Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Lake Erie walleye, perch hatches again on positive side

Survey work from 2022 showed walleye and perch hatches being above average in much of Lake Erie. (Photo from Eric Engbretson Underwater Photography)

Sandusky, Ohio — Like a group of expectant fathers in a maternity ward, Lake Erie anglers have been anxiously anticipating the results of the 2022 walleye and yellow perch hatch surveys. It has spurred discussions on fishing site message boards, at bait and tackle shops, in marinas, and around the dinner table for months.

The news is good overall with walleye and perch hatches being above average for 2022.

In previous years, by September, Ohio’s fisheries biologists would release the results of their trawl sampling in Ohio’s 40 sites.

Much later each fall, their Ontario counterparts would supply their numbers from roughly the same number of sampling sites and the Western Basin results would be averaged to land on the respective hatch values.

The score has lately been expressed as fish density readings expressed as numbers of the various species per hectare.

However, last year, it was announced that instead of adjusting the numbers when
Ontario provided their counts, Ohio would withhold their findings until a
one-time combined trawling index could be provided via a December press
release.

This also give the Central Basin fish biologists time to conduct their trawls,
which have to be delayed until the thermocline breaks up in October.

Without waiting until then, there would be areas artificially devoid of fish,
due to low dissolved oxygen levels under the thermocline. This deflates
the true fish densities of fish present, since they may be suspended
above the “dead zone” and the path of the bottom trawl net being dragged
over the mud.


Variability in regional hatch success is expected on Lake Erie due to the size of the lake.

— Division of Wildlife


So, without further ado, the combined interagency trawling data results as provided by the
Ohio Division of Wildlife’s draft press release on the subject contains
the following information:

Western Basin 

The results are consistent with the recent trend of highly successful
hatches for both walleyes and yellow perch in Lake Erie’s shallowest and
warmest basin.

The 2022 walleye hatch was calculated to be 83 fish per hectare, well-above
the 55 fish per hectare average of the current 35-year series and
represents the ninth largest hatch seen during these surveys.

The Western Basin yellow perch hatch was also well above 462 fish per
hectare with a reading of 572, the seventh largest seen over the past 35
years.

Spawning success for both species most closely resembles the 2020 year-class when
the figures were 97/hectare for walleyes and 548/hectare for yellow
perch respectively.

Central Basin

Walleye production in the Central Basin continued a trend of above
average hatches. Survey results for young-of-year walleye were 14 per
hectare, well above the average of six per hectare and ranking seventh
of 33 survey years.

For yellow perch, the Central Basin is split into two management zones. The
central zone extends from Huron to Fairport Harbor, and the east zone
continues from Fairport Harbor to Conneaut. Results showed below average
yellow perch hatches in each.

The central zone survey resulted in an index of 3 youngof-year yellow perch per hectare, below the average of 39 per
hectare, and ranked 29th of 33 survey years. Similar results were found
in the east zone, with an index of 3 per hectare, below the average of
38 per hectare, and ranked 26th of 33 survey years.

Despite a good yellow perch hatch west of Huron in the west zone, conditions
did not favor their survival in the waters east of Huron in the central
basin during 2022, similar to recent years.

Hatch success is largely determined by the timing and availability of
favorable conditions for both spawning and survival of larval (newly
hatched) yellow perch in the spring and summer. Therefore, successful
lakewide yellow perch hatches are rare.

Variability in regional hatch success is expected on Lake Erie due to the size of
the lake, differences in characteristics among basins, and prevailing
weather conditions.

It is common to see hatch results in the central and east zones during
years when those in the west zone are good, and vice-versa. When
conditions change and favor the Central Basin, the pattern is
anticipated to reverse. Long-term collections support these
observations.

“Lake Erie yellow perch are surveyed and managed as regional populations
within management zones. Our surveys during the past few years have
shown a marked difference in the yellow perch hatch when comparing the
west, central, and east zones,” said Travis Hartman, the Division of
Wildlife’s Lake Erie fisheries program administrator. “The Division of
Wildlife uses these zones to monitor perch hatches and, by comparing
results to previous years, participate in the LEC (Lake Erie Committee)
process to determine safe harvest levels.”

These hatches for both walleye and yellow perch only strengthen the extremely
positive long-term outlook for walleye anglers lakewide and yellow
perch anglers in the Western Basin.

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