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Lake Erie walleye and perch forecasts excellent

Lake Erie is the gift that keeps on giving. The lake has become world famous for its outstanding walleye fishing, and the yellow perch aren’t about to be upstaged either.

Since Erie began its rebound in the 1970s after two decades of decline, thanks to poor water quality and over-harvest, the big water has had more up years than down.

It would appear the “up” will continue for the foreseeable future. Based on survey results by fisheries biologists at nearly 40 locations from Toledo to Huron, walleye experienced an outstanding hatch during this year’s spawn and yellow perch hatch rates continued well above the long-term average.

The good news about Lake Erie’s walleyes and perch was delivered this week in a news release from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

I’ve been fishing Erie several times a year since 1976 and, like many other anglers, have enjoyed great outings on charters and private boats. This year’s hatch, judged to be the second-highest in the history of the survey, bodes well for those who love the big lake.

The fishing has been fast and furious in 2019 in the western basin and Bass Island region. Central basin waters from Cleveland east to Geneva, Ashtabula and Conneaut have also produced outstanding walleye fishing. Limits came quickly this summer, with proof being the large number of boats being towed home southbound on Ohio 11 before noon on summer weekends.

“Each year in August, wildlife agencies from Ohio, Ontario and Michigan sample the western basin of Lake Erie in search of young-of-the-year walleye and yellow perch,” reports the Division of Wildlife news release. “This year’s outstanding walleye hatch combined with the excellent 2015 and 2018 year-classes will ensure an abundance of young walleye to complement the older and larger fish that make up the current Lake Erie walleye population.”

The perch hatch this year is well above average, the fifth time in seven years that has happened. Catches of year-old yellow perch were nearly double the 20-year average. That, of course, is great news for those who love to drop spreaders to hungry perch to fill coolers with the fixings for fabulous fish fries.

Lake Erie fisheries management is a collaborative effort.

“Ohio survey results will be combined with Ontario data to characterize the basin-wide catches of young-of-the-year walleye and yellow perch,” said the wildlife division’s news release. “This data allows biologists to calculate an initial projection of how many young fish will enter the fishable population two years later, which will be used in the process to determine jurisdictional quotas for the 2021 fishing season.”

The 2019 Lake Erie season is far from finished. Anglers can expect great catches of walleyes and perch, along with smallmouth bass and steelhead trout, as long as the weather holds this autumn.

Some of the best fishing for trophy-class walleyes happens around Ohio’s harbors and breakwalls after dark in November and December as the big ‘eyes follow the baitfish into the near-shore waters.

We have grown to expect great things from Lake Erie and, judging by the numbers shared this week by Ohio Division of Wildlife, anglers can count on great fishing for years to come.

Jack Wollitz is a lifelong angler who writes about fishing from Lake Erie to the Ohio River and all the waters in between. He appreciates emails from readers about their fishing experiences. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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