Better days for Lake Erie perch and walleye

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The good old days for Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch anglers may be yet to come as recent test netting to sample the 2015 walleye spawning success is bringing smiles to Ohio Division of Wildlife biologists.

The good news will keep Port Clinton on the map as The Walleye Capital of the World — but without doubt it should make anglers anxious to keep the big lake as their No. 1 fishing destination.

Looking good

Jeff Tyson, the DOW’s leading Lake Erie fisheries guy, cautiously calls this year’s western basin trawl net sample count as “pretty decent.”

He said they haven’t yet completed the annual sampling in the central basin and haven’t yet compared numbers with Ontario biologists, but it appears that we could be looking at best hatch of walleyes since 2004 and certainly a hatch in the top five since 1987 when sampling began.

He said this year’s young walleyes are already six-to-seven inches in length. And consider this: This year’s hatch is the second good one in a row making the future of Lake Erie walleye fishing much brighter.

Making comparisons

Biologists sampled several exactly defined test spots so that year-to-year comparisons can be made.

Trawl nets are pulled and numbers of targeted fish are counted and recorded to build reliable samples. Tyson said that the success of each annual hatch is affected by several factors including weather.

One of the factors seems to be the state of the ice cover as spawning season begins. Biologists can only speculate as to why, but it is apparent that the best walleye hatches follow long lasting ice cover.

“But no one factor determines the success of a hatch itself,” Tyson said, adding that biologists have been sampling and studying walleye eggs during the spawning period for several years in an effort to better understand the big picture.

Yellow perch, too, seem to be on the comeback after several years of lackluster spawning results. According to Tyson, the perch recent yellow perch spawns have indicated a very positive trend.

Delay in sampling

Late summer, central basin sampling was delayed this year as the Fairport DOW station’s work boat was being re-fitted with a new engine.

Tyson said the work is nearly complete and ready for test runs, then fall samples will be collected. After that, biologists can provide definite numbers that should validate the current numbers.

That said, Ohio will head into winter meetings with other Lake Erie border states and Canada, where actual harvest numbers for 2016 will be set.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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