Early data gathered by wildlife agencies in the western basin of Lake Erie indicate great news for Ohio anglers, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The 2018 walleye hatch appears to be exceptional, the second highest in the history of the Ohio survey, and the yellow perch hatch was strong, well above its long-term average.
Each year in August, wildlife agencies from around the western basin of Lake Erie sample the waters using bottom trawls in search of young-of-the-year walleye and yellow perch, with biologists from the ODNR Division of Wildlife conducting bottom trawls at nearly 40 sampling locations. Data from these bottom trawl surveys are combined into a basin-wide index, and fisheries biologists compare the figures to previous years to estimate the success of the walleye and yellow perch hatches. These data provide biologists with an initial estimate of how many young fish will enter the fishable population two years later.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s 2018 August trawl survey found 112 walleye per hectare. This is the second highest value on record and far above the 20-year average of 27 walleye per hectare in Ohio waters of the western basin. This year’s outstanding hatch combined with the excellent 2015 year-class will ensure an abundance of young walleye to complement the older and larger fish that make up the current Lake Erie walleye population.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s August western basin trawl survey found the 2018 yellow perch hatch to be very good at 511 yellow perch per hectare. This is above the 20-year average of 316 yellow perch per hectare in Ohio waters of the western basin. This above average yellow perch hatch should help bolster the yellow perch population in the western basin and maintain quality yellow perch fishing.
Initial reports from bottom trawl surveys conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Ontario waters of the western basin showed similar results, with walleye catches well above average and strong yellow perch catches. During the upcoming months, Ohio and Ontario bottom trawl data will be combined to estimate the basin-wide hatches of walleye and yellow perch. These estimates will be used in the process to determine jurisdictional quotas.
Central basin trawl surveys in July and August are usually impacted by low oxygen conditions that cause young-of-the-year fish to school or concentrate in nearshore areas. Estimates for the central basin will be available from the September trawl surveys after the data have been collected and analyzed.
Information on the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, fishing reports, and maps and links to other Lake Erie web resources are available at wildohio.gov.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.