Lake Erie Walleye Fishing Reaching a Peak!

Lake Erie will serve up record numbers of walleye this summer. Don't miss it! Photo by author

I’m not as enamored of walleye as many anglers. For many, however, these big-eyed fish rank at or near the top of their preferred kind of fish to catch. I do fish for them, if for no other reason than how good they taste when coated with crumbs and given a swim in hot oil.

Once thought of as a fish of the North Woods, their popularity has engendered stocking and conservation efforts to the point they can be caught almost anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line (and a few areas in the south.) I’ve caught them in many places, in woods and prairies, in rivers and lakes Great and small and have caught teeny little runt sized specimens and trophy-sized brutes.

The point is, there are plenty of places to fish for walleyes, but there is only one place which can rightfully claim the title: Walleye Capitol. Day in, day out, year in year out for the last 40 years, no lake has delivered so many fish for so many people as Lake Erie.

Anglers from around the world travel to Lake Erie to catch walleye. Have you been there? Are you making any plans? If not, you should. It’s only a half day drive for people in this area and you will catch fish – most likely a limit of walleyes – since there are near record numbers in the lake this season.

Lake Erie walleye anglers will catch fish mostly from the 2015 and 2014 hatches, with some fish from the 2010 through 2013 year classes. Additional trophy opportunities from 2007 and 2003 will also occasionally be encountered by anglers.

I heard many reports from Erie anglers last year saying they had to catch 10 or more undersized walleye for every keeper they caught. Most of these previously undersized walleye from the 2015 hatch will range from 15 to 20 inches during the 2018 season. Walleye from the 2014 hatch will be 16 to 24 inches – perfect eating sized fish. Fish from the 2003 and 2007 hatches will continue to provide “Fish Ohio” opportunities (greater than 28 inches) and may give Ohio a new state record walleye.

Starting May 1st, the daily bag limit will then jump to six walleye and stay at six for the rest of the summer and during the winter ice fishing season. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season for walleye.

There are many more types of fish than walleyes in Lake Erie. High on most angler’s list is yellow perch (often called lake perch). The Ohio DNR says anglers can expect excellent perch fishing in the Western Basin in 2018. Perch anglers will primarily catch fish from 2014 and 2015, providing a good range of sizes. Fall fishing in 2017 produced both excellent sizes and catch rates. The largest perch in the lake (jumbos) will come from 2013 and older year classes.

Anyone who is a bass fishing fan and who especially enjoys fishing for smallmouth bass needs to put Lake Erie on his or her bucket list. Smallmouth bass fishing this summer is expected to be consistent with recent years and last year smallmouth catch rates remained strong for the sixth consecutive year. So it’s more of the same in 2018, and that “sameness” includes an excellent size range of 14 to 22 inches with smallies weighing up to 6 pounds. The best fishing for smallmouth bass will continue to be in areas with good bottom structure, which is the available habitat across much of the entire Ohio nearshore and islands.

Though Midwesterners have many places to fish for white bass, these bass with stripes are present in enormous numbers in Lake Erie and continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The 2018 catch will be dominated by fish from the 2012 and 2010 year classes. Fish from these older year classes could be as large as 16 inches. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and nearshore areas of the open lake during the summer. There is no white bass daily bag limit or size limit.

Is it time for you to start making plans for the “Littlest Great Lake”?

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