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Fall 2003 Issue
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Lake Erie's Yellow Perch 2003 Hatch Best in Years
Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Not in nearly a generation has Lake Erie been the nursery for so many yellow perch. And it’s been more than a decade since the lake¹s walleye hatch has shown such strength as well.

Ohio recently completed its lake-wide survey of this year’s perch and walleye hatch. Both showed strong gains. ‘The 2003 class of perch and walleye could be a year to remember,’ said Kevin Kayle, manager of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

Kayle said that for yellow perch as surveyed from Fairport Harbor west to Vermilion, the hatch was ‘as good or better’ than in the previous 16 years. ‘The only other even remotely comparable perch hatch like this was in 1996, and we’re now catching those fish as our jumbos,’ Kayle said. Likewise, the yellow perch hatch in the Western Basin is looking good, Kayle said.‘You can say that as well for the perch hatch from Fairport Harbor east to Conneaut,’ Kayle said.

Of great importance to Lake Erie anglers is the walleye hatch. ‘It looks like the best walleye hatch in the Central Basin since 1990, and indications are that the hatch also is very good to excellent in the Western Basin,’ Kayle said.

Which really doesn’t come as too big of a surprise, Kayle said. ‘We had a relatively cold and hard winter, which helps ‘set the fish up’ for spawning; they sort of shut down and don¹t expend much energy when the water stays cold for so long,’ Kayle said. ‘They¹re better prepared for spawning.’

Assisting the hatch was good precipitation this spring that allowed for good flow into the lake. In turn, that lead to good production of forage for the just-hatched perch, Kayle said.

‘And we had a dry April without storms that cause problems during the spawn,’ Kayle said. ‘Much of this also applies to the walleye.’ Kayle said this year’s hatch of perch should start showing up on anglers’ stringers in late 2005 with the walleye graduating to the ice coolers in 2006.

‘If our 15-inch minimum length proposal becomes accepted,’ Kayle said. However, even with the good hatches the state has no intention of retreating from its conservative regulations. After all, this was just one year class, though an exceptional one, Kayle said.

‘We’d like to see this spread out over three, four or five years; even longer,’ Kayle said.