Article Posted: January 20, 2005

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COLUMBUS, OH -- Lake Erie anglers should experience some of the finest and most diverse fishing opportunities on the Great Lakes in 2005, say fisheries experts with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

"Whether ice fishing, wading rivers, casting or trolling on the lake, or shore fishing from piers or beaches, there should be a variety of seasonal opportunities for anglers in the Lake Erie region,” said Roger Knight, Lake Erie fisheries program manager at ODNR. "Good numbers of walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass and steelhead trout will again be available to Ohio anglers."

Knight noted that access to good fishing in the Western and Central basins can be found through the large number of charter boats available, as well as by numerous public boat ramps, private marinas, and shoreline areas that continue to make Ohio's Lake Erie waters a popular fishing destination.

Anglers can expect this year’s Lake Erie walleye fishery to be dominated by hatches from the 1999, 2001 and 2003 hatches. Fish from the 1999-year class will range from 20 to 24 inches, fish from 2001 will range from 17 to 20 inches, and those from 2003 will be 12 to 16 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 (over 28 inches) opportunities.

The daily bag limit remains at three fish during March and April and increases to six fish May through February. The 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season. Many fish from the exceptionally abundant 2003 hatch will not be of legal size until late summer. Anglers should release these smaller fish as quickly and gently as possible to reduce mortality rates. The ban on the use of treble-hooked lures in Sandusky and Maumee bays during March and April also remains in effect in 2005.

Yellow Perch
Perch fishing in Ohio waters of Lake Erie should be excellent in 2005. Fish from a good 2001 hatch will range from 8-11 inches, with Central Basin fish running larger than those in the Western Basin. Anglers should expect to catch large numbers of 6 to 7-inch perch from an exceptionally strong hatch in 2003. Peak fishing will occur from August through October, but early summer fishing should be good, especially in the Central Basin. Some “Fish Ohio” perch (over 13 inches) will be available. Schools of these “jumbos” are not abundant but can often be in found in relatively shallow rocky areas feeding on gobies and other forage. Ohio's daily bag limit for yellow perch remains at 30 fish per angler for the 2005 season.

Smallmouth Bass
Lake Erie anglers should anticipate good to excellent 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 produce good numbers of smallmouth bass and also the potential to catch a trophy (over 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 and 1999-year classes, now ranging in size from 14 to 19 inches and weighing 1.5 to 4 pounds.

Smallmouth bass regulations enacted last year remain in effect for 2005. A closed season exists from May 1 through June 24, during which all black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released. The daily bag limit beginning June 25 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 or dipsy divers with 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 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. Many of the nearshore areas 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

The ODNR Division of Wildlife maintains a series of web pages describing its Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, open lake and steelhead fishing reports, as well as maps and links to other Lake Erie web resources. This information is available on the Internet at ohiodnr.com/wildlife/fishing/fairport/index.htm

Source: ODNR

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