Outdoors: ODNR informs on fall colors, fishing

Staff report

Even though the fall color season is coming to a close, especially with the recent rain and wind, it was a spectacular few weeks to watch the hillsides and woodlands come alive in an always changing palette of reds, oranges and yellows. This weekend will likely provide one last chance for people to enjoy Ohio’s beautiful fall colors.

“Overall, it was a truly great fall color season with lots of vibrant colors, especially in the maples,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources Fall Color Forester Casey Burdick. “There is still some fall color out there, with your best chances to see it in the coming weeks being in the woodlands, such as our state parks and forests.”

Those interested in finding the most eye-catching fall color season should check fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov, Ohio’s official guide to the changing colors. This website includes weekly color updates and information to help plan a fall color adventure; weekly videos from Burdick highlighting fall color hot spots around the state; and links to fall activities, scenic road trips and unique overnight accommodations at Ohio State Parks and more.

Additionally, the Lake Erie walleye hatch is one of the largest in recent history according to fisheries biologists with the ODNR. Results from combined Ontario and Ohio surveys show that the 2015 hatch index is the highest since 2003. The excellent hatch should start to show up as catchable fish in the next three years.

“With these hatch index results, we are expecting the walleye fishing in Lake Erie in the next three to five years to be exceptional,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “This is outstanding news for Ohio anglers and out-of-state anglers who enjoy fishing on Lake Erie, the Walleye Capital of the World.”

To estimate the basin-wide hatch of walleye, ODNR and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry combine their bottom trawl survey data. The resulting basin-wide average catch for 2015 is 84 walleye from the spring hatch per hectare (about 2.5 acres), which is well above the long-term average of 32 per hectare.

The 2015 yellow perch hatch also appears to have been successful in both Ohio and Ontario waters of the western. This is the fifth-best yellow perch hatch in the western basin since the interagency survey began in 1987.

“Three good yellow perch hatches in a row should help the perch population in the western basin rebuild and lead to quality yellow perch fishing over the next couple of years,” said Jeff Tyson, head of Lake Erie Fisheries Program for the ODNR Division of Wildlife.

Each year in August, wildlife agencies from around the western basin of Lake Erie sample the waters using bottom trawls in search of young of the year walleye and yellow perch. Data from these bottom trawls are combined into a basin-wide index and compared to previous years to estimate the success of the walleye and yellow perch hatches. This provides biologists with an estimate on how many young fish will enter the fishable population two years later.

Information on the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, fishing reports, and maps and links to other Lake Erie Web resources are available at wildohio.gov.

Staff report