From the Editor
At this writing in mid-February I’m sure many of you are beginning to feel the passion again for Lake Erie Fishing. At this time of year I begin to look back and reflect on last years fishing and at the same time look forward to what Lake Erie brings to us this coming season.
Last year the lake provided us with a ‘mixed bag’ as Melissa Hathaway writes in this issue. Walleye fishing in 2000 was somewhat sporadic in the early months. A small 1998 walleye hatch and cool water from several early cold fronts made fishing difficult. However, the fishing did kick into a higher gear in late summer and then went into overdrive in the near western basin north of Huron, OH in late September, October and even stretching into early November when the weather cooperated.
This past January Mother Nature blessed the ice fishermen with a short but productive ice-fishing season as many anglers reported success. Tragically though there were several ice fishermen killed this year while attempting to navigate over dangerous ice conditions. Please use every caution when venturing out there. Hopefully the ice that did coat Lake Erie, however briefly this winter, helped reduce the baitfish population. Last year with so much bait in the water, the walleyes were difficult to entice. The very large 1999 walleye hatch will enter the fishery as 2-year old fish this year and will provide anglers with a good number of 12-14 inch fish (good eaters).
Perch anglers last season again enjoyed a fantastic season as in the past few years. Good hatches throughout the 90s with the help of practical fish management strategies have helped bring the perch numbers back up. This year the perch fishing should be as good if not better. The 1996 perch hatch was the largest in 10 years. These fish will measure 8-10 inches and will make their way into the coolers of many.
Smallmouth fishing last year was also very good, especially in the spring. This fishery continues to get better and better as habitat continues to improve. Lake Erie is rapidly gaining the reputation as one of the premier smallmouth fisheries in the world. As fishing pressure continues to increase for this species the new 14-inch limit will hopefully allow the smallmouth numbers to sustain themselves.
As author Lisa Denlinger points out in her article "Can Smallmouth Weather the Storm?" Smallmouth hatch success is very susceptible to wave action from storms and from predation by round gobies. When male smallmouths are removed from the nest even for short periods of time the impact on smallmouth eggs, fry and young is significant. Fisherman can help protect the smallmouth numbers by practicing catch and release. Seeing a charter captain’s board or a weekend fisherman’s cooler full of smallies doesn’t impress me much. Placing those fish back in the water is the right thing to do.
And oh, the steelhead. Last year central basin steelhead fishing was fantastic in late summer. Many fishermen turned to target these fish instead of the walleyes. The numbers are increasing as a result of increased stocking efforts. The steelies should again be jumping in the boat this coming season.
Conservation efforts continue. This year both in Canada and US waters the limit for walleyes has been reduced to 4 during the walleye spawning months of March and April and then 6 (down from 10 last year) for the remaining months. Beginning this year Canadian commercial fishing during the spawning months will be reduced by around 46%. But is this enough? I don’t think so.
This year there is a new kid on the block when it comes to the walleye tournament scene. Operation Walleye has announced a $2.9 million professional walleye fishing circuit for 2001 known as the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Series. Lake Erie will host the first of four qualifying tournaments from April 11-14th in Port Clinton. Another feather in Erie’s cap. The PWT will again visit Lake Erie from August 8-10th in Dunkirk, NY. The Eastern Basin of Lake Erie will surely provide the pros with trophy walleyes throughout their event. Lake Erie will play host to several other great tournaments this year so check out the tourney schedule in this issue.
I hope you continue to enjoy Lake Erie Walleye Magazine and do continue to visit the walleye.com web site for up-to-date fishing conditions and lot’s of other good walleye stuff. You can access this issue in its entirety along with previous issues on the web site. To do so you’ll need a user code (walleye) and password (013100). Enjoy and continued good fishing to all in 2001!!