The Ohio DNR has a history of rosy outlooks for fishing on Lake Erie, so keep that in mind when reading the Lake Erie Fishing Outlook. But I agree with Roger Knight, Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the ODNR, ``Lake Erie remains one of the greatest natural resources in our country.''
Walleye are the most important species for Chicago fishermen. Of the walleye, Knight said, ``Weather permitting, we expect to have another year of excellent walleye fishing, with an unbelievable average size of more than 20 inches in the catch.''
In season, the ODNR has Lake Erie fishing reports at wildohio.com and (888) HOOKFISH.
Here's the key breakdowns by the ODNR of top species to concern to Chicago fishermen.
Ohio walleye anglers can expect to catch fish mostly from the 2003 hatch, with continued contributions from 1999 and 2001 hatches, as well as some fish from the 2005 hatch. Walleye from the 2003 hatch will be 20 to 24 inches long, while fish from the earlier hatches will range from 21 to 27 inches over the course of the fishing season. Fish from the 2005 hatch should be in the 15 to 18-inch range. Large walleye from strong hatches in the 1980s and mid-1990s still persist in the population, providing "Fish Ohio" trophy (more than 28 inches) opportunities.
``The walleye fishery in 2007 was better than the phenomenal fishery that we saw in 2006,'' said Knight. ``Weather permitting, we expect to have another year of excellent walleye fishing, with an unbelievable average size of more than 20 inches in the catch.''
The daily bag limit remains four fish per person during March and April, and six fish from May through February 2009. The 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season.
Perch anglers should encounter excellent numbers of 9 to 12-inch fish from the 2003 hatch this year, although perch numbers will be down slightly over 2007. Moderate hatches from 2005 and 2006 should contribute some smaller fish to the harvest as well, with a few jumbos from the 2001 hatch present. Anglers will continue to see larger fish in the central basin of Lake Erie, as compared to the western basin. There is no minimum size limit for yellow perch.
(Note, a reduction in the daily bag to 25 is possible in the Western Basin--west of Huron.)
Smallmouth bass fishing is expected to be good in 2008, with contributions from hatches in the 1990s and 2003. Fish should range in size from 14 to 21 inches and weigh 1.5 to 5 pounds. Bass fishing is best around areas with bottom structure, which is available across much of the entire Ohio near-shore area. ODNR biologists have seen several good hatches in recent years, potentially contributing to good smallmouth bass fishing in the future.
A closed season remains in effect from May 1 through June 27, during which all black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released. Beginning June 28, the daily bag limit will remain at five fish, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.