Lake Erie forecast is good


If you fish and reside near enough to Lake Erie to enjoy a visit or two each year, you are living in good times.

The annual Lake Erie forecast from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is full of good news. It forecasts exceptional walleye fishing in 2018 and excellent yellow perch fishing. Smallmouth and largemouth bass and steelhead all are expected to offer great fishing opportunities this year, as well.

Unless you’ve been hunkered in a cave for the past 40 years, you are familiar with the fishing fanfare associated with Lake Erie.

Erie has been dubbed the Walleye Capital of the World since the days when Mecca’s Capt. Dan Galbincea started marketing his fabled Erie Dearie weight-forward spinner. The big lake also has been a smallmouth bass mecca for more than 25 years, attracting anglers from throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Those who hunger for fresh fish have flocked to Erie for generations to fill coolers with tasty yellow perch, and big-game anglers find steelhead fishing that rivals the great rivers of the Pacific Northwest.

The evidence is clear. Lake Erie is a fish factory. The forage base is healthy – from the native baitfish and crustaceans to the newcomer round gobies – and the game species feast on them year-round.

Heartening, too, is the fact that Lake Erie is getting attention from fisheries managers all around the lake. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York and Ontario, Canada, participate in an interagency quota system for Lake Erie walleyes and yellow perch.

“Each jurisdiction regulates its catches to comply with annually determined safe harvest levels that minimize the risk of over-fishing,” the ODNR said in a news release.

Careful management appears to be working.

Ohio’s Erie walleye daily bag limit is four through April 30. The yellow perch limit is 30 this year. The reduced walleye limit coincides with spawning season. Walleyes’ size limit on Erie is 15 inches throughout the season.

The quota allocation system sets the daily bag limit for walleye at six fish May 1 through Feb. 28, 2019. Most of the fishing pressure on Lake Erie occurs after May 1, so the majority of Erie’s anglers should enjoy the opportunity to fill hefty limits.

The best fishing this year will be for walleyes hatched in 2015 and ’14, according to the ODNR report. Bigger fish from 2010 through ’13 also will be available this year, along with walleyes hatched in 2003 and ’07 and now measuring 28 inches and longer.

It is possible, the ODNR said, that a new Ohio state record walleye may be caught this season. The current record is 16.19 pounds, landed in 1999.

Perch, meanwhile, will provide excellent fishing in the western basin this year. Anglers will typically find fish hatched in 2014 and ’15. Central basin perch populations have declined from the record levels of 2010, but remain near their long-term averages.

Smallmouth bass 14 to 22 inches long will be abundant, and largemouths continue to proliferate in the lake’s near-shore cover. The bass season is closed May 1-June 29. Bass caught during that period must be immediately released. The size limit is 14 inches.

Steelhead will continue to thrill anglers working the open water this summer and provide spectacular action in the fall when they migrate up the rivers. Daily steelhead limit is five May 16 through Aug. 31 and two Sept. 1 through May 15, 2019. Size limit is 12 inches.

For updated information on Lake Erie fishing, visit wildohio.gov or call 888-466-5347.

jackbbaass@gmail.com

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