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Ohio’s Lake Erie Fisheries, 2002
Summary and Excerpts from the March 2003 report by the
Lake Erie Fisheries Units of the
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife

Note: Tables and figures quoted in this summary can be found in the full report.

The full report is available as a PDF document on the ODNR web site at:
Warning, the full report  is over 1.0 mb in size and could take considerable time to download


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife manages sport and commercial fisheries within the 2.24 million acres of Lake Erie under Ohio jurisdiction. In this report, we summarize research, assessment, and other projects conducted by our fisheries research stations at Fairport Harbor and Sandusky through calendar year 2002. These projects provide fishery harvest and effort information, baseline stock assessment data for important sport and commercial fish species, and information on howvarious parts of the food web are responding to changes in the Lake Erie ecosystem. This report is intended to accomplish several objectives: 1) provide timely fisheries information to user groups, resource managers, and the general public, 2) serve as a repository for fisheries and stock assessment data, and 3) fulfill reporting requirements for our Federal Aid projects on Lake Erie. Below is an overview of thecurrent status of five key fish species, followed by a summary of projects conducted on Lake Erie in 2002.


Adult abundance continues below the annual average for the 1990s. The 2002 Ohio sport harvest of just over 702 thousand walleye was lower than expected, due to lower than long-term average angler effort throughout Ohio waters and poor spring weather. Only the western basin anglers had lower catch rates than the previous year. The good 2001 year class will enter the fishery this year, offering hope for improved harvest and catch rates; however, the very poor 2002 year class will not help in the future rehabilitation efforts. As active participants of The Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Lake Erie Committee, we have participated in the Coordinated Percid Management Strategy to reduce walleye exploitation and rebuild walleye stocks. We have implemented research to examine the performance of individual walleye stocks. The daily bag limit for walleye remains at four during March and April and six for May through the following February.

Yellow Perch

Yellow perch fisheries improved again in 2002 relative to previous low years of the 1990s, owing to successful reproduction in four of the last six years and reduced fishing mortality. The strong 1996 and 1998 year classes and the moderate 1999 year class were responsible for this continued increase. With poor reproduction in 2000 and good reproduction in 2001, the numbers of adult fish will be about the same in 2003 compared to a year ago. Ohio’s sport and commercial fishermen met their allotted quotas in 2002. The 30-fish daily bag limit for anglers and individual trap net quotas are still in effect for 2003.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass populations, and associated sport fisheries, appear to have declined slightly after the increase observed in the late 1990’s throughout Lake Erie. Fishing effort for smallmouth bass decreased in Ohio waters to the lowest seen since 1996. Catch rates declined slightly for the second consecutive year. Poor spring fishing conditions may have helped in both of those declines. A 5-fish daily bag limit and a 14-inch minimum length limit were implemented in 2000. They are having the desired effect at reducing exploitation of smaller fish. Research continues to examine factors affecting reproduction and movements of smallmouth bass in Ohio waters of Lake Erie.

White Bass

Sport fisheries for white bass have improved compared to lows seen in the mid 1990s. Seasonal effort and catch was affected by poor weather. The successful 1996 hatch and moderate hatches in 1998 and 1999 have contributed to the sport and commercial fisheries. The very good 2001 hatch will continue this moderating trend. Older adults (ages 3+) have begun to contribute well to fisheries in recent years.

Steelhead Trout

Steelhead angling has improved dramatically in the open lake during the summer, as more anglers target steelhead while trolling. Lake catches, at 41,347, were the highest recorded and exceptional catch rates for those seeking steelhead were observed. Tributary and lake fisheries will remain very good with continued stockings of yearling Little Manistee River (Michigan) strain steelhead.

Sport Fishery Summary

Boat Fisheries (FFDR01)

Ohio's private and charter boat fisheries were assessed by a direct contact creel survey during

2002. The creel survey was conducted from Toledo to Conneaut at 39 major boat departure sites along Ohio's portion of the Lake Erie shoreline. These sites were grouped into six areas (Figure 1). Areas 1-3 were surveyed from April 2 to October 27, area 4 from May 16 to October 26 and areas 5 and 6 from May 6 to October 29. Three weekdays and two weekend days were surveyed each week in each survey area.

Survey dates and count and interview schedules were randomly selected. Each survey day included time interval counts of boats returning from Lake Erie at all major harbors and completed trip interviews of people on boats returning to marinas, docks, and ramps within the harbors.

Boat effort was estimated from counts of private and charter boats returning to major harbor areas during 20-minute count intervals at 35 access points. Boat counts were scheduled to include coverage of the busiest hours of the day: 1100-2000 hours (military time) for April, 1100-2100 hours for May, 1030- 2130 hours for June and July, 1030-2030 hours for August, 1100-2000 hours for September and 1100-1900 hours for October. Boat counts included all vessels except sailboats, commercial boats, and government boats that were assumed to be not involved in fishing. Boat count means and variances were expanded with monthly constants for count locations per area, count intervals per day, and days per month.

Completed trip interviews were obtained from boats returning to harbor areas. Boat interviews identified the type of fishery (private or charter), number of anglers per boat, hours fished, the number of each species harvested and released, the grid location where the majority of time was spent fishing, and the primary target species. The duration of the fishing trip was defined as the time when actual fishing began until fishing was completed.

Calculations of angler hours and catch were computed following the procedures outlined in Table 1. Survey data were stratified by type of fishery, month, survey area, and weekday-weekend. The primary location fished was coded into one of 50 grids in each statistical catch districts (Figure 2). Estimates for the private and charter boat fisheries were summarized by grid, district, and month. Catch per unit effort (catch rate) was expressed as the number of fish harvested per angler hour. Catch rates were calculated for all targeted species. Significant differences in fishing methods, areas, and seasons for each target species did not allow effort to be comparable across target species. If more than one species was indicated as the primary target species, they were recorded to "anything that bites" and not included in species analyses.

The angler catch was sampled weekly to obtain fish lengths and scale samples. Mean weights in grams were obtained by using the length-weight regressions presented in Table 2. Age composition by percent, mean length, and mean weight were calculated for each district and month for walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, white bass and white perch. Private and charter boat estimates of harvest and effort were based on 7,911 interval boat counts and 5,358 boat interviews.


