Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Anglers looking forward to Erie walleye season

By Bill
Parker
Editor

Luna Pier, Mich. — Walleye anglers are gearing up for what is
expected to be a banner season in the western basin of Lake
Erie.

“It looks like we’ll have a typical season like we used to
have,” said Kurt Newman, the DNR’s Lake Erie basin coordinator.
“(Anglers) should catch some nice fish in the Detroit River and the
western basin of Lake Erie early in the year.”

The walleye season on Michigan waters of Lake Erie has been
closed in April and May for the past two years. The DNR reopened
the season (year-round) this year, and that has local anglers
smiling.

“This year should be great,” said Troy resident Steve Martin,
captain of Mi-Hi Charters, Inc. “We’ve watched all those fish grow
up out there for two years. Last year, we were throwing back 70 to
100 fish each trip. There were a ton of them. They were just
getting to the 15-inch legal limit at the end of the year. This
should be a very good season.”

“All those fish” to which Martin referred are walleyes from the
2003 year-class, which biologists say was a phenomenal
year-class.

“The ‘03 year-class was stronger than we first thought,” Newman
said. “Those were the fish people were catching last year that were
just sub-legal. This year, they will all be legal and it should be
a tremendous fishery.”

Biologists estimate there are now approximately 60 million
walleyes in Lake Erie, and that about half of them came from that
2003 year-class. In fact, that year-class is the reason the DNR
reopened fishing on Michigan waters in April and May. Prior to that
hatch, the walleye population in the lake was estimated to have
dropped below 20 million. Catch rates also suffered. While anglers
annually caught between 5 million and 8 million walleyes from Lake
Erie in the 1980s and ‘90s, that number plummeted to a little over
2 million in 2004.

Newman believes those lean days are behind us.

“I don’t anticipate going back to a closed season,” he said. “If
we don’t pull off a good year-class in the next couple of years, we
will be relying on the 2003 class pretty heavily, but I anticipate
that we’ll have very strong fishing for years to come.”

That’s good news for folks like Mike Briskey, owner of the Luna
Pier Harbour Club on the west shore of Lake Erie.

“For us, the reopening is long overdue,” Briskey said. “I never
understood the rationale for closing the season for two months.
They should have just imposed a slot limit to protect the fish they
wanted to protect.

“But I’m glad it has reopened. When you cut two months out of a
seven-month season, it really hurts a lot of people down here. We
lost about 25 percent of our boats. That’s a big hit. A lot of them
are coming back this year.”

Added Newman, “A lot of the concerns we heard from people were
about the April and May closure. I’m glad we were able to give it
back to them sooner than we thought.”

The 15-inch minimum size limit remains in effect on the Michigan
waters of Lake Erie, and there is a five-fish daily possession
limit.

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