Ohio Division of Wildlife hatch reports are in, and they’re making Lake Erie anglers smile

Bob Hanko Walleye

Ohio Division of Wildlife hatch reports are in, and they’re making Lake Erie anglers smile

There were surprisingly large packs of boats on Western Lake Erie this past weekend, and for good reason. The yellow perch are biting, making the west end of the big lake a top spot for anglers.

With yellow perch fillets selling for about $22 per pound at Bassett’s Market in Port Clinton, taking home a limit of 30 perch, as well as a few walleye, is an economic bonanza. The fabulous fishing forecasts for the future, according to Ohio Division of Wildlife August trawl surveys of this year’s hatch of perch and walleye, have to buoy angler’s spirits all around Lake Erie.

The surveys reported average to good hatches for perch and walleye in 2017. What makes the report so special, though, is that the positive hatch is just the latest in a consistent string of good hatches over the last five years.

“What we have right now is a new and unique period of success with both walleye and yellow perch,” said Travis Hartman, the head of Lake Erie fisheries management for the ODOW. “When you have consistently average spawning success, not a boom or bust, the fish population is going to be stable and continually grow.” The present walleye population, said Hartman, is a mix of year classes, with walleye of all sizes available to catch. In comparison, the record-setting walleye hatch in 2003 was followed by a string of poor hatches. For a decade, the walleye born in 2003 made up a large percentage of the lakewide population.

Hartman predicts the next five years, and perhaps longer, will be the golden era of walleye and yellow perch fishing on Lake Erie. The best perch fishing in recent days has been between Kelleys Island and the Bass Islands, and further north on the Ohio-Ontario line near Canada’s Middle Island. There were large flotillas of perch boats anchored in both areas. Other good perch areas include D Can off the Camp Perry Range, Rattlesnake, Sugar and Ballast islands, Lucy’s Point off Middle Bass Island and east of the Perry Monument on South Bass Island.

A limit of perch isn’t guaranteed, though. Many perch fishermen reporting they had to move a few times to find the perch that were eager to bite. Be aware that with the air temperatures on the rise again, calm winds have encouraged algal blooms, especially west of the Bass Islands. There was a major bloom going on for a while around Sugar Island, just off Middle Bass Island. Also hampering perch and walleye fishing are reports that this year’s white perch hatch was impressive, with a flood of young-of- the-year white bass around. Those small white bass give game fish lots to eat, a reason the perch and walleye are already fat and sassy. It is difficult for anglers to compete with those large amounts of natural forage.

Some western lake bait shops now have emerald shiner minnows, the prime live bait for yellow perch, but the shops often run out after the early-morning rush. Golden shiners will do the job. If all that is available are large golden shiners, tail hook the bait or cut the shiners in half.

There are very few quality reports on walleye fishing right now. Not many anglers are trolling for walleye with the perch fishing so strong. The drift-and- cast walleye technique has been the best way to hook up with a limit of six walleye. The smaller walleye from the 2014 and 2015 year classes are continuing to grow, and a larger percentage of them are topping the 15-inch size limit. Walleye are moving up on the reefs and rock piles, with Gull and Kelleys Island shoals good spots to cast mayfly rigs and weight-forward spinners tipped with nightcrawlers. There have been reports of good walleye fishing around Kelleys Island in 12 to 20 feet of water, especially inside the southeast corner and around the northwest corner of the island.

Originally Posted by D’ARCY EGAN at The Beacon on September 22, 2017.
Image courtesy The Beacon.

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