Article Posted: December 26, 2001

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SANDUSKY, OHIO -Anglers who fish Lake Erie in 2002 will be rewarded with
more of the same world class fishing anglers experienced last year,
according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.
Anglers who traveled to the state's number one fishing destination during
2001 experienced excellent angling action for walleye, yellow perch,
smallmouth bass and steelhead trout.
"Lake Erie anglers saw some of the best fishing in recent history," said
Roger Knight, Lake Erie Fisheries Program manager for Division of Wildlife.
"Mother Nature's cooperation throughout much of the year and good numbers of
key sport fish provided anglers a mixed bag of popular angling opportunities
that rival any lake in the country."
Fishing for walleye, Lake Erie's most popular game fish, was excellent
throughout the summer. Limit catches of walleyes ranging in size from 14 to
27 inches were common in July and August across the Western Basin. The
walleye harvest for 2001 on the Ohio waters of Lake Erie was 1.2 million
fish, slightly higher than the two previous years. Despite favorable
weather conditions and fast action, angler pressure at 2.5 million angler
hours was only slightly higher than in 2000 at 2.2 million angler hours.
"That may be because after two years of slow walleye fishing in 1999 and
2000, and high fuel prices early in the season, anglers were not as anxious
to travel to Lake Erie in 2001," Knight said. "Fishing pressure will most
likely pick up during 2002 once word spreads across the Midwest about how
great the fishing was last year."
Walleye catch rates during 2001 were the highest since 1998. Catch rates
for private boat anglers peaked in July at an exceptional .58 (over one
walleye for every two hours of fishing). This was up from the peak catch
rate in July of 2000 of .39 (over one fish for every three hours of
fishing). Charter boat anglers had even better catch rates that peaked in
July at .85 (just under one walleye per hour). The annual catch rate in the
Western Basin was .42 (one fish every 2.5 hours). The annual catch rate in
the Central Basin was .20 (one fish every five hours).
About 35 percent of the walleyes that filled anglers coolers were fish from
a strong hatch in 1999. These two-year-old fish averaged 14 to 16 inches.
A reduced bag limit, which took effect in March 2001, will help conserve
these young fish. Ohio's reduced bag limit was part of measures taken in a
walleye management agreement with the Lake Erie states and Ontario to help
rebuild Lake Erie walleye stocks from lows in the late 1990s.
The 1996 year class of fish also made a big showing at 20 - 22 inches.
Other year classes of fish that made up the harvest included fish from
hatches in 1997 and 1998, which measured 16 to 22 inches.
For 2002, anglers will continue to reel in many of the 1999 walleyes (now 17
to 18 inches.) Anglers can also expect to land fish from the 1996 hatch,
which will average 22 to 26 inches. Other catches will include fish from
the 1998 hatch measuring 18 to 20 inches, as well as some lunker fish from
older year classes now in the Fish Ohio category at over 28 inches.
(Walleyes can live to be more than 20 years of age.) There will be few fish
measuring 13 to 15 inches to add to the fishable population resulting from a
poor hatch in 2000.
Fishing conditions on Lake Erie can change hourly. Adjusting
fishing methods according to current conditions is key to the best success.
Anglers should take into account such factors as season, cloud cover, water
clarity, boat traffic, wave action, and amount of prey fish present.
Electronic equipment to mark fish is advisable. Once a school of fish is
located, anglers should try various techniques including drifting, trolling,
and jigging at various depths in the water column.
The reduced bag limit for Ohio anglers remains in effect at four walleyes
during March and April and six walleyes the remainder of the year.
Yellow Perch
Limit catches of yellow perch were common across the lake throughout
2001. Limit catches were not only plentiful, but many of these excellent
table-fare fish were in the 9- to 12-inch range and longer.
" The top perch jerking locales included areas in both basins too
numerous to mention. If anglers weren't doing well, all they had to do was
move to another location," said Knight.
Ohio perch anglers caught 5.5 million yellow perch, similar to the
2000 harvest. Angler pressure for yellow perch also remained about the same
as in 2000 at just under 2 million angler hours.
Catch rates peaked during the traditional peak month of September at 4.0
(four fish per angler hour).
The excellent perch fishing anglers have experienced the past six
years should continue through 2002 and beyond. Conservative regulations for
sport and commercial fishermen and improved spawns have helped Lake Erie's
yellow perch stocks to gradually recover after low levels in the early
For this year, anglers can expect to see many fine catches of perch
from a large 1996 year class, the largest hatch in 10 years. These fish
will measure 10 to 12 inches. Added to the catch will be perch from the
1998 year class now in the 8- to 10-inch range, and 1999-spawned perch that
will be 8 to 9 inches.
