Lake Erie Walleye
Walleye, a medium-sized freshwater fish, is plentiful in the Great Lakes and the rivers and streams that flow from and into the Lakes.
What is a Walleye?
Walleye is a freshwater, perciform fish (genus: sander species: S. vitreus), native to Northern US and Canadian waters. A walleye is olive and gold in color and can grow to be about 30" long and weigh up to 15 pounds. (The record is 42" and 25 lbs.)
Fishing for Walleye
Fishing for walleye in Lake Erie differs from most anywhere. In North America the walleye is normally a nocturnal feeding fish and is most easily caught at night and in the pre-dawn hours. The best bait for walleye is live bait; preferably live minnows or lures that mimic small fish. This is not always the case for Lake Erie. Lake Erie has the best daytime walleye fishery in the world and there are countless baits and tactics that anglers use including river techniques, trolling, casting, jigging and more.
Where to Find Walleye
During the early spring, walleye migrate to Lake Erie’s south shore reefs and streams just to spawn, particularly the Camp Perry Firing Range and the Maumee River basin in western Ohio. Other favorites are the coves and inlets, just offshore. The post spawn normally happens in late May and walleye can be found concentrated in the Western Basin off the Michigan coast, the Lake Erie Islands in Ohio and Ontario’s Peele Island. The rest of the year, walleye may be found in the deep waters of Lake Erie, near the Canadian border. Spring and fall are the peak seasons for walleye fishing.
Walleye can be cooked a number of ways, including pan sauteed, broiled, baked, fried, and grilled. Walleye is a delicate fish and care should be taken not to overcook the fish. Cook it just until the fillets flake when touched with a fork.
What Anglers Are Catching
Lake Erie Walleye Anglers will catch fish mostly from the 2003 hatch, with contributions from the 2001, 2005, and 2007 hatches, as well as some fish from the 2009 hatch. Walleye from the 2003 hatch will be 23 to 28 inches long, while fish from the earlier hatches will range from 15 to 19 inches over the course of the fishing season. Fish from the 2005 hatch should be in the 20 to 23 inch range. Large walleye from strong hatches in the 1980s and mid-1990s still persist in the population, providing Master Angler (walleye over 28 inches) opportunities. Anglers will also catch walleyes from the moderate 2009 hatch; however, most of these fish will be under the legal size of 15 inches until fall.
"Walleye abundance and the sport catch have been declining over recent years in Lake Erie due to below-average hatches since 2003," said Knight. "However, the average size of fish caught should be exceptional."
Limits - 2010
Michigan - The daily bag limit is five fish per person. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season.
Ohio - The daily bag limit is four fish per person during March and April, and six fish from May through February. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season.
Pennsylvania - The daily bag limit is six fish per person from January 1st through March 14th and May 7th through December 31st. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the open season.
New York - The daily bag limit is three fish per person from the 1st Saturday in May through March 15th. An 18-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season.
Ontario – The daily bag limit is six fish per person with a sportsman’s license and two fish per person with a conservation license. The season is open year round with no minimum size limit.
Anglers are reminded that fishing conditions on Lake Erie can change hourly and adjustments are often necessary to improve success. Anglers should take into account such factors as water temperature, cloud cover, water clarity, boat traffic, wave action, structure and the amount of bait fish in the area. Anglers are also reminded to carefully monitor Lake Erie weather and to seek safe harbor before storms approach.