The 2002 total sport harvest, for the private (Table 3) and charter boat (Table 4) fisheries, was 7.6 million fish and 4.7 million pounds (Appendix A). Yellow perch (87%) and walleye (9%) represented the majority of the total harvest in numbers. Total angler effort (4.6 million angler hours) for the two fisheries (Tables 5 and 6) decreased 11% from 2001. The private boat fishery accounted for 92% of the harvest and 89% of the angler effort. The primary target species were yellow perch (47%) and walleye (41%) for the private boat fishery, and walleye (78%) for the charter boat fishery. Characteristics of private boat and charter boat angler trips, by target species, are presented in Tables 7 and 8, respectively. A total of 861 charter guides were licensed in Ohio for 2002. This was a two percent drop from 2001and well below the ten year mean of 998 (Figure 3).


The private boat harvest of 0.51 million fish was a 43% decrease from last year’s harvest of 0.90 million fish (Table 9). Walleye harvest was the lowest recorded since the first year of the survey in 1975. Targeted walleye effort of 1.7 million angler hours was 33% lower than in 2001 and the third lowest since 1975. The primary fishing method used on walleye trips differed among districts (Table 10). Casting represented 63% of the fishing effort in District 1, but only 32% in District 2, and 0% in District 3. In Districts 2 and 3, the percentage of fishing effort by anglers using depth-control trolling was higher than flat-line trolling. In Districts 1 and 2, harvest rates were higher for the two trolling methods than casting.

The lakewide targeted harvest rate for anglers seeking walleye was 0.29 fish per angler hour, a decrease of 15% from 2001. Boat limit trips decreased from 13% in 2001 to 9% in 2002 (Table 7). The 2002 charter boat fishery harvest of 0.19 million fish was a 26% decrease from 2001. The

targeted harvest rate of 0.47 fish per angler hour was lower than last year (0.63) and lower than the tenyear ean of 0.56. Boat limit trips ranged from 4% in District 2 to 16% in District 1 (Table 8). The majority of the walleye sport harvest was from the 1999 (57%) and 1998 (14%) year classes (Table 11).

Age-5 and older walleye constituted 20% of the lakewide catch. Walleye mean size increased across Districts 1 to 3 and averaged 483 mm and 1,080 g.

Yellow Perch

Private boat anglers harvested 6.3 million yellow perch and expended 1.9 million targeted angler hours during 2002 (Table 12). Harvest and targeted effort were the highest since the mid 1980’s. Harvest rate remained unchanged at 3.2 fish per angler hour from 2001. Private boat limit trips ranged from 18% in District 2 to 23% in Districts 1 and 3 (Table 7).

The charter boat harvest and target angler hours increased 6% and 27%, respectively, from 2001.

Harvest was the highest since 1989 and target effort since 1991. Harvest rates decreased 21% from 4.83 fish per angler hour in 2001 to 3.81 fish per angler hour in 2002. Percent of limit trips by charter anglers remained high at 42% (Table 8).

The 1999 year class comprised 42% of the sport yellow perch harvest followed by the 1998 (38%) and 1996 (9%). Yellow perch mean size increased across Districts 1 to 3 and averaged 236 mm and 172 g (Table 13).

Smallmouth Bass

The private boat effort of 311,553 angler hours was a 25% decrease from 2001. (Table 14). The harvest of 31,458 was a 26% decrease from 2001 and the lowest since 1992. As in previous years, the release rate (0.39 fish per angler hour) was considerably higher than the targeted harvest rate (0.07 fish per angler hour). The Charter boat fishery showed the opposite trend with harvest (49%), targeted effort (38%) and targeted harvest rate (41%) all increasing compared to 2001. The 1996 and 1998 year classes combined constituted 43% of the smallmouth bass harvest in Ohio's waters (Table 15). Fish of age-6 and older comprised 58% of the harvest. Smallmouth bass mean size averaged 414 mm and 1,187 g lakewide.

White Bass

The private boat harvest (-50%) and the targeted effort (-70%) both decreased compared to 2001 (Table 16). As in past years, very few angler trips were targeted for this species; therefore the majority of the white bass were harvested as incidental catch from anglers targeting other species. There were a small number of targeted charter boat trips for white bass during 2002. The majority of the harvest was from the 1999 year class (52%) followed by the 2001 year class (24%).

White Perch

The 2002 estimated sport harvest of 46,623 white perch (Tables 3 and 4) was over a 200% increase compared to 2001. Angler hours targeting white perch totaled 1,638 in 2002 compared to 0 from 2001. The 1999 (42%) and 1998 (40%) year classes comprised the majority of the harvest (Table 18).

Steelhead Trout

The combined private and charter boat harvest of 41,357 for 2002 was a 41% increase compared to 2001, and the highest since the stocking program began. Steelhead trout are harvested primarily from the central basin, with 46% of the catch from District 2 and 52% from District 3. Combined (private and charter) targeted angler hours decreased 35% from 2001. The harvest rate for both the private and charter boat anglers targeting steelhead trout was 0.22 fish per angler hour. During 2000, an additional category was added to the target species list (walleye/steelhead) in order to measure the number of angler trips targeting both walleye and steelhead. Total walleye/steelhead target angler hours for both fisheries increased 41% from 36,631 angler hours in 2001 to 51,474 angler hours in 2002. The targeted harvest rate for the combination trips was 0.28 fish per angler hour for the private boat fishery and 0.15 fish per angler hour for the charter boat fishery. Lakewide, steelhead trout averaged 573 mm and 2,464 g.

Other Species

Private and charter boat anglers harvested 27,252 freshwater drum, channel catfish, and other species in 2002 (Tables 3 and 4). These fish were harvested by anglers as incidental catch while targeting other major species.

Sandusky and Maumee Rivers Tributary Fisheries

A direct contact creel survey was conducted on the Sandusky and Maumee Rivers from March 14 to April 30, 2002. Surveys were conducted from Ewing Island to Waterville on the Maumee River and from Brady's Island to Roger Young Park on the Sandusky River (Figure 4). Three weekdays and both weekend days were surveyed each week. Each survey day included instantaneous counts. Completed and inprogress interviews were made on a roving schedule among survey locations. Survey dates, times of counts, and interviews were randomly selected within strata for month, survey location, weekdayweekend, and shore-boat anglers. Angler interviews were conducted to determine hours fished, target species sought, and the number of each species harvested.

Angler effort was estimated from instantaneous counts during daylight hours, which included 0700-1900 in March, 0730-2030 in April. One count and interview route was employed throughout the survey. Mean counts were expanded to angler hours by constants for daylight hours per day, days per month, and the number of count locations in each river.

On both the Maumee and Sandusky rivers, walleye harvest increased slightly compared to 2001 (Table 19). An estimated 32,889 walleye were harvested from the Maumee River, and 4,620 walleye from the Sandusky River (Table 20). The harvest rate for anglers seeking walleye averaged 0.25 fish per hour on the Maumee River and 0.18 fish per hour on the Sandusky River. Release rates for anglers seeking walleye were 0.70 fish per hour on the Maumee River and 0.46 fish per hour on the Sandusky River.

