Lake Erie fish hatches above average in 2022


Water and Wings by Ken Parrott



More good news arrived this month for Lake Erie fishermen. The results from 2022 Lake Erie hatch surveys showed western basin walleye, central basin walleye, and western basin yellow perch hatches were above average according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

These results are consistent with the recent trend of highly successful hatches for both yellow perch and walleye in Lake Erie’s shallowest and warmest basin, and strengthen the extremely positive long-term outlook for anglers. Unfortunately, there was not so good news for the central basin perch as their hatches continue to be well below average.

Division of Wildlife survey results are combined with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry surveys to configure a basin-wide hatch index. The 2022 western basin walleye hatch was 83 fish per hectare (a hectare is 2.47 times larger than an acre), the ninth largest in the survey’s 35-year history and well above the average of 55

The western basin yellow perch hatch this year was equally impressive. The survey index was 572 young-of-year yellow perch per hectare, above the average of 461 and the seventh highest on record. Western basin yellow perch surveys are also combined with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to determine a hatch index.

Mid-summer and late fall yellow perch fishing in the western basin provided some of the best harvest rates observed in years, along with excellent size.

In the central basin, walleye production continued a trend of above average hatches with survey results of 14 young-of-year walleye per hectare, well above the average of 6 per hectare. This was the seventh highest of 33 survey years.

For yellow perch, the central basin is split into two management zones, the central zone (Huron to Fairport Harbor) and the east zone (Fairport Harbor to Conneaut). Results showed below average yellow perch hatches in each, with an index of 3 young-of-year perch per hectare in the central zone, below the average of 39. Similar results were found in the east zone, with an index of 3 per hectare, below the average of 38.

Conditions did not favor the survival of newly hatched yellow perch in the central basin during 2022. Variability in regional hatch success is expected on Lake Erie because of the size of the lake, differences among basins, and prevailing weather conditions. Hatch success is largely determined by the timing and availability of favorable conditions for both spawning and survival of newly hatched yellow perch in the spring and summer. Strong lake-wide yellow perch hatches are rare. It is common to observe poor hatches in the central and east zones when those in the west zone are good, which is what has been observed for several consecutive years. When conditions favor the central basin, the pattern is anticipated to reverse. Long-term data support these observations.

The Division of Wildlife completes western basin surveys in August. Those results are combined with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry survey results. Additionally, central basin trawls completed by the Division of Wildlife from Lorain to Ashtabula in September and October are used in population models for characterizing regional yellow perch hatches.

Survey results are used in conjunction with results from the other Lake Erie Committee agencies to determine hatch success in each management zone. This information allows biologists to better estimate how many young fish will enter the catchable population two years later, which is one factor used to determine safe harvest levels each year.

• Ohio hunters checked 15,163 deer during the extra weekend of deer gun hunting on Saturday, Dec. 17 and Sunday, Dec. 18, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. In the same two-day period over the last three years, hunters checked an average of 12,944 deer. Hunters took 9,619 deer on the same weekend in 2021.

Following the weekend season, gun hunters have checked a total of 97,326 deer this year, including 71,932 deer taken from Nov. 28-Dec. 4. In addition, youth hunters checked 9,515 deer Nov. 19-20, and archery hunters have harvested 85,272 deer through Sunday, Dec. 18, bringing the season total for all implements to 182,598 deer.

During the deer gun weekend, hunters harvested 4,418 bucks (29% of deer taken), 8,697 does (57%), and 1,792 button bucks (12%). Bucks with shed antlers and bucks with antlers less than 3 inches long accounted for 256 deer, or 2%.

Straight-walled cartridge rifles became legal deer hunting implements in Ohio in 2014 and have grown in popularity since then. Over the course of the deer gun weekend, 57% of successful hunters chose a straight-walled cartridge rifle, 34% used a shotgun, 6% selected a muzzleloader, 2% used archery equipment, and less than 1% chose a handgun.

Ohio’s reputation as an excellent deer hunting state has motivated 281,437 hunters to purchase deer permits as of Sunday, Dec. 18. Out-of-state hunters from Pennsylvania (7,157 licenses sold), Michigan (5,052), West Virginia (3,614), North Carolina (3,202), New York (2,943), and other states boost local economies as they travel to Ohio for a chance at harvesting a Buckeye State whitetail.

Hunters still looking to harvest a deer can take part in the ongoing archery season, which continues until Sunday, Feb. 5, or the state’s muzzleloader season, Jan. 7-10. Check the 2022-23 Hunting and Trapping Regulations for more information about deer hunting. Weekly reports and yearly summaries can be found on the Deer Harvest Summary page at wildohio.gov.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

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Water and Wings by Ken Parrott

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.