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Huge walleye hatch in Lake Erie good news for fishermen

By Tom Jackson • Dec 26, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Fishermen who seek walleye in Lake Erie apparently have a lot to look forward to in the next few years.

Walleye fishing in the lake has been good recently, and that seems likely to continue after a walleye hatch in 2018 that Eric Weimer, station chief at the state’s Sandusky Fisheries Research Station, describes as “massive.”

“That’s pretty exciting. That’s going to carry the fishery in for the next decade and a half,” Weimer told the Register in the Wednesday interview.

And that follows a decent walleye hatch in 2014, an excellent one in 2015 and good ones in 2016 and 2017, Weimer said.

On Dec. 19, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced trawling by fish scientists in Lake Erie’s central basin revealed an “exceptional” walleye hatch this year.

“The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s results from the 2018 survey indicate that young-of-the-year walleye catch rates were the highest recorded in the past 20 years of the central basin trawl survey (32 fish per hectare). This year’s results, combined with the excellent 2015 year-class, will ensure adult walleye abundance in the central basin will continue to increase,” the ODNR said in a news release.

State experts go out on the lake in a boat to obtain those numbers, said John Windau, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“They pull a big net through the water and they pull that in, and they sample numbers,” he said.

The central basin results follow an announcement on Sept. 13 that an earlier survey in the lake’s western basin also had produced excellent results for walleye. The ODNR called the western basin results “exceptional” and “the second highest in the history of the Ohio survey.”

A walleye pulled the lake must be at least 15 inches long before the fisherman can keep it. The current bag limit is six fish per fisherman per day most of the year, a bag limit of four during the March and April spawning season, Weimer said.

Changing the bag limit is a long process, he said.

“There won’t be anything that happens anytime soon,” he said.

Yellow perch hatch results also were good this year.

“The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s August western basin trawl survey found the 2018 yellow perch hatch to be very good at 511 yellow perch per hectare. This is above the 20-year average of 316 yellow perch per hectare in Ohio waters of the western basin,” the ODRN reported. “This above average yellow perch hatch should help bolster the yellow perch population in the western basin and maintain quality yellow perch fishing.”

The central basin survey showed what was described as an average yellow perch hatch.

“Trawl survey results for yellow perch indicate the hatch was the highest observed since 2014 (40 fish per hectare) and just below the long-term average (45 fish per hectare) for the central basin,” the ODNR said.

The yellow perch results this year weren’t huge, but they were good, Weimer said.

Windau and Weimer said a number of factors have helped generate the big walleye hatches, including conditions that affect the fish’s food supply.

High water levels the last three or four years apparently are helpful and help generate lots of food for the walleye, Weimer said.

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