Estimated white bass harvests (Tables 19 and 20) are just for the survey period and should not be compared to previous surveys which included the traditional white bass run during May. Walleye angler hours observed from angler interviews totaled 3,187 and 2,108 for the Maumee River and Sandusky River, 12 respectively (Table 21). The 1998 year class comprised the largest percentage of all the ages in the harvest in both the Maumee (26%) and Sandusky Rivers (32%) (Table 22). Walleye in the harvest averaged 509 mm and 5.0 yr. in the Maumee River and 553 mm and 5.6 yr. in the Sandusky River. White bass in the harvest averaged 322 mm (N=30) on the Maumee River and 302 mm (N=34) on the Sandusky River.

Commercial Fishery Summary (FSDR06)

Monthly catch reports submitted by licensed commercial operators were summarized to determine harvest (in pounds) and fishing effort for all species by month, statistical grid, and district (Figure 2). The dollar value of Ohio’s commercial fish harvest was estimated based on average weekly prices reported by cooperating processing facilities and applied to weekly reported landings.

Major species landings were sampled every two weeks, in spring and fall, from peak harvest areas to determine mean length, weight, and age composition of the commercial harvest. Scale samples, length data, and updated length-weight regression equations (Table 2) were used to estimate harvested age groups in pounds and numbers.

The 2002 commercial harvest from Ohio waters of Lake Erie totaled 4.02 million pounds (Appendix A), up 16% from 3.48 million pounds reported in 2001 (Table 23). Trap nets accounted for 58% of the harvest (Table 24). District 1 (32%) led all statistical areas in total landings (Table 24). Peak harvest occurred in April-May (55%) and total dockside value was estimated at 2.5 million dollars (Tables 25 and 26). Trap net effort of 11,881 lifts peaked in May and September with no lifts reported in District 3 (Tables 27 and 28). Seine effort was highest in April-May in District 1, in April and September in District 4 (Sandusky Bay) and in March and August in District 5 (inland fishing district). Total seine effort has fallen steadily since 1998 and was the lowest on record in 2002.

Yellow Perch

Ohio’s yellow perch harvest quota allocations to sport and commercial fisheries, first implemented in 1996, are based on a rolling 5-year sport:commercial harvest ratio (Table 29). The total allocation to Ohio’s licensed commercial trap net fishery in 2002 was 1,438,074 pounds, with both the western basin (District 1) quota of 338,427 pounds (337,829 lbs. landed) and the central basin (Districts 2 & 3) quota of 1,099,647 pounds (1,099,971 lbs. landed including 668 lbs. of last lift allowance) the highest under quota management. With quotas filled in both districts, total harvest ranked highest since 1990. Lakewide trap net catch rates were 138.4 lbs./lift, down from 2001 levels (highest on record at 172.9 lbs./lift) (Table 30).

The number of yellow perch harvested from District 2 accounted for 75% of the total, with the 1998 cohort the most abundant of eight year classes in the fishery (Table 31).

White Bass

White bass landings totaled 161,664 pounds in 2002, down from 226,664 pounds landed in 2001 (Table 23). District 1 trap nets annually account for the bulk (77% in 2002) of this primarily spring harvest (Tables 24-25). Lower lakewide unit pricing, heavily influenced by the Canadian market, contributed to a dockside value of $81,242 ranked lowest over the last ten years. Catch rates in trap nets (38.5 lb./lift) were lower while seines catch rates (65.6 lb./1000 ft.) climbed slightly and exceeded the tenyear mean (Table 30). The 1999 year class comprised 73% of numbers harvested (Table 32).

White Perch

White perch landings totaled 269,512 pounds, up from 155,555 pounds in 2001 (Table 23). Catch rates were higher at 38 lbs./lift, up for the third consecutive year and highest since 1992 (Table 30). Most white perch were harvested in District 1 trap nets (Table 24) during April-May (Table 25). The 1999 and 1998 cohorts led six year classes represented in the harvest (Table 33).

Lake Whitefish

Whitefish landings fell to 6,539 pounds (Table 23) with a catch rate of 6.5 lbs./lift, lowest since 1993 (Table 30). Inclement fall weather conditions coupled with more effort diverted toward yellow perch quotas led to the lowest effort expended toward whitefish since the harvest was re-instated in 1987. Historically a late-fall western basin trap net fishery, 72% of 2002 whitefish landings occurred during November (Tables 24-25). The 1996 and 1995 cohorts led eleven year classes in the harvest of whitefish (Table 34).

Other Species

A total of 2.1 million pounds of "other species" were landed, accounting for 53% of the total commercial harvest from Ohio waters of Lake Erie. Carp led all other species with 523,539 pounds (Table 23). Seines accounted for 74% of other species harvested (Table 24). The estimated value was $429,478, or 14% of the total dockside value (Table 26).

Population Assessments

Experimental trawl and gill net surveys were conducted in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie to ascertain relative abundance, growth, and maturity rates of the major predator and forage fish species. Total counts by species and age group, were obtained from both trawl and gill net catches. Relative abundance indices from bottom trawls for all age-0 and age-1+ fishes were computed as the geometric mean catch-per-hour-trawling (CPHT). Western basin relative abundance indices of age-1+ and older walleyes and white bass were calculated from fall gill net catches as the geometric mean of the catch per gill net set. In the central basin, relative abundance of age-1+ and older walleyes, yellow perch, and white bass were calculated from trawl catches as geometric mean CPHT.

Western Basin (FSDR13)

Due to research vessel repairs, trawling surveys were limited to August and September/October. Sampling was conducted on the new R.V. Explorer, therefore, trawl relative abundance data may not be comparable to other data in the series. Comparative trawling exercises are scheduled for late-August 2003 to address potential differences in catchability between vessels. Due to time constraints in August, the number of stations sampled was reduced from the normal 41 stations to 38, however, in the fall survey 40 stations were sampled (Figure 5). Trawling was stratified over four depth strata (0-3 m, 3-6 m, 6-9 m, and >9 m) with effort allocated in proportion to the number of available sampling units (2.5 minute grids) per strata. One 10-minute tow was conducted at each site using a flat-bottom otter trawl with a 10.7-m headrope and 13-mm bar mesh in the cod end.

