Study: Walleye, perch futures are bright

Anglers who enjoy the great walleye and yellow perch fishing in the western basin of Lake Erie will be heartened to learn the 2018 hatches for both species were exceptional.

The headline on a news release from the Ohio Division of Wildlife tells it all: “Lake Erie Western Basin Walleye and Yellow Perch Futures Look Bright.”

For sport and as table fare, walleye and perch are hard to beat. The two species attract the lion’s share of the fishing effort in the western basin, and anglers have experienced outstanding action this year.

This year’s walleye hatch is judged as exceptional, ranking as the second-highest since Ohio began surveying.

Yellow perch also had a great spawn, the surveyors found, with this year’s hatch rated as well above the long-term average.

To conduct the survey, Ohio Division of Wildlife crews use bottom trawls at 40 locations on Erie. They capture young-of-the-year walleye and yellow perch, and the biologists compare the counts with previous years to estimate the success of the walleye and perch hatches.

This year’s trawl, done in August, picked up 112 walleye per hectare, well above the 20-year average of 27 walleye per hectare in Ohio’s western basin waters.

The trawl netted 511 yellow perch per hectare in the western basin. The 20-year average is 316 perch.

Ohio Division of Wildlife officials say the year’s hatches will help maintain quality walleye and yellow perch fishing in Lake Erie’s island region, including the waters off Port Clinton, Sandusky and Toledo.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry also reported great results from its Lake Erie bottom trawls. Canadian waters yielded walleye catches well above average and strong yellow perch catches.

Ohio and Ontario wildlife officials will combine and compare their bottom trawl data to determine quotas in their respective jurisdictions of Lake Erie.

Youngstown-area anglers also fish Erie’s central basin out of Fairport Harbor, Geneva, Ashtabula and Conneaut. Bottom trawls in the central basin done in July and August often are affected by low oxygen levels, which tend to move young-of-the-year perch and walleye toward near-shore areas.

For that reason, numbers from September trawls will be analyzed to come up with central basin estimates.

The western basin walleye hatch this year was topped only by the 2003 spawn, which produced nearly 160 young-of-the-year per hectare. Walleye from 2003 remain in Lake Erie’s population and are trophy-class fish this year.

The 2015 hatch was the previous best since 2003, but at just over 60 fish per hectare, it was well short of this year’s 112 baby walleye per hectare.

For yellow perch, 2003 also was a great year, producing approximately 1,500 young-of-the-year perch per hectare in the western waters. In 2014, the perch hatch was estimated at more than 600 fish per hectare.

Fans of Lake Erie walleye fishing are especially excited about the hatch. This year’s walleye action has been phenomenal throughout Ohio waters, and the numbers look great for years to come.

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