Lake Erie anglers should experience another year of diverse fishing opportunities during 2011, according to biologists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife.
“When you consider the variety of species and sizes of fish that are available to Ohio anglers, we are optimistic about Lake Erie fishing prospects this year,” said Roger Knight, Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the Division of Wildlife. “Weather is always the wild card on Lake Erie, but anglers who take advantage of seasonal fishing opportunities have good odds at catching walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, white bass, and steelhead, often in combination during many trips.”
Lake Erie 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 their catches to comply with their agency’s quotas and minimize the risk of over-fishing these species. Quotas for the upcoming fishing season are determined through consensus agreement by these jurisdictions through the Lake Erie Committee (LEC) of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which were just recently announced for 2011.
Ohio’s walleye and yellow perch bag limits were set after the March 25 LEC quota announcement, and will go into effect May 1. As a result of the 2011 quota allocation, the walleye bag limit will be six from May 1 to Feb. 29, 2012, and four from March 1, 2012 to April 30, 2012. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season. The daily bag limit for walleye remains four fish per person during April 2011. As a result of the 2011 quota allocation, the yellow perch bag limit will be 30 perch per angler in all Ohio waters from May 1, 2011 to April 30, 2012. There is no minimum size limit on yellow perch. Lake Erie anglers can find walleye and yellow perch bag limit information at ODNR offices, in special publications at bait and tackle shops, and on the Web at wildohio.com.
Ohio walleye anglers will catch fish mostly from the 2007 and 2003 hatches, with some contributions from the 2001, 2005, 2006, and 2008 hatches. Walleye from the moderate 2007 hatch will range from 17-22 inches long and will complement the larger 22- to 28-inch fish from the strong 2003 hatch as the major contributors to the Ohio catch. Fish from the fair 2005 hatch should be in the 20- to 25-inch range. Fast growing fish from the 2008 cohort will begin to contribute to the fishery. Large walleye from strong hatches in the mid-1990s still persist in the population, providing “Fish Ohio” award (greater than 28 inches) opportunities.
“Fish from the 2007 hatch grew faster than expected last year and showed up prominently in our fishery in 2010, and they should dominate the Western Basin catch this summer,” said Knight. “The 2003 hatch is still out there, and it will likely contribute many fish in the Central Basin fisheries, particularly as the waters warm up and large fish migrate eastward to cooler waters.”
Perch anglers should encounter fish ranging from 7- to 13-inches from the 2007, 2008, 2005, and 2003 hatches in this year’s fishery. Lake wide, yellow perch numbers should be similar to levels observed in 2010 in the Western and Central basins. Small fish from the weaker 2009 hatch are not expected to contribute much to the fishery.
“Overall, we expect to have good perch fishing in 2011, with the largest fish coming from the eastern part of the Central Basin,” said Knight.
Smallmouth bass fishing in 2011 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). Some small fish may be encountered from recent good hatches and must be released as quickly as possible. 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 24, 2011, during which all black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released. Beginning June 25, 2011, 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 good fishing in Ohio’s Lake Erie open waters and in tributaries throughout the fall, winter, and spring months. 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 until fish move close to shore in the fall. The daily bag limit remains at five fish per person from May 16 to Aug. 31, and two fish per angler between Sept. 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 the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The catch will be dominated by hatches from 2007 and 2008, which will include 13- to 16-inch fish. The moderate 2009 and strong 2010 hatches should contribute many 10- to 14-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 factors such as water temperature, cloud cover, water clarity, boat traffic, wave action, structures, currents, 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, updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available online at wildohio.com and by calling 1-888-HOOKFISH. Division of Wildlife staff members are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at our research station facilities at Fairport Harbor (440-352-4199) for Central Basin information and at Sandusky (419-625-8062) for Western Basin information.