Fall gill net sampling occurred in October/November at two historic and five randomly selected stations in the western basin (Figure 6). One western basin random station was omitted from the original design due to weather/time constraints. Sample stations were stratified by depth with two strata (4–10 m 14 and >10 m) in the western basin. Effort was allocated based on the number of possible sampling units per strata, as for trawls. Overnight sets of standard interagency nylon multifilament gill nets, consisting of a gang of 13 randomly-ordered sections, each 30.5 m (length) by 1.8 m (height) ranging from 51-127 mm stretched mesh in 6 mm increments, were fished two meters below the surface at each station. In addition, canned and bottom sets were fished all seven of the historic sites using modified interagency community monofilament gill nets. These nets consisted of a gang of 12 randomly ordered sections, each 15.2 m (length) by 1.8 m (height), ranging from 32-76 mm stretched mesh by 6 mm increments and from 76-127 mm by 12 mm increments.

Central Basin (FFDR04)

Bottom trawling was conducted monthly, May through August and October, at 16 randomly selected stations within four depth strata (5-10 m, 10-15 m, 15-20 m, and >20 m) at established transects in each district. Additional transects were established every 20 km from Berlin Heights to the Pennsylvania state line (District 2: Berlin Heights, Vermilion, Lorain, Avon, Cleveland, Chagrin; District 3: Perry, Ashtabula, and Conneaut; Figure 4). Trawling is conducted before, during, and after lake stratification at two stations per depth strata per transect. Bottom trawling included six fixed index stations in District 2 and three fixed stations in District 3 that have been sampled in October since 1969. A 10-minute tow was conducted at each site using a Yankee two-seam bottom trawl with a 10.4 m head rope, 25 mm bar mesh in the cod end, 13 mm stretched mesh liner, and 25.4 cm roller gear. Fixed station trawl indices prior to 1995 were adjusted with correction factors to account for catchability differences between Biloxi trawls (previously used at fixed stations) and Yankee trawls.

Fall gill net sampling occurred in October/November at five historic and one randomly-selected stations in the west-central basin (Figure 6). Six west-central basin random stations were omitted from the original design due to weather/time constraints. Sample stations were stratified by depth with three strata in the west-central basin (10–15, 15–20 m, and >20 m). Other procedures for central basin gill netting were exactly the same as those for the western basin described above.


Relative Abundance

Western basin indices for age-0 walleyes were the lowest on record during both summer and fall trawl surveys. Age-0 walleye abundance was similar to the extremely poor 1995 year class (Table 35). However, age-1+ abundance was relatively high, similar to the 1997 and 1999 year classes and slightly below the 1996 year class.

Central basin indices for age-0 walleye in 2002 were lowest in the fall in District 2 and District 3 (Table 36 and 37). Age-1 fall indices increased from 2001 values in both districts. District 2 age-1 indices were below the historic mean in both summer and fall while District 3 indices were above the historic mean in both months (Tables 38 and 39). In general, summer and fall trawl indices are higher in District 2 than District 3 during the time series. Historically, District 2 age-0 fall indices have proven the most reliable estimator of cohort strength. Catch rates (Table 40) have typically decline from west to east among transects during the time series.

District 1 fall gill net catches were higher than those in 2001 owing to good catches of age-1 and age-3 walleye. Total catches in District 1 gill nets were similar to those seen in 2000 and 1993 and similar to long-term average catches (Table 41). Catches of age-1 walleye were the fifth highest in the series and similar to those seen in 2000. Catches of age-3 walleye were the third highest in series, but significantly lower than age-3 catches in 1989 or 1985 (the strong 1986 and 1982 year classes, respectively). The results were similar in District 2 where indices for age-1 and age-3 walleye were some of the highest on 15 record and total walleye abundance indices were higher than in 2001, but similar to the long–term average (Table 41).


Mean length-at-age of walleyes collected during fall surveys declined from 1972 to the early 1980s, and generally leveled off through the 1990s (Figure 7). However, there is indication of an increasing trend in mean length-at-age since the 1997 survey. Inter-basin length and weight differences continue to be evident, with age-1 and age-2 female walleyes from the central basin being larger than those in the western basin (Figures 7 and 8). Mean length and weight of age-1 female walleyes in the western and central basins were lower in 2002 relative to 2001; however, mean lengths of age-1 females were near the highest on record in the past 20 years in both basins. Mean length and weight of age-2 female walleyes in the western basin were similar to those seen in 2001 and near historic highs. For the second consecutive year age-2 walleye mean length and weight-at-age in the central basin was at a historic high. Mean lengths of age-0 walleyes in the western and central basins were slightly lower than those observed in 2001; however it should be noted that only 1 age-0 walleye was collected during the fall trawl survey in 2002.


Walleye length-at-maturity was similar to that of recent years and did not differ between basins (Figure 9). The majority of male walleyes were sexually mature at 400 mm (age-2), although significant numbers of age-1 male walleyes were mature in 2002. The majority of female walleyes were sexually mature at 475 mm (age-3). In 2002, 15 and 0% of age-2 female walleye were mature in the western and central basins, respectively, similar to past years (Table 42). The vast majority (>94%) of age-3 and older female walleyes were sexually mature in both basins. There was no spatial trend in sexual maturity of female walleyes collected from the western or central basins.


Diet information was collected from age-1 and older walleyes caught in both fall trawls and gill nets in the western, west-central, and central basins of Lake Erie in 2002. Consistent with previous years, there is an apparent shift in walleye diets from clupeids in the western basin to clupeids/shiners in the west-central basin to smelt/shiners/goby in the central basin. In 2002 (Figure 10), clupeids again dominated the diets of western and west-central basin walleye (96% and 67%, respectively), with gizzard shad dominating the clupeid component in both the west (68%) and west-central (90%) basins, similar to 1999. Emerald shiners comprised only 4% of the diet in the western basin. In the west-central basin, there were significant contributions to walleye diets from emerald shiners (23%) and alewife (7%). Frequency of occurrence of round goby in walleye diets initialized in 1996 (1%) and increased to 11% by 1998 and has ranged from 7% to 12% since with a 9% value in 2002 (Figure 17).

Yellow Perch

Relative Abundance

Summer and fall western basin age-0 indices were down significantly in 2002, with abundance indices being similar to the poor 1997 and 1987 year classes (Table 35). Summer age-1 indices in both surveys were the highest on record due to the good 2001 year class. Both summer and fall catches of age- 2 and older yellow perch were down relative to 2001, but near their long-term average.

The overall index from fall District 1 sites selected for age composition was slightly higher than that in 2001 due to relatively high catches of age-1 yellow perch (Table 43). As expected the 2001 and 1999 year classes comprised the majority of the catch. Surprisingly, the 2000 and 1998 contributed 16 significantly to the catches as well, with a few of the 1996 year class fish still in the population. While the contribution of older age classes to the population is increasing in the west, the contribution is still well below index values seen in the early-1980s. This information still indicates a need for conservative management strategies.

