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GLIN==> Lake Erie fishing...outlook for 2002



Posted on behalf of Melissa Hathaway Melissa.Hathaway@dnr.state.oh.us

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources
News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2002
MORE WORLD CLASS LAKE ERIE FISHING EXPECTED FOR 2002
COLUMBUS, OH - Anglers traveling to Lake Erie - Ohio's premier fishing
destination - will be rewarded with some of the same world class fishing
anglers experienced last year, according to the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
"Sportfishing here rivals that on any lake in the country," said Mike
Budzik, chief of ODNR's Division of Wildlife.  "Walleye, yellow perch,
smallmouth bass and steelhead trout fishing - you couldn't ask for a better
or more versatile fishery than Lake Erie."
The spring fishing season is now well underway on Ohio's big lake.  Anglers
have been taking walleyes from western basin reefs, Maumee Bay and Sandusky
Bay.  Yellow perch fishing has also been productive, including some limit
perch catches off the