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Lake Erie walleye hatch not a bust, but below average

Posted on October 10, 2013

Sandusky, Ohio — There’s good news and bad news as it pertains to the annual walleye and yellow perch hatches on Lake Erie.

First, the bad: August trawls conducted by the DNR Division of Wildlife showed just four young-of-the-year walleyes per 2 1⁄2 acres, said Jeff Tyson, program administrator for the DNR’s Sandusky Fisheries Research Station.

“We saw fish, so it wasn’t a complete bust,” Tyson said. “But, the hatch was below average ... It’s better than what we’ve seen in the previous two years, but still below average. We’ve got some (fish) out there, but it’s not a boomer like 2003.”

Those young-of-the-year walleyes won’t show up in the fishery until they’re 2 1⁄2 years old and of legal size to be harvested.

Now, the good: Yellow perch hatched in better numbers in the spring of 2013. Tyson said the number for perch was about 100 fish per 2 1⁄2 acres.

“That was slightly above average,” he said. “It really was the best we’ve seen out there for perch since 2007, so that is a welcome sight.”

Those samples came from 40 trawling stations across the western basin of Lake Erie, Tyson said. Ontario has an identical system that it uses on its waters of Lake Erie.

Through May of this year, the walleye harvest for Ohio was down a bit, and Tyson said he didn’t have updated numbers that would tell the tale through the summer.

The spring drop, Tyson said “was just a result of (angler) effort being down. In 2012, we had just a beautiful spring and people got out and thumped on them pretty good.”

Overall, the Lake Erie fishery is healthy, Tyson said, despite the less-than-desirable results of the hatch.

The mammoth 2003 year-class of walleyes “is still out there contributing to the fishery,” he said. “We’re also seeing fish from the 2007 and 2008 year-classes for walleyes.

“Catch rates are remaining high, so they’re staying steady,” he said. “Overall, our walleye fishery has been pretty good this year in and amongst all  the weather we’ve had to deal with.”

Yellow perch has also fared well this year, Tyson said, adding that a lot of the fishing pressure for that species comes in the fall months.

“Down east, off of Conneaut, Ashtabula, and Fairport, the perch fishery has been fantastic,” he said.

It’s still too early to tell, Tyson said, if any changes in the walleye bag limit could be forthcoming next year.

“We won’t know that until we have Ohio’s quota about the end of March,” he said. “So, it’s fairly difficult to tell where things are going to be at next year.

“If we have over a million walleyes in Ohio’s quota, then there won’t be a change in the bag limit,” Tyson said. “Perch will vary by management unit. We’ll have to see what the population models show us and go from there.”

The Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission meets in March of each year to set quotas on walleyes and yellow perch for each of its jurisdictions or management units.

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