The 2002 summer and fall age-0 indices were some of the lowest on record in the central basin for both districts (Tables 36 and 37). Fall central basin indices for age-0 yellow perch were higher in District 3 than District 2. Overall, the fall age-0 indices suggest a very weak year class, similar to the 1991 and 2000 year classes. The summer and fall age-1 indices increased from 2001 in both districts, reflecting the strong 2001 cohort. Overall, the yellow perch fishery in the central basin should continue to be good due to strong year classes in 1998, 1999, and 2001. Catches of age-0 and age-1 were higher from Cleveland west than east of Cleveland (Table 40). The age composition of the fall trawl indices were primarily from the 1998, 1999, and 2001 cohorts in both District 2 and District 3 (Table 43). The overall index shows a lower number of older fish (age>4) yet a substantial number of age-5 and age-6 yellow perch.


Fall mean size-at-age declined from 1970 to the early 1980s in both basins, but increased thereafter for most age groups through 1994 and has remained relatively stable since (Figure 11). Mean lengths of age-0 and age-1 yellow perch were slightly lower in the western basin but higher in the central basin than in 2001. Since 1998, mean lengths of yellow perch have been higher in the central basin than the west basin, a reversal of what was seen from 1991 to 1997. Since 1990, the age-1 central basin yellow perch mean lengths have been higher than the west basin except on 3 occasions (1992, 1995, and 1996).

Mean lengths of age-2 yellow perch decreased slightly in 2002, relative to 2001 in both basins (Figure 12). Since 1990, age-2 yellow perch mean lengths have been higher in the central basin than the west basin except for 1991, 1992, and 1993. This follows a scenario that has been depicted historically since the 1960’s. In 2002, annual growth increments (mm/year) of age-2 yellow perch were similar to those in 2001 (Figure 13) and higher growth rates have been exhibited in the central basin since 1996.


Yellow perch length-at-maturity in 2002 (Figure 9), was similar to that of recent years. The majority of males were sexually mature at 150 mm (age-2), females at 190 mm (ages 2 and 3). In 2002, the sexual maturity rates of age-2 yellow perch were lower than those seen in 2001 in the west basin (30%) but similar in the central basin (75%; Table 44). Across the series, sexual maturation rates in the western basin tend to be higher in the 1990s than in the 1980s, while sexual maturation rates in the central basin were similar between periods.


Yearling and older yellow perch diets in the central basin during 2002 varied seasonally (Figure 14). Benthic invertebrates (60%) were the primary diet item in the spring. The majority of the benthic items consumed were chironomids (68%). As the summer progressed, yellow perch additionally consumed Bythotrephes (36%) along with chironomids (27%). In the fall, fish (49%) were consumed along with, chironomids (26%), and Bythotrephes (17%). Round goby were the primary component of the fish consumed (80%). The frequency of occurrence of round goby in yellow perch diets was first noticed in 1996 (6%) and increased to 36% by 1998, and has remained constant over the last three years (14% to 16%).

White Bass

Relative Abundance

Summer western basin age-0 white bass indices were well below average levels, while fall numbers were significantly above the long-term mean (Table 35). This may be an indication of a relatively late spring, and therefore a later hatch date for white bass. Age-1 and older indices remained low in both surveys but are probably a function of white bass distributions or gear avoidance.

Fall gill net indice were the highest seen since the late 1980s due to record catches of age-1 white bass and near record catches of age-3 white bass in index nets (Table 45). Age-2 white bass catches were low, as expected. In District 2, the overall index was slightly below that of the 2001 index, but still the sixth highest in the series. Good catches of age-1 and age-3 white bass were evident in the gill nets in District 2.

Summer and fall age-0 indices were some of the lowest historically in District 2 and District 3 (Tables 36 and 37). Fall central basin age-1 trawl indices were above the historic mean in both districts and have been above the historic mean in District 3 for the last 3 years (Table 39). The low catch rates in District 2 may be indicative of poor recruitment of the 2001 year class. In the central basin, cohorts continue to be estimated well up to age-4 when using trawl gear (Table 46). In District 2, gill nets tend to underestimate age-1, produce estimates of fish up to age-6 and older, but they don’t track survival well.


Fall mean lengths have generally shown no trend over time for any age-class in the western basin (Figure 15). In 2002, mean lengths of all age-classes were similar to or slightly higher than those seen in 2001, and were slightly above long-term averages in the western basin. In the central basin, age-0 and age-1 mean lengths increased from 2001, with the age-0 being the highest historically.


Length-at-maturity in 2002 (Figure 9) was similar to recent years, and showed no difference between basins. The majority of males were sexually mature at 220 mm (age-1). Most females were sexually mature at 275 mm (age-2).


Diets of white bass were examined from spring, summer and fall bottom trawl collections in the central basin. White bass (N=112) less than 200 mm (age-0) consumed primarily fish (74%) and zooplankton (16%), and benthos (10%) in October. White bass over 200 mm consumed primarily fish (emerald shiners, goby, and smelt) throughout the year with the remainder of the diet changing from zooplankton and chironomids to Bythotrephes (Figure 16). The frequency of occurrence of gobies in white bass continued to increase (except 2001) from 6% in 1997 to 23% in 2002 (Figure 17).

Smallmouth Bass

Relative Abundance

Central basin age-0 indices were below the historic mean in District 2 and in District 3 in October (Tables 38 and 40). Age-0 indices may not be indicative of year class strength, yet their presence can be detected. Age-1 indices are more reliable estimates of year class strength. The age-1 October index value was lower than 2001 and at the historic mean. Overall, age-1 indices were higher in October than in August, and higher in District 3 than District 2 (Table 37 through 40).


In 2002, age-1 mean length (241 mm) was the second highest historically (1999 mean length was 248 mm), higher than in 2001, and shows an increasing trend over the last 3 years.


Male (age-1 and older) and female smallmouth bass (age-3 and older) were 100% sexually mature by 200 mm and 300 mm, respectively.


Smallmouth bass diets consisted primarily of round gobies followed by rainbow smelt and emerald shiners (Figure 18). The majority of smelt were consumed in June (33%) and emerald shiners (100%) were consumed in May. Invertebrates were not an important component of the diet. Round gobies were present in June (67%), August (100%), and October (73%). The frequency of occurrence of gobies in smallmouth bass (72%) were first consumed in 1994 (4%) and increased dramatically to a high of 88% in 2002 (Figure 17).

