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Lake Erie walleye count rated excellent

Judging by the mid-day parades of trucks towing boats southbound on Ohio 11 this summer, it is apparent that limiting on Lake Erie walleyes was not difficult.

Based on news released earlier this week by Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, the outlook for easy limits will remain excellent for years to come. Many anglers will be going home early with their coolers loaded.

ODNR reported preliminary results from surveys in the western basin of Lake Erie showing walleye and yellow perch hatches above average again this spring. The surveys were conducted by trawling in August.

Division of Wildlife fisheries biologists surveyed nearly 40 locations between Huron and Toledo and discovered the eighth highest number of fish per hectare on record.

Lake Erie has a well-deserved reputation as a walleye factory. Anglers have become accustomed to excellent fishing, including year-round success for those who fish the four seasons.

Travis Hartman, the Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie fisheries administrator, is enthusiastic about the future.

“This year’s hatch combined with the exceptional 2015, 2018 and 2019 year classes ensures an abundance of young walleye will complement the older and larger fish that make up the current Lake Erie walleye population, which is projected to hit a historic high in 2021,” Hartman said in the ODNR release.

“Historic high” is music to the ears of Erie anglers, especially during a year when the headlines are dominated by a menacing virus, terrible storms and raging wildfires.

Fisheries officials say the 2020 walleye hatch of 48 fish per hectare is on par with the 2019 hatch, which now is showing up as year-old ‘eyes measuring 7 to 12 inches. They will be legal keepers of 15 inches in 2021.

The trawl also found 2020’s yellow perch hatch in the western basin to be a very good 536 fish per hectare. Officials say that number is well above the 20-year average of 326 fish per hectare.

The population of yellow perch includes fish from excellent hatches in 2014 and 2018. With the 2020 hatchlings entering the population, the authorities are forecasting great perching in 2022.

The Division of Wildlife fisheries people’s work now turns to collaborating with Ontario to understand the entire basin-wide populations of young-of-the-year walleyes and yellow perch. Information from the Canadian province will be combined with Ohio data to calculate projections of young fish that will enter the catchable population two years hence.

All of this is good news, of course, as anglers look forward to their trips to the big blue water off Ohio’s north coast.

The local economies of many Ohio towns from Port Clinton to Conneaut are bolstered by the dollars anglers spend on fuel, bait, lodging and food as they pursue walleyes, yellow perch, smallmouth bass and steelhead trout.

All that fun delivers another huge benefit that many say is worth every penny anglers invest in their Lake Erie fishing: Platters piled high with fresh fried fillets of walleyes and yellow perch to satisfy the appetites of successful anglers’ families and friends.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who loves Lake Erie fishing. He also appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at

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