Lake Erie anglers should enjoy diverse fishing opportunities in 2013.
"When you consider the mix of species and sizes that are seasonally available to Ohio anglers, we are optimistic about the fishing prospects this year," said Jeff Tyson, Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. "Weather is always a wild card at Lake Erie, but if conditions are similar to those in 2012, anglers should have excellent seasonal opportunities this year to catch walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, white bass and steelhead."
Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system that involves Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction regulates their catches to comply with quotas and minimize the risk of over-fishing these species. Quotas for the upcoming fishing season are determined through consensus agreement by these jurisdictions through the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which were recently announced for 2013.
The daily bag limit will be six walleye from May 1 through Feb. 28, 2014. From March 1, 2014, through April 30, 2014, the daily walleye bag limit will be four. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season for walleye. The yellow perch daily bag limit is 30 from May 1 through April 30, 2014, with no minimum size limit.
Ohio walleye anglers in 2013 will catch fish mostly from the 2010, 2009, 2007 and 2003 hatches. Walleye from the 2011 hatch continue to show good growth based on 2012 fall surveys and many individuals will be near or over the 15-inch minimum size limit during the 2013 fishing season. Walleye from the moderate 2010 hatch will range from 17-22 inches, while walleye from the 2007 hatch will range from 18-25 inches. The 2003 and 2007 hatches are likely to carry most of the Central Basin fisheries. These walleye will complement the larger 22- to 30-inch fish from the strong 2003 hatch. Large walleye from strong hatches in the mid-1990s will provide "Fish Ohio" opportunities (greater than 28 inches).
Expect good perch fishing in 2013, with the largest fish in the eastern areas of the Central Basin. Perch anglers should encounter fish ranging from 7- to 13-inches from the 2011 through 2007 hatches in this year's fishery, with major contributions from the 2007 and 2008 year classes. Fish from the large 2003 year class are still present, particularly in the central basin, and will provide some of this year's trophy perch opportunities.
Smallmouth bass fishing in 2013 is expected to be fair. Bass catch rates in 2012 were the highest observed since the mid-1990s. Smallmouth bass caught should be excellent size (14 to 22 inches, weighing up to 6 pounds). Bass fishing is best in areas with good bottom structure, which is the available habitat across much of the entire Ohio near shore area. All black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released from May 1-June 28. Beginning June 29, the daily bag limit for bass is five, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.
Steelhead anglers should enjoy another year of great fishing in 2013 in Ohio's Lake Erie open waters and in tributaries. Peak summer steelhead action on Lake Erie can be found offshore from June through August between Vermilion and Conneaut, with catches measuring 17 to 29 inches. Most Lake Erie anglers troll for steelhead in deep waters using spoons with dipsy divers or downriggers until fish move close to shore in the fall. The daily bag limit remains at five fish per angler from May 16-Aug. 31, and two fish per angler between Sept. 1 and May 15, 2014. A 12-inch minimum size limit is in effect throughout the year.
White bass continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The 2013 catch will be dominated by fish from the 2010 and 2011 year classes. Fish from 2005 could be as large as 16 inches. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and near shore areas of the open lake during the summer. There is no white bass daily bag limit or size limit.
Largemouth bass fishing efforts and catch rates have increased significantly. Bays, harbors and main lake shorelines offer excellent fishing for panfish, as well as largemouth bass. Anglers may also catch an occasional northern pike or muskellunge in vegetated areas.
Anglers are reminded that fishing conditions on Lake Erie can change hourly and adjustments are often necessary to improve success. Anglers should take into account factors such as water temperature, cloud cover, water clarity, boat traffic, wave action, structure, currents and the amount of baitfish in the area. Anglers are also reminded to carefully monitor Lake Erie weather and to seek safe harbor before storms approach.
Updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available at wildohio.com or by calling 888-HOOKFISH (888-466-5347). Information is available from ODNR Division of Wildlife staff from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Fairport Harbor station (440-352-4199) for the Central Basin and at the Sandusky station (419-625-8062) for the Western Basin.
Information on the ODNR Division of Wildlife's Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, fishing reports, and maps and links to other Lake Erie Web resources are available at wildohio.com.