White Perch

Relative Abundance

Both summer and fall western basin abundance indices of age-0 white perch were significantly lower than those seen in 2000 and 2001 and are similar to values seen from 1992-1999 (Table 35). Age-0 white perch continue to be the most abundant species caught in these trawl surveys. Age-1 abundance indices were up in both trawl surveys, while age-2 and older abundance indices both increased and were slightly below historic mean levels.

In the central basin, age-0 white perch abundance indices decreased dramatically in District 2 and District 3 (Tables 36 and 37). In District 3, age-0 white perch abundance indices in October were at a historic record low (Table 37). Age-1 white perch were higher than 2001 in all indices and higher than the historic mean in August and October except in October in District 2 (Tables 38 and 39). For both age 0 and age 1, indices were higher in District 2 than District 3.


Age-0 white perch increased in both western and central basin in 2002 and have increased in the est basin over the last three years (Figure 19). While mean length of age-1 and age-2 white perch decreased slightly in 2002 in both the western and central basin.


Length-at-maturity in 2002 (Figure 9) was similar to that of recent years and did not differ between basins. The majority of males were sexually mature at 140 mm (>75% at age-1), females at 190 mm (>75% at age-2).

Round Goby

Round gobies were first found in the western basin trawl surveys during the fall of 1996. In 2002, summer round goby abundance indices declined to levels not seen since 1997 (Tables 36-40; 47).

However, fall round goby abundance indices increased significantly relative to 2001 and were highest on record. Increased predation on gobies by numerous fish species may limit their abundance in the western basin to well below densities previously seen in the central basin during their expansion there.

Round goby abundance in the central basin increased in August 2002 to an all time high in geometric means. This (August) could be an anomaly of geometric means where four trawls caught one goby and essentially doubled the geometric mean value. In general, most of the other indices indicate that central basin round goby numbers have declined to values lower than what we saw prior to 1996-1997.

This decline is supported by central basin catches exhibiting lower values than western basin for the first time ever in the October series (Figure 20). October 2002 central basin index values exhibited a continuing decline from the preceding three years (Tables 36-40; Figure 20). This decline may be attributed to increased consumption of gobies by predators as shown in diet figures. During 2002, the majority of higher round gobies densities were found in the eastern sites of trawl series across both west and central basins (Tables 36-40; 47).

Lake Whitefish

Age-0 whitefish indices were the below the historic mean. Age-0 whitefish were only collected in August in District 2. Age-1 indices reflect the above average cohort from 2001, as indices increased in both central basin districts and were above the historic mean in August and in October in District 3 (Tables 38- 40). Mean length of age-0 whitefish have declined from 2001 and are below the historic mean. Age-1 whitefish mean lengths have remained steady over the past 12 years. Whitefish diets were diverse (Figure 21); age 1 whitefish (n=75) focused on chironomids (36%), isopods (21%), Bythotrephes cederstroemi (12%), Leptodora (7%), Dreissena (6%) and Sphaeriidae (5%). Age 2 and older whitefish (n=60) focused on Dreissena spp. (33%), followed by Isopoda (17%), Hirudinea (14%), chironomids (10%), Sphaeriidae

(10%) and Bythotrephes cederstroemi (3%) in the diet. Monthly diet analyses showed the adult diets comprised primarily of benthic macroinvertebrates in May (95%) and June (70%), and mollusks in July (90%) and October (51%). Zooplankton was highest in abundance in October at 17%.


Burbot indices have increased from 2001 in both central basin districts. They were below the historic mean in District 3 and at or above the historic mean in District 2. Burbot consumed smelt in May (100%), 99% goby in June, 50% goby and 50% smelt in July, and 100% goby in October (Figure 22). Only one out of the nine burbot sampled in October was usable for diet analysis. Gobies were first observed in burbot diets in 1997 (6% by frequency if occurrence) and have increased dramatically to a high of 71% in 2000 and in 2002 (Figure 17).

Forage Fish

Western basin summer indices showed increased abundance for age-0 alewife, and both age classes of emerald shiners relative to 2001 (Table 47). Yearling and adult emerald shiner abundance indices were the highest in the series, while age-0 emerald shiner abundance has been increasing steadily since 1999 and rivaled levels seen in 1990 and 1991.

Spottail shiner, trout-perch, and age-0 freshwater drum abundance indices declined relative to 2001. Gizzard shad abundance indices, although lower than those in 2001 were the second highest seen since 1993. Similar to summer abundance indices, fall abundance of age-0 gizzard shad, alewife, and both age classes of emerald shiners were higher than those seen in 2001. Again, age-0 emerald shiner abundance indices were the highest on record, while yearling and older emerald shiner abundance indices were the second highest on record.

Spottail shiner and troutperch abundance indices remained relatively low during the fall trawling survey, with both species being below their long-term averages. Silver chub and rainbow smelt abundance indices were similar to those seen in 2001 during both summer and fall surveys.

Central basin fall and summer indices for most age-0 forage species were lower than 2001 indices and were below the historic mean signifying lower overall forage abundance (Tables 36-40). The only two species that were higher in 2002 were alewife and smelt. Greater abundances of gizzard shad seen from 1996-2001 have declined. White perch and yellow perch exhibited some of the lowest values historically in 2002. In District 2, age-0 indices in August and October, respectively, were dominated by smelt (83% and 22%) and white perch (12% and 33%). In District 3, age-0 indices in August and October, respectively, were predominantly rainbow smelt (79% and 39%) and goby (15% and 30%). In August, age-1 indices in District 2 and District 3, respectively, were dominated by round goby (55% and 45%) and yellow perch (27% and 34%). In October, age-1 indices in District 2 and District 3, respectively, were dominated by white perch (31% and 35%) and yellow perch (22% and 15%).

Current Projects

Walleye Tagging (FSDR11)

A total of 2,402 walleye were tagged in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie and its’ tributaries during 2002 (Figure 23). Tagging locations (and number tagged) were Sandusky Bay (990), the Maumee River (1,036), Maumee Bay (239) and Sugar Rock (137). Almost 44,500 walleye have been tagged since the project began in 1986.

In 2002, anglers caught and reported a total of 131 walleye tags including one reward tag from

each of the years (1990 and 2000) when reward tags were applied (Table 48). Every tag year cohort since 1989, except 1991, was represented in the returns. The reward tag study was used to determine the nonreporting rate of tagged fish. The overall interagency non-reporting rate was 2.70, meaning that almost three times as many non-reward tags should have been reported.

