag or size limit on white bass.
Anglers are also advised of numerous fishing opportunities in the bays and harbors on the Ohio shoreline. The inlets offer excellent fishing for panfish, including crappie and bluegill, as well as largemouth bass. In early spring, anglers may also catch an occasional Northern pike or muskellunge in vegetated areas.
Anglers are reminded that fishing conditions on Lake Erie can change hourly and adjustments are often necessary to improve success. Anglers should take into account such factors as water temperature, cloud cover, water clarity, boat traffic, wave action, structure and the amount of baitfish in the area. Anglers are also reminded to carefully monitor Lake Erie weather and to seek safe harbor before storms approach.
During the season, ODNR provides an updated Lake Erie fishing report online at ohiodnr.com and by calling 1-888-HOOKFISH.
Division of Wildlife staff members are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Call Fairport Harbor, (440) 352-4199, for Central Basin information and at Sandusky, (419) 625-8062, for Western Basin information. For additional information on lodging, charter boat services and local launch ramps, contact one of the following lakeshore visitors bureaus:
Ashtabula County Convention & Visitors Bureau 800-337-6746
Lake County Visitors Bureau 800-368-5253
Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland 800-321-1001
Lorain County Visitors Bureau 800-334-1673
Sandusky/Erie County Visitors Bureau 800-255-8070
Ottawa County Visitors Bureau 800-441-1271
Greater Toledo Convention & Visitors Bureau 800-243-4667
Ohio Division of Travel & Tourism 800-BUCKEYE
Information on the Division of Wildlife's Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, open lake and steelhead fishing reports, as well as maps and links to other Lake Erie web resources is available on the Internet at http://ohiodnr.com/wildlife.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR web site at www.ohiodnr.com.