I have had the opportunity to chase walleye up at Lake Erie the past few weekends. Although the bite has been strong this spring, Mother Nature hasn’t been cooperating with too many decent days to get out on the lake to pursue them.
We’ve had too much rain making it tough for the river fishermen to have success and the lake fishermen have been pounded with a constant supply of strong winds especially out of the northeast. The combination of too much rain and winds blowing directly onto the southern bank has created lake shore flooding conditions several times this spring. The lake is at record water levels for the month of May and they are predicting the all time record high water level will be broken in June. All the added water makes for a very rough lake with just a minimal amount of winds.
The fish are there in good numbers and continue to do what they always do despite the muddy and choppy waters. The river spawn is mostly over and the walleye are now on their usual migration pattern through the western basin. The numbers are there, it’s just tough finding the right and safe conditions to chase after them.
According to Ohio Department of Natural Resources= Division of Wildlife, Lake Erie anglers have the chance to experience excellent fishing opportunities on Lake Erie in 2019. Walleye angler harvest rates set records in 2018, and numerous large hatches point to a bright future for the Walleye Capital of the World.
Ohio’s Lake Erie daily bag limit for walleye is four fish per angler and the yellow perch daily bag limit is 30 fish per angler through April 30. The daily bag limit will be six walleye per angler from May 1 through Feb. 29, 2020. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season for walleye. The yellow perch daily limit will remain at 30 in all of Ohio’s Lake Erie waters through April of 2020, with no minimum size limit.
Walleye anglers will mostly catch abundant 4 to 5-year-old fish that will average 19 to 21 inches and could be as large as 26 inches. Abundant young fish from the 2017 and 2018 hatches will show up in anglers’ catches ranging from 9 to 14 inches. Anglers are encouraged to release these sub-legal fish with as little handling as possible, so they can contribute to the fishery in the future.
Anglers can expect good perch fishing in the western basin in 2019 as fish from the large 2014 hatch are approaching sizes up to 13 inches. Hatches from 2015 through 2017 will also provide some smaller 7- to 9-inch fish. The 2018-year class is projected to be larger than the 2014-year class and will provide increased numbers of fish in upcoming years. Central basin anglers should expect the best fishing to be in eastern waters from Fairport Harbor to Conneaut, where the 2012- and 2014-year classes will provide numerous large fish.
Central basin populations have declined from the record levels set over 10 years ago and are lacking large hatches that were more common in the past. Hatches in the area from Huron to Fairport Harbor have been consistently below average recently. Anglers’ catches in this region will mostly come from the 2014 and 2015-year classes and will average 9 inches long.
Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass fishing in 2019 should provide both good catch rates and trophy size opportunities. Please note that new regulations were implemented for largemouth and smallmouth bass for the 2019 fishing season. The previously closed spring season now allows the harvest of one black bass per day, with a minimum size limit of 18 inches from May 1 until the fourth Saturday of June (June 22), and the daily bag limit will continue to be five black bass per day with a 14-inch minimum size limit the remainder of the season through April 30, 2020.
Updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available at 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 the Sandusky station (419-625-8062) for the western basin. Information about the Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, fishing reports, maps and links to other web resources are available at wildohio.gov.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.