Mean estimates of survival, exploitation, and mortality rates for the combined interagency tagging program, and site and sex specific Ohio groups are shown in Table 49. Tag site recovery rates ranged from a low of 3.4% for the Sandusky River to 5.3% for Maumee River tagged fish. The modified recovery rate, using site specific, non-reporting rates determined from the reward tag program, ranged from 5.3% for Sandusky Bay tagged fish to 14.0% for Maumee River tagged fish. Survival rates for river tagged fish were much lower than the other sites. Female walleye had slightly higher exploitation and survival rates

than males although adjusted exploitation rates were similar. The natural mortality rate (M) from combined Sugar Rock and Sandusky Bay fish was 0.314 and constituted 75.1% of the instantaneous total mortality rate (Z). The interagency modified recovery rate was 9.4% with a mean annual survival rate of 65.01% and an M of 0.315.

Distributions of recapture locations for Ohio tagged fish, which were returned in 2002, are shown in Figures 24 and 25. Clusters of tags bordering the Toledo shipping channel in the west and in the western part of the central basin reflect the areas where anglers were most successful during 2002. Males were caught in every basin, but were more likely to be caught in the western basin. Females were more widely spread throughout the lake. Five males and two female Ohio-tagged fish were reported from the Detroit/St. Clair river system. Fish recaptured from Sandusky River and Sandusky Bay tag sites were widespread, but were predominantly from the central basin. Only one was caught in Lake Erie west of the islands and three in the Detroit/St. Clair system. Fish tagged in the western sites (Sugar Rock, Bono, and Maumee River) were more generally widespread. Maumee Bay was used a tagging site beginning in 2001, and twelve fish tagged there were reported caught in 2002. The tag returns were mostly from the western

basin or the western part of the central basin, while two were caught in the Maumee River.

Smallmouth Bass Research (FSDR17)

To assess movements and survival and exploitation rates, Lake Erie smallmouth bass have been tagged with Monel metal butt end tags attached to the left side of the lower jaw since 1998. From April to June 582 bass were tagged at locations from the western basin reef complex to Cleveland, Ohio (Figure 26) bringing the five-year total to 6,349 (Table 50). Fish were tagged from commercial trap nets by ODNR, Division of Wildlife personnel and by cooperating anglers.

The use of commercial nets is efficient but does not allow for selection of tagging sites.  A total of 474 recaptures have been reported to date (Table 50) with 109 reported in 2002. Three tag returns this year (nine total so far) could not be matched to tagging data due to cooperators who did not report tagging information. The release to harvest ratio remained at 53%, which is comparable to previous years. While lower than estimates from creel surveys, this is probably due to the fact that an angler is more likely to report a tag from a harvested fish than one released since they do not have to remember or somehow record the tag number. Rate estimates could be calculated, but with the low number of recovery periods since tagging began, the resulting large confidence intervals make the estimates of little value.

Tagging throughout the fishing season and recaptures of both kept and released bass are both problematic. New computer programs for the analysis of recapture information will be investigated in an attempt to deal with these problems and generate useful rate estimates as the number of recovery periods increase.

Recapture distributions of bass tagged in general locations are shown in Figure 27. Most bass movements were small with fish recaptured either near the site of tagging or within a few miles. Western Basin Reef -tagged fish have also been found in the island area and as far east as Lorain. Fish tagged in the nearshore area from Port Clinton to East Harbor moved more than fish tagged in the other areas. While they were also found in the reef, Bass Islands, and Lorain areas, fish that were not caught near the tagging location were most frequently recaptured around Kelley’s Island. One fish tagged on the west side of Catawba Island in May 2001 was caught in the fall in New York waters by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation during their fall gill net assessment survey. Another bass tagged just west of Port Clinton was recaptured in the Maumee River in Waterville, Ohio. Another Port Clinton area –tagged bass was recaptured near the Fermi II power plant in Michigan. Fish tagged in the Bass Islands rarely moved far before recapture, while fish tagged in the east also tended to stay close to the tagging site. In general, movements during the fishing season appear minimal. While large-scale differences between

tagging and recapture sites may represent true movements there is also the possibility that anglers may have moved some of these fish.

Conservation Tactics for Endangered Lake Sturgeon (FSCR01)

There were 16 reported lake sturgeon sightings in 2002 within Ohio waters. Ten of the reported sightings were from commercial fishermen; the remaining six were from recreational fisherman, predominately while fishing for yellow perch. Total lengths ranged between 394 mm (15.5 inches) and 1295 mm (51 inches). Similar to sturgeon sightings in the past, the majority of fish were observed around the Bass Islands and western basin. Lakewide, four dead lake sturgeon were reported by the New York State Department of Conservation, all of which were found by lakeshore residents.

Comprehensive Management of Lake Erie Watersheds (FSCR02)

To facilitate discussion on the approach and objectives of the project, current information generated through the project was presented at a series of professional workshops (Millennium workshops) titled 1) Development of an Integrated Habitat Classification System for the Lake Erie Basin Research Needs Workshop and 2) Restoring and maintaining Ecosystem Integrity of Habitats in the Lake Erie Basin.

Additionally, the approach and objectives of the project have been incorporated into several interagency research projects under the auspices of the Habitat Task Group, the Forage Task Group, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the University of Windsor, and NOAA. These projects are in the process of developing testable hypotheses associated watershed management and potential impacts on fish community structure and function in Lake Erie. Additionally, presentation of the current information from this project was made at a workshop convened to assist the Lake Committees to develop Environmental Objectives as mandated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Participation in the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition has continued and progress is being made toward addressing flow as it relates to timing and delivery of water and material to the Lake Erie coastal region.

Steelhead Trout Program (FFDB01)

The Division of Wildlife stocked 411,601 age-1 steelhead trout into selected Lake Erie tributaries in 2002. The Division of Wildlife initiated annual stocking into the Vermilion River in spring 2002.

During the first week of May, 2002, the Vermilion River received 66,199 yearling Little Manistee River strain steelhead from the Castalia State Fish Hatchery. Other annual stockings of age-1 Little Manistee River strain steelhead trout were completed during the last week of April and first week of May, 2002, in the Rocky (90,110), Chagrin (90,156), and Grand (90,131) rivers, and Conneaut Creek (75,005). These steelhead averaged 162 mm (6.4 inches) in length at time of stocking. An additional 75,000 yearling steelhead were in Conneaut Creek by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. This cooperative stocking program for Conneaut Creek is expected to continue. Target stocking numbers for Ohio Division of Wildlife steelhead will be Vermilion River, 55,000; Rocky, Chagrin, and Grand rivers, 90,000 each; and Conneaut Creek, 75,000. The Division of Wildlife continues to implement improvements to the Castalia

State Fish Hatchery to meet annual target program demands for 400,000 yearling steelhead trout averaging 150-225 mm (6-9 inches).