Catch rates should peak in September and October and rival those of 2001.
Ohio's daily bag limit for yellow perch remains at 30 fish per angler.
Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass anglers continued to reel in Erie's lunker
smallmouth bass. Typical catches are in the 14- to 18-inch range and weigh
1.5 to 3.5 pounds. Fishing was good at many of the traditional haunts
especially in the spring and fall.
Successful spawns over the past decade have provided excellent
smallmouth bass fishing opportunities across Lake Erie. Anglers target
smallmouth from spring through fall with the best action occurring in May,
June and September.
The angler catch rate for smallmouth bass in 2001 was .09 (one fish
caught every 10 hours) with catch rates peaking in September at .17 fish per
angler hour. Angler pressure remained high with anglers spending over
400,000 angler hours in pursuit of Lake Erie's famous smallmouth bass.
Creel interviews reveal that most bass anglers practice catch and
release with six out of seven smallmouth bass released after being landed.
Fishing for smallmouth bass, Lake Erie's third most popular sport species,
should remain good to excellent during 2002. Bass anglers can expect to
land smallies from spawns of 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 now ranging in size
from 14 to 18 inches. If recent trends continue, anglers will see catch
rates similar to that of 2001. Hot spots should include the Bass and
Kelleys islands areas, Western Basin reef complex, Sandusky Bay, Ruggles
Reef, and harbor breakwalls from Cleveland to Conneaut.
"Ongoing research coupled with recent regulations changes should
help ensure that the lake's smallmouth fishery continues to be among the
best anywhere in the country," Knight said.
The state record smallmouth bass, taken in June 1993 by an angler
fishing off the Bass Islands, weighed in at 9.5 pounds. The world record is
10 pounds, 14 ounces.
The daily bag limit for smallmouth bass is five fish with a minimum
size length of 14 inches.
Steelhead Trout
Central Basin anglers experienced a steelhead bonanza on the
open lake during August and September during 2001. Five-fish limits were
the norm when wave conditions were favorable. The total harvest was similar
to the previous year at 28,000 steelhead trout.
"The Division's steelhead stocking program adds yet another angling
option for Lake Erie anglers," said Kevin Kayle, supervisor of the Fairport
Fisheries Research Unit. "Steelhead fishing on the lake and Central Basin
streams has become top notch and continues to lure anglers from near and far
as word spreads about this fantastic fishery."
In the fall, steelhead continued to entertain anglers fishing shore
areas and lower stream reaches as these cold water fish prepared to make
annual spawning runs. Once steelhead moved into streams, these feisty fish
provided more great angling opportunities for wading anglers.
The Division of Wildlife maintains this popular fishery by releasing
approximately 400,000 steelhead trout each spring in the Rocky, Chagrin and
Grand rivers and Conneaut Creek. The Vermilion River will also be added to
the stocking program beginning this spring. These fish migrate out into
Lake Erie and spend the summer in the cooler part of Lake Erie's Central
Basin. Adult steelhead then return to stocking streams from fall through
On the open lake, steelhead trout are landed by anglers targeting
steelhead, as well as anglers trolling for walleyes. Anglers should look
for peak steelhead action on the waters off Lorain to Conneaut throughout
July and August. Catches will measure 19 to 28 inches. Many charter guides
now offer steelhead charters as an alternative to traditional walleye
Beginning late fall, stream anglers will find large numbers of
steelhead in the five major stocking streams, as well as good numbers of
stray steelhead in such streams as the Ashtabula, and Cuyahoga rivers and
Arcola Creek. Peak action typically occurs from December through March.
Stream anglers can expect excellent action throughout the winter
months until mid-April as long as anglers can find an open pool in the ice.
An average steelhead trout will be 25 inches long and weigh 5 to 6 pounds.
Larger fish will measure in the 28- to 31-inch range and weigh 8 to 12
"The progression of the steelhead lake fishery and the popular,
successful stream fisheries have attracted notoriety and kudos by anglers
from throughout the country." Kayle said.
For a recorded Lake Erie fishing report, call 1-888 HOOK FISH. For
additional information on lodging, charter boat services, and local launch
ramps, contact one of the following lakeshore visitors bureaus:
Ashtabula County Convention & Visitors Bureau 1-800-337-6746
Lake County Visitors Bureau 1-800-368-5253
Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland 1-800-321-1001
Lorain County Visitors Bureau 1-800-334-1673
Sandusky/Erie County Visitors Bureau 1-800-255-8070
Ottawa County Visitors Bureau 1-800-441-1271
Greater Toledo Convention & Visitors Bureau 1-800-243-4667
Ohio Division of Travel & Tourism 1-800-BUCKEYE

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