Lake Erie anglers can expect to enjoy another year of diverse fishing opportunities in 2014, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) biologists.“While fishing success always varies among species and seasons, we expect that anglers will find success on the waters of Lake Erie this year,” said Jeff Tyson, Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the ODNR Division of Wildlife. “The lake’s population of walleye, yellow perch, black bass, white bass and steelhead remains stable, with a very broad distribution of sizes for each species.”
Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system that involves Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. Each jurisdiction regulates their catches to comply with quotas and to minimize the risk of over-fishing these species. Quotas for the upcoming fishing season are determined through a consensus agreement by these jurisdictions through the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which were recently announced for 2014.
Currently, the daily walleye bag limit is four and the daily yellow perch bag limit is 30 per angler in Ohio waters of Lake Erie until April 30. As a result of the 2014 quota allocation, the daily bag limit will be six walleye from May 1 through Feb. 28, 2015. From March 1, 2015, through April 30, 2015, the daily walleye bag limit will be four. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season for walleye. The daily yellow perch bag limit is 30 from May 1 through April 30, 2015, with no minimum size limit. Lake Erie anglers can find walleye and yellow perch bag limit information at ODNR offices, in special publications at bait and tackle shops and online at wildohio.com.
Ohio walleye anglers in 2014 will catch fish from the 2010, 2009, 2007 and 2003 hatches, with some fish from the 2011, 2008 and 2012 year classes. Walleye from the 2012 hatch will be present in the fishery with most individuals near or over the 15-inch minimum size limit fairly early in the 2014 fishing season. Walleye from the moderate 2010 hatch will range from 18 to 23 inches, while walleye from the 2007 hatch will be more than 20 inches. The 2003 and 2007 hatches are likely to carry most of the Central Basin fisheries. These walleye will contribute to the population that has a good number of fish over the 26-inch range. Large walleye from the strong hatch in 2003 will continue to provide “Fish Ohio” opportunities (greater than 28 inches), with this year class nearing the size that may give Ohio a new state record walleye.
Expect good perch fishing in 2014, 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 2012 through 2007 hatches in this year’s fishery, with major contributions from the 2010, 2008 and 2007 year classes. Fish from the average hatches in 2007 will contribute fish in the 10 inch and greater range. In 2013, yellow perch fisheries flourished in the eastern portions of Ohio’s Lake Erie, and ODNR biologists expect this trend to continue into 2014.
Smallmouth bass fishing in 2014 is expected to be fair but improving. Smallmouth bass catch rates in 2013 were slightly below those seen in 2012, but were still some of the highest observed since the mid-1990s. Smallmouth bass caught should be an excellent size (14 to 22 inches, weighing up to 6 pounds). The best fishing for smallmouth bass will continue to occur in areas with good bottom structure, which is the available habitat across much of the entire Ohio nearshore and islands areas. Continuing the trend from previous years, largemouth bass fishing should be excellent in 2014. This emerging fishery is producing high catch rates and some large fish in nearshore areas and harbors across Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline. All black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released from May 1 through June 27 of this year. Beginning June 28, 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 2014 on Ohio’s Lake Erie open waters and 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 five fish per angler from May 16 through Aug. 31, and two fish per angler between Sept. 1, 2014, and May 15, 2015. 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 2014 catch will be dominated by fish from the 2012, 2011 and 2010 year classes. Fish from 2006 could be as large as 16 inches. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and nearshore areas of the open lake during the summer. There is no daily white bass bag or size limit.
Bays, harbors and main lake shorelines offer excellent fishing for panfish, as well as the occasional northern pike and 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 the 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, maps and links to other Lake Erie web resources are available at wildohio.com.