Mayflies and high water, oh my!
Port Clinton, Ohio — An abundance of mayflies and record-high water made the recent Fish Ohio Day at Port Clinton a bit unusual.
While most folks welcomed the mayflies at the July 2 event, the high Lake Erie waters were a definite “downer.”
It’s been an unusually late and heavy mayfly hatch – an indicator that the lake’s water (at least in the Western Basin) is getting cleaner.
I came out of my hotel room at about 6 a.m. to see my car and many others covered with the winsome little bugs. They are totally harmless and live only about 24 hours after hatching. Best of all, they are a delicacy for the walleyes to savor.
It was nice to see so many dead mayflies floating on the water since biologists say there are millions of big and small walleyes out there to eat them.
A fellow Fish Ohio Day angler on my charter boat – a person who lives in Cleveland – said the mayfly hatch in the Central Basin is no where near as abundant this year. I wonder what that means?
While I personally love to see the mayflies, they are a bit of a cleaning nuisance. We were forced to find a car wash and clean the vehicle both inside (how did they get there?) and out before heading home to central Ohio.
But that is a small price to pay for a healthier Lake Erie.
Then there was the matter of the high water – not such a welcomed sight. Excessive rain this spring and summer sent lake levels to historic records.
Water was sloshing over the Fisherman’s Wharf cul-de-sac in downtown Port Clinton, making some businesses like my favorite popcorn shop unreachable. Rumor had it that workers at Port Clinton Fish Co. were standing in knee-high water.
Many private and public docks were not usable and the situation promised to get worse as the localized downpours only continue.
It has been only about 15 years since lake levels were at all-time lows. That had everyone worried back then. Many docks and launch ramps were left “high and dry” and some lakeside businesses were forced to close altogether.
Hydrologists blamed that situation on drought around the Upper Lakes (Superior, Michigan and Huron). Water flows downhill from those into the Lower Lakes (Erie and Ontario) through a series of rivers and canals. Less water in the Upper Lakes means lower water levels in the lower ones and vice-versa.
Snowpack around the Upper Lakes was heavier last winter. That, coupled with a rainy spring, sent water levels skyrocketing in the Lower Lakes.
We’ve had a rain-soaked spring and summer in the Lake Erie watershed, too. Tributary streams like the Maumee and Sandusky rivers poured even more water into the lake.
As a result, the lake is higher than most anyone has ever seen.