High hopes for Lake Erie sport fishing in 2017

COLUMBUS – Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer and Rich Carter, executive administrator of fish management and research for the ODNR Division of Wildlife, announced that Lake Erie anglers should anticipate experiencing another year of diverse fishing opportunities in 2017.

Zehringer and Carter were joined by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler and Larry Fletcher, president of Lake Erie Shores and Islands. Strong walleye hatches from 2014 and 2015 are expected to contribute to fishing opportunities in Lake Erie this year. Anglers pursuing yellow perch in the Western Basin will likely find solid numbers, too.

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 2017.

Currently, 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. As a result of the 2017 quota allocation, the daily bag limit will be six walleye from May 1 through Feb. 28, 2018. From March 1, 2018, through April 30, 2018, 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, 2018, 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.

Walleye

Ohio walleye anglers will catch fish mostly from the 2015, 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 2014 hatch will range from 16-19 inches, while walleye from the 2013 hatch will be between 17-22 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 2017, 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. As the 2017 season progresses, more of the 2-year-old fish will surpass the 15-inch minimum size limit.

Yellow Perch

Expect excellent perch fishing in 2017, with improving numbers of fish in the Western Basin. Perch anglers in the west will primarily catch perch from 2013, 2014 and 2015, providing a good range of sizes. The largest perch in the Western Basin will come from 2012 and older year classes.

Central Basin anglers should expect to find average numbers of yellow perch, with most fish coming from the 2012 year class and to a lesser extent, the 2014 year class. Older fish from years prior to 2012 will provide the potential for trophy yellow perch.

Black bass

Smallmouth bass fishing in 2017 is expected to be consistent with recent years. In 2016, smallmouth bass catch rates were well above average for the fifth consecutive year, and in 2017, anglers should expect more of the same, including an excellent size range (14 to 22 inches and weighing up to 6 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 2017. This fishery continues to produce exceptional 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 23. Beginning June 24, the daily bag limit for bass will be five, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.

Steelhead

Steelhead anglers should enjoy another year of great fishing in 2017 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, 2018. A 12-inch minimum size limit is in effect throughout the year.

White Bass

White bass continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The 2017 catch will continue to be dominated by fish from the 2012 and 2010 year classes.

Fish from older year classes 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.

Other species 

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.

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