Walleye fishing takes off under the ice of Lake Erie
Written by Toledo Blade   
Wednesday, 14 February 2007 04:39

Wouldn't you know it, just when yours truly takes off for Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, to sample some ice fishing in what until lately has been a wimpy winter hereabouts, the walleye action takes off, in spades, under the ice off western Lake Erie's Bass Islands.

More on the experience of Minnesotaland on Sunday, but catch these Lake Erie comments from Put-in-Bay ice guide John Hageman:

"This weekend saw incredible fishing with easy limits of mostly 18 to 20-inch fish, but up to nine pounds.

"Saturday anglers averaged 20 walleye apiece [including releases after limits of six each]. Sunday morning they limited out before 10 and tossed back fish the rest of the day. The ice in the Put-in-Bay fishing area is 12 to 14 inches."

That said, and looking ahead, it appears Lake Erie is showing potential for another super year of fishing for all the principal species, according to a forecast recently released by the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Lake Erie Fisheries Research Station at Sandusky.

It will be, after all, just several more weeks before any ice is out and stream anglers will be wading into the Maumee and Sandusky rivers for the annual spring walleye runs. And wherever there is open water the boat anglers no doubt will be back on the big lake, jigging minnows or trolling plastic.

"We anticipate excellent fishing opportunities once again this year for walleye and yellow perch, as well as strong fisheries for other species like smallmouth bass, white bass and steelhead," stated Roger Knight, Lake Erie program manager for the wildlife division.

Following is a rundown of fishing prospects, by species:

•Walleye. Anglers can expect fish principally from the mammoth 2003 megahatch, with continued contributions of bigger fish from the 2001 and 1999 year-classes. The 2003 fish will average 19 to 22 inches, with older classes ranging 21 to 27 inches.

Trophy-size walleye of 28 inches and longer also remain, though in small numbers, from some strong classes in the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

The daily creel limit remains at six, except in March and April when it will be four. The minimum keeper length remains at 15 inches, year-round.

•Yellow perch. Very good numbers of yellow perch in the 8 to 11-inch range can be expected from the large 2003 perch class, and a strong 2001 class will provide 10 to 13-inch jumbo size fish. The daily creel limit remains at 40 perch, year-round, no size minimum.

•Smallmouth bass. Good fishing is forecast this year, with fish from good hatches in the 1990s, 2001 and 2003 all contributing to the pool. Bass should range 14 to 21 inches, weighing 1 1/2 to 5 pounds.

Biologists note that several more recent good-hatch years should be coming on-line in the next several years. A closed season remains in effect to protect spawning between May 1 and June 29, and it affects all black bass, largemouth and smallmouth. During closure any bass caught must be immediately released.

During the open possession season, however, the daily creel limit remains five bass, with a 14-inch minimum keeper length.

•Steelhead trout. Consistently good steelheading again is forecast in Ohio's Lake Erie tributaries in winter, spring and fall months, thanks to continued stocking of fish by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

While stray steelhead may turn up in any Erie tributary, best opportunities lie in streams that are annually stocked by the wildlife division. That list includes the Vermilion River to the west and major streams from the Rocky at Cleveland and others to the east to the Pennsylvania line.

The lake itself provides offshore trolling action for steelhead ranging from 17 to 29 inches during the summer, generally from Vermilion to Conneaut. The daily creel limit is five fish from May 16 to Aug. 31 and two from Sept. 1 through May 15, with a minimum keeper length of 12 inches year-round.

•White bass. While this fishery is not as strong as it was 25 to 30 years ago, before the appearance of its invasive pest-cousin, the white perch, seasonal opportunities will be provided by 10 to 15-inch fish.

Anglers should focus mainly on western Lake Erie tributaries, especially the Maumee, Sandusky and Portage rivers in May and June, and near-shore areas of the open lake in the summer. White bass carry no creel or minimum length limits.
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