PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio — According to Ohio’s Lake Erie fisheries supervisor Jeff Tyson, last year’s walleye season was the best in recent memory.
That in itself might be debatable judging from the fishermen who struggled to fill their stringers, but when weighed against some pretty lean catches in the past few years, Tyson’s declaration is right on.
Tyson also predicted this summer’s walleye fishing should be another good year. He said the number of walleye in Lake Erie is now about 22 million, about the same as last year. Numbers like that are educated guesses made by officials from all the Lake Erie shoreline partners, including several states and Canada.
Lake Erie walleye numbers are not controllable or managed, other than by daily catch limits, which are also determined by each state. Long time Lake Erie walleye anglers remember the hay days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when fishermen could keep 10 fish each day and for the most part, catching 10 was a given expectation.
In fact, Ohio anglers took home 4 million fish in 1989, a far cry from the one million caught in 2010, according to Tyson.
Tyson’s harvest numbers indicate Lake Erie is still a world-class walleye fishery, with a catch-per-hour topping any other walleye fishery in the nation. He said dockside surveys produce catch rates by interviewing fishermen counting hours fished and fish caught.
He said fishermen will catch more fish from the 2010 hatch, which will range from 15 to 21 inches.
But Tyson also said central basin fishermen will still be seeing larger fish — those remaining from the excellent hatch of 2003 and a fair hatch of 2007.
He said the best results will take place in July and August as usual, then taper off as the summer hatches of bait fish become available to the walleyes, making fish less likely to chase lures.
But make no mistake, Lake Erie has, and continues to, attract fishermen looking for trophy walleyes. Erie’s western basin, a structure-rich expanse from Toledo to the islands is the targeted area, and the thought of a 10-pound or larger walleye draws fishermen from several states.
Poor fishing conditions have limited success this spring but as the weather improves, the traveling fishermen emerge.