Banner year for walleye awaiting on Lake Erie

1280px Lake Erie Sunset With Fish Net

Banner year for walleye awaiting on Lake Erie

Walleye fishing on Lake Erie in 2017 could rival the thrilling days of yesteryear, barring something ominous and unforeseen.

“It’s shaping up to be an incredible walleye year,” said fishery biologist Travis Hartman, Lake Erie program administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The word incredible has been applied over the years to some fishing seasons but not all. Tremendous walleye hatches during the 1980s, at least one in the 1990s and again in 2003 injected scads of catchable percid into Lake Erie, but strings of weak hatches outside of banner years made for stretches of slow fishing.

However, consecutive strong hatches boosted by the 2015 bumper crop of walleyes will have a dramatic impact on the catch rate this year and in several forthcoming seasons.

“There should be a lot of smaller fish to fill a limit,” Hartman said. “And there will be a lot of ’03 trophies out there.”

Early in the season, some 2-year-old walleyes might not stretch to the legal keeper size of 15 inches, Hartman cautioned. As the summer progresses, though, more fish should grow to the legal size.

The daily bag limit remains four through April 30. Though not yet official late last week, guidelines based on the total allowable catch suggest anglers again will be able to keep six walleye per day starting May 1 through February 2018.

The TAC is the number of walleye and the pounds of yellow perch that each of the governmental entities — Ohio, Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York — is allocated each season as part of the Lake Erie collective limit. The TAC is derived from analytical models that measure the fish population of each species.

The current model indicates a walleye population that supports a higher TAC, but the agreement among Lake Erie Committee members doesn’t permit more than a 20 percent increase or decrease in the allowable catch from one year to the next.

Fishery managers from Ohio, Ontario, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania agreed to the maximum 20 percent TAC increase, to 5.924 million for 2017 from 4.937 million allowed in 2016. Reflecting how quickly Lake Erie’s walleye numbers can turn on a couple of successful hatches, the 2016 TAC also saw a 20 percent increase from the year before.

What this year’s lakewide walleye allocation means is that Ohio will be entitled to about 3 million fish, Ontario 2.6 million and Michigan 345,000. Ohio rarely, if ever, reaches its quota because walleye may be taken only by sport fishing. Ontario, which allows commercial fishing for walleye, takes virtually its entire quota.

Based on preset state guidelines, Ohio anglers likely will have another year of 30-fish yellow perch limits based on an allocation of 4.5 million pounds in state waters. Recreational anglers get 65 percent of the allocation, while commercial netters share the remaining 35 percent, about 1.5 million pounds.

Lakewide, the yellow perch TAC of 10.375 million pounds for 2017 represents a 13 percent increase over 2016 allocation. Ontario will be allocated about 4.9 million pounds, Pennsylvania 611,000, Michigan 279,000 and New York 93,000.

While an increase in the perch TAC seemed unlikely based on the catch rate east of Vermilion in 2016, new modeling suggests perch numbers are stronger than what many anglers experienced, Hartman said.

The problem for recreational anglers is finding perch, which apparently aren’t in their traditional haunts off Lorain, Avon Point, Cleveland and points east because of changes in lake conditions.

In fact, yellow perch fishing in the shallow western basin has been on the upswing for several years and should be excellent in 2017, Hartman said.

Originally posted on April 1st, 2017 at 9:44 PM by Dave Golowenski – The Columbus Dispatch.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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