COLUMBUS – Lake Erie anglers should experience another year of diverse fishing opportunities in 2016, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system that involves Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. Each jurisdiction regulates its catches to comply with 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 of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which were just recently announced for 2016.
As a result of the 2016 quota allocation, the walleye daily bag limit is four, and the yellow perch daily bag limit is 30 per angler in Ohio waters of Lake Erie until April 30. The daily bag limit will be six walleye from May 1 through Feb. 28, 2017. From March 1, 2017 through April 30, 2017, the daily walleye bag limit will be four. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season for walleye. The yellow perch daily bag limit will be 30 from May 1 through April 30, 2017, with no minimum size limit. Lake Erie anglers can find walleye and yellow perch bag limit information at ODNR offices, in special publications at bait and tackle shops and at wildohio.gov.
Ohio walleye anglers will catch fish mostly from the 2014 and 2013 hatches, with some fish from the 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 year classes. Additional fish from 2007 and 2003 will also be harvested by anglers. Walleye from the average 2014 hatch will range from 15-18 inches, while walleye from the 2013 hatch will be between 16-20 inches. Fish from the 2003 and 2007 hatches are likely to carry most of the Central Basin fisheries, and a good number of these walleye will be over the 26-inch range. Large walleye from strong hatch in 2003 will continue to provide “Fish Ohio” opportunities (greater than 28 inches), with this year class nearing the size that may give Ohio a new state record walleye. Additionally, in 2016, anglers should see a number of smaller (less than 15 inches) fish from the excellent 2015 hatch. Anglers are reminded of the 15-inch minimum size limit and encouraged to release these fish with as little handling as possible so they can contribute to the fisheries in future years.
Expect good perch fishing in 2016, with improving numbers of fish in the Western Basin and the largest fish in the eastern areas of the Central Basin. Perch anglers should encounter fish ranging from 7 to 13 inches from the 2014 through 2008 hatches this year, with major contributions from the 2014, 2011 and 2008 year classes. Fish from the average-to-better hatches in 2007 will contribute fish in the 10-plus inch range. “In 2015, yellow perch fisheries flourished in the eastern portions of Ohio’s Lake Erie, and we expect this trend to continue into 2016,” said Tyson.
Smallmouth bass fishing in 2016 is expected to be fair but improving. Smallmouth bass catch rates decreased in 2015, when compared to 2014, but are still the highest observed since the mid-1990s. Smallmouth bass should be an excellent size (14 to 22 inches and weighing up to six pounds). The best fishing for smallmouth bass will continue to be in areas with good bottom structure, which is the available habitat across much of the entire Ohio nearshore and islands. Continuing the trend from previous years, largemouth bass fishing should be excellent in 2016. This emerging fishery is producing high catch rates and some large fish in nearshore areas and harbors across Ohio’s Lake Erie. All black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released from May 1 through June 24. Beginning June 25, the daily bag limit for bass will be five, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.
Steelhead anglers should enjoy another year of great fishing in 2016 in Ohio’s Lake Erie open waters and in tributaries. 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 divers or downriggers until fish move close to shore in the fall. The daily bag limit remains at five fish per angler from May 16 through Aug. 31, and two fish per angler between Sept. 1 and May 15, 2017. A 12-inch minimum size limit is in effect throughout the year.
White bass continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The 2016 catch will be dominated by fish from the 2012 and 2010 year classes. A few fish from the 2007 hatch could be as large as 16 inches. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and nearshore areas of the open lake during the summer. There is no white bass daily bag limit or size limit.
Bays, harbors and main lake shorelines offer excellent fishing for panfish, as well as occasional northern pike and 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, structure, 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.
Updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available at wildohio.gov or by calling 888-HOOKFISH (888-466-5347). Information is available from ODNR 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 Sandusky Station (419-625-8062) for the Western Basin.
Information on the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, fishing reports, maps and links to other Lake Erie web resources are available at wildohio.gov.