Article Posted: January 31, 206

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Large 2003 walleye and yellow perch hatches should be plus for anglers

COLUMBUS, OH - Lake Erie anglers should experience excellent fishing opportunities in 2006, say fisheries biologists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

"We are excited about the outstanding fishing opportunities on Lake Erie for a variety of species in 2006,” said Roger Knight, Lake Erie fisheries program manager at ODNR. "The large 2003 hatch should provide large numbers of good-sized walleye and yellow perch, while quality smallmouth bass and steelhead trout fishing also will available to Lake Erie anglers."

Knight noted that access to good fishing in the Western and Central basins can be found through the large number of charter boats in Ohio and at numerous public boat ramps, private marinas, and shoreline areas.

Anglers can expect this year’s Lake Erie walleye fishery to be dominated by hatches from 1999, 2001 and 2003. Fish from the 1999-year class will range from 21 to 25 inches; fish from 2001 will range from 19 to 21 inches; and those from 2003 will be 17 to 20 inches over the course of the fishing season. Some large walleye from the strong hatches of the 1980s and mid 1990s still persist in the population, providing “Fish Ohio” trophy (more than 28 inches) opportunities. “Weather conditions played a major role in the lake’s distribution of walleye in 2005. With extremely warm water temperatures, walleye moved further east and they remained there longer,” said Knight. “If water temperatures remain cool in 2006, we should have a phenomenal walleye fishery in the West and Central basins of Lake Erie.”

The daily bag limit increases to four fish during March and April for the 2006 fishing season and will remain at six fish May through February. The 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season. Most of the fish from the exceptionally abundant 2003 hatch will be of legal size during the 2006 fishing season.

Yellow Perch
Perch anglers fishing the Ohio waters of Lake Erie should also be pleased with this year’s catches. Fish from a good 2001 hatch will range from 9-12 inches, with Central Basin fish running larger than those in the Western Basin. Anglers should expect to catch large numbers of perch from an exceptionally strong hatch in 2003. “The average size of yellow perch available to anglers in 2006 should improve, as the large 2003 year-class likely will be in the 8- to 10-inch range,” said Knight. Peak fishing will occur from August through October, but early summer fishing should also be rewarding, especially in the Central Basin. Some “Fish Ohio” perch (more than 13 inches) will be available. Schools of these “jumbos” are not abundant, but often can be in found in relatively shallow rocky areas feeding on gobies and other prey fish. Ohio's daily bag limit for yellow perch increases to 40 fish per angler for the 2006 season.

Smallmouth Bass
Lake Erie anglers should anticipate good smallmouth bass fishing this year. Traditional "hot spots" such as the Lake Erie islands, the Western Basin reef complex, Sandusky Bay, Ruggles Reef, and harbor breakwalls from Lorain to Conneaut, all traditionally produce good numbers of smallmouth bass and the potential to catch a trophy (more than 5 pounds). Fishing pressure tends to be highest around the islands and nearshore areas of the western half of Ohio waters. Smallmouth bass anglers can expect to land "smallies" from 1993, 1994, 1998, 1999, and 2001-year classes, now ranging in size from 14 to 19 inches and weighing 1.5 to 4 pounds.

A closed season remains in effect from May 1 through June 23, during which all black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released. The daily bag limit after June 23 will remain at five fish with a 14-inch minimum length limit.

Steelhead Trout
Peak steelhead action on Lake Erie can be found offshore from Vermilion to Conneaut, from June through August, with catches measuring 17 to 29 inches. Most anglers trolling for steelhead in deep waters use spoons with dipsy divers or downriggers. Many charter guides now offer steelhead charters as an alternative to traditional walleye charters. Lake Erie steelhead move into Central Basin streams during fall through winter and provide excellent fishing opportunities for wading anglers throughout the fall, winter and spring months. The ODNR Division of Wildlife maintains this popular fishery by releasing approximately 400,000 steelhead trout each spring in the Vermilion, Rocky, Chagrin and Grand rivers, as well as Conneaut Creek.

Because of the changing conditions of Lake Erie, such as increases in water clarity and aquatic vegetation, there are additional options for anglers fishing in nearshore areas. Many bays and harbors offer excellent fishing for panfish, including crappie and bluegill, as well as largemouth bass. In early spring, anglers may also catch an occasional northern pike or muskellunge in these vegetated harbors.

Anglers are reminded that fishing conditions on Lake Erie can change hourly and adjustments are often necessary to improve their success. Anglers should take into account such factors as water temperature, cloud cover, water clarity, boat traffic, wave action, structure, and the amount of bait fish in the area. Anglers are also reminded to carefully monitor Lake Erie weather while fishing and to seek safe harbor before storms approach.

During the season, ODNR provides an updated, recorded Lake Erie fishing report at 1-888-HOOKFISH and online at ohiodnr.com . ODNR Division of Wildlife staff members are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at Fairport Harbor (440-352-4199) for Central Basin information and at Sandusky (419-625-8062) for Western Basin information. For additional information on lodging, charter boat services and local launch ramps, contact one of the following lakeshore visitor’s bureaus:

Ashtabula County Convention & Visitors Bureau 800-337-6746
Lake County Visitors Bureau 800-368-5253
Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland 800-321-1001
Lorain County Visitors Bureau 800-334-1673
Sandusky/Erie County Visitors Bureau 800-255-8070
Ottawa County Visitors Bureau 800-441-1271
Greater Toledo Convention & Visitors Bureau 800-243-4667
Ohio Division of Travel & Tourism 800-BUCKEYE

Source: ODNR

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