Lake Erie fishermen in for a bountiful season

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The latest charting of Great Lakes water levels indicates a season of high water events.

The U.S. Army Core of Engineers, the Federal agency that monitors water levels and as well all other watery things, puts the early summer water level in Lake Ontario, the final lake of the Great Lakes outflow, at 17 inches higher than last year, a huge increase for just one year.

With less than expected snowfall replaced by increased rainfall across the Great Lakes drainage, the lakes are at their highest levels in several years. To be sure, the Great Lakes chain, as large as it is, does indeed fluctuate year to year.

Rising water level

Lake Superior, the headwater lake and largest of all, has jumped up 12 inches over last year, while Lakes Huron and Michigan both measure increases of eight inches. The least increase is Lake Erie, with a 5-inch rise in water level.

Very little ice cover, if any, kept nearly all of the Great Lakes exposed, which usually means dropping water levels due to evaporation, but not this year.

Just a decade or so ago, a severe drop in water levels had Great Lakes boaters concerned about extremely shallow bays and harbors, some of which became dangerous and even unusable. There have been seasons when dockside entry into boats required sets of steps, like this year will, and on low water years when boaters had to climb down to go aboard.

Levels up or down are mostly just inconvenient to anglers who always find a way to launch or dock a boat.

Plenty of fish

The high levels this year may be significant in some of the big water lakes, but not for Lake Erie anglers.

The fish are here and ready to be caught. Walleye fishermen especially are prepping for what should be the best year in many years.

Daily limits remain at six fish and anglers expect lots of limit catches with walleye numbers the highest in memory. Walleye numbers in Erie are not artificially supported and basically affected only by the weather.

All numbers result from natural March spawning success on the western basin reefs as well as in tributaries such as the Maumee River. The huge increases currently attracting attention are from the 2014 and 2013 very successful hatches with the ’14 fish now at 16-19 inches and the ’13 walleyes at 17-22 inches.

Wildlife officials also report a decent hatch in 2015 with these walleye still under the minimum size of 15 inches. The future looks very bright for Lake Erie walleye chasers who share very little concern over increased water levels.

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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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