In 2002, we initiated a pilot project to examine the diets of steelhead in the open water of Lake Erie’s Central Basin during the summer. This information is valuable to us in describing steelhead movements and life habits during a time period when we have little data. They are not sampled effectively in any of our current fishery assessment gear. This information would be valuable to describe steelhead food web interactions and for including in steelhead and predator bioenergetics modeling being performed by various Great Lakes Fishery Commission task groups. This pilot project is being used as a precursor to a larger, interagency project on Lake Erie salmonid diets and bioenergetics.

From the end of June through early September, we contacted completed charter boat fishers at a local fish cleaning station in Fairport Harbor. We sampled on random weekdays and weekend days when charter boats fished, and when Division personnel were available to complete the diet analyses. All steelhead sampled were caught in Ohio waters. Fishing trip locations (latitude/longitude and 10-minute Lake Erie Committee sampling grid) were recorded for each trip and assigned to steelhead in that charter trip catch. All steelhead from the trip were examined for the presence of food items. Steelhead stomachs were removed at the fish processing house on afternoon of charter trip return and processed on site. All diet items were identified, enumerated (plankton was field estimated) and fish were measured to length (either vertebral, standard, fork or total length depending on condition). Known length to wet weight to dry weight conversion relationships from central basin diet items were used to calculate biomass of prey consumed.

A total of 310 steelhead were analyzed for diet composition. Steelhead caught ranged from 315- 742mm, with 580mm being the median length. Most fish had spent two summers in the lake and ranged from 550-650mm. Only 25.8% of the steelhead stomachs examined were empty. The most common item seen in steelhead diets was the spiny water flea, Bythotrephes cederstroemi (Table 51). The next two most frequently occurring food items were smelt and emerald shiners. Steelhead ate many different food items; a total of 12 were encountered- not including unidentified fish remains. In analysis of food ingested by biomass (Table 52), the bulk of steelhead diet was mostly fish. Smelt was the greatest item by weight, followed by white perch, emerald shiners, freshwater drum and alewife. Round goby, yellow perch, insects and plankton made up a smaller portion of the diverse diet.

The results of this small pilot study show that adequate numbers of steelhead can be sampled through this charter-encounter method. The study showed that in the summer Central Basin steelhead are generalists regarding types of food items consumed, but they get the majority of their caloric energy from fish.

We will want to expand the frequency and location of sampling with the larger effort required for a state and interagency project. Setting specific fishery assessment gear such as gill nets in areas where trout are concentrated can also be used as a control for temporal comparisons of diets and consumption. The project results and the interagency bioenergetics modeling exercises can also be enhanced by paralleling or incorporating diet analysis of other species like walleye and smallmouth bass for direct comparisons.


Stock Concept Analysis of Selected Lake Erie Central Basin Fishes (FFDR05)

The Division of Wildlife did not complete any electrofishing in the Grand River during March- April 2002. Poor river conditions (high flows) made sampling impossible and a safety issue. We took fin clips from adult walleye, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch during late spring and summer trawl surveys for genetic stock analysis. These fin clips, collected from several locations across the central basin as part of a cooperative study, will allow researchers try to discern genetic differences or stock structure within these species from across and within the lake's three basins.

As part of this project, we are scheduled to sample areas where natural reproduction of steelhead has been detected or document the findings or reports of other samplings of wild steelhead in Ohio tributaries to Lake Erie. Although our staff did not perform any sampling this year, we received reports of wild steelhead fingerlings being sampled by other groups in tributaries to the Cuyahoga, Chagrin, Grand and Ashtabula rivers. In general, each occurrence was in a small, cold tributary to the main streams and numbered less than one dozen individuals.

Watershed Conservation Practices in Lake Erie's Central Basin (FFSM01)

Within the scope of this project, we participated in watershed groups that focused habitat issues on Grand River, Mentor Lagoons, Chagrin River, Cuyahoga River, Black River, Ashtabula River and Rocky River watersheds. Lower lake water levels also have caused renewed interest and potential conflicts with dredging and hardening of shorelands; two main sources of nearshore and harbor habitat loss. We continue to work within the USACE review process, provide dredge operation windows, and suggest project restrictions or improvements to benefit fish and wildlife habitat and species.

We continue to support the USACE Conneaut Creek Sea Lamprey Barrier study, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s field operations for monitoring sea lamprey abundance in Ohio’s Lake Erie tributaries. We have also provided information and technical assistance to these agencies in the Integrated Management of Sea Lamprey program of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

We participated in lower trophic level sampling in the Central Basin again this year, and are working on a protocol and platform for sampling the nearshore, harbors and lower rivers starting in the summer of 2003. Sampling was not performed in 2002 due to other commitments staff and equipment.

Describing watershed contribution and function, as well as lake mixing processes, may help us better understand lake processes, nutrient availability, aquatic biota distributional tendencies, food web linkages and growth factors.

Remedial Action Plans (RAPs)

There are four Areas of Concern, as defined by USEPA, within Ohio waters of Lake Erie. They are the Maumee River at Toledo, the Black River between Elyria and Lorain harbor, the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland harbor, and the Ashtabula River from the confluence of, and including, Fields Brook to Ashtabula harbor. Division of Wildlife personnel continue to participate in the remedial action process by providing fisheries information regarding fisheries potential and impairment, and by providing technical assistance in the planning and evaluation associated with the RAP recovery stages.

Future Plans

The Division of Wildlife Lake Erie staff will continue to assess fish stocks in Lake Erie with standard programs as in previous years. These data are essential to fisheries management both within Ohio waters and across Lake Erie jurisdictions. We will also assist in the implementation of strategic, tactical, and operational plans on specific topics. We will be addressing the following issues in 2003:

1. Completion and implementation of the Division of Wildlife Lake Erie Tactical Plan.

2. Implementation of an interagency long-term percid management and assessment program that

emphasizes conservative harvest strategies.

3. Development and implementation of an OSU-AEL research project that will focus on the performance and early life history of individual walleye (or percid) stocks.

4. Development of smallmouth bass stock assessment programs and initiation of OSU-AEL research with radio-telemetry to discern seasonal movements and home ranges.

5. Changes in lake productivity and effects on sustainability of fisheries and forage base.

6. Applicability of hydroacoustic sampling in Ohio waters of Lake Erie.

7. Opportunities to protect and restore functional integrity of coastal lands' fish habitat.

This report has been extracted from the
Ohio’s Lake Erie Fisheries, 2002
Summary and Excerpts from the March 2003 report by the
Lake Erie Fisheries Units of the
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife

Note: Tables and figures quoted in this summary can be found in the full report.

The full report is available as a PDF document on the ODNR web site at:
Warning, the full report  is over 1.0 mb in size and could take considerable time to download