2008 LAKE ERIE FISHING OUTLOOK IS GREAT!
2003 hatches of walleye and yellow perch should provide excellent angling opportunities
Lake Erie anglers should enjoy another year of exceptional fishing in 2008, according to biologists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
"Lake Erie remains one of the greatest natural resources in our country," said Roger Knight, Lake Erie fisheries program manager at ODNR.
"Where else but Lake Erie can an angler find such diversity of fish species and sizes? We anticipate excellent fishing opportunities once again this year for walleye and yellow perch, as well as strong fisheries for other species like smallmouth bass, white bass and steelhead."
Knight noted that anglers should have access to good fishing in the western and central basins due to the numerous public boat ramps, private marinas and shoreline areas. The large number of charter boats on the Ohio shore is also an asset.
Ohio walleye anglers can expect to catch fish mostly from the 2003 hatch, with continued contributions from 1999 and 2001 hatches, as well as some fish from the 2005 hatch. Walleye from the 2003 hatch will be 20 to 24 inches long, while fish from the earlier hatches will range from 21 to 27 inches over the course of the fishing season. Fish from the 2005 hatch should be in the 15 to 18-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.
"The walleye fishery in 2007 was better than the phenomenal fishery that we saw in 2006," said Knight. "Weather permitting, we expect to have another year of excellent walleye fishing, with an unbelievable average size of more than 20 inches in the catch."
The daily bag limit remains four fish per person during March and April, and six fish from May through February 2009. The 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season.
Perch anglers should encounter excellent numbers of 9 to 12-inch fish from the 2003 hatch this year, although perch numbers will be down slightly over 2007. Moderate hatches from 2005 and 2006 should contribute some smaller fish to the harvest as well, with a few jumbos from the 2001 hatch present. Anglers will continue to see larger fish in the central basin of Lake Erie, as compared to the western basin. There is no minimum size limit for yellow perch.
The Division of Wildlife is proposing changes to the daily bag limit for yellow perch in western Lake Erie, pending public input and approval by the Ohio Wildlife Council. Details about the proposal will be forthcoming through public announcements.
Smallmouth bass fishing is expected to be good in 2008, with contributions from hatches in the 1990s and 2003. Fish should range in size from 14 to 21 inches and weigh 1.5 to 5 pounds. Bass fishing is best around areas with bottom structure, which is available across much of the entire Ohio near-shore area. ODNR biologists have seen several good hatches in recent years, potentially contributing to good smallmouth bass fishing in the future.
A closed season remains in effect from May 1 through June 27, during which all black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released. Beginning June 28, the daily bag limit will remain at five fish, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.
Steelhead anglers should enjoy 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 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 trolling for steelhead in deep waters use 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 between September 1 and May 15, with a 12-inch minimum size limit throughout the year.
White bass will continue to offer seasonal fishing opportunities in both tributaries and the open lake. The catch will include many 10 to 14-inch fish from the 2005 and 2003 hatches. The 2006 hatch was moderate, and should contribute some 8 to 9-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. These 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 and at 1-888-HOOKFISH.
Division of Wildlife staff members are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 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 visitor's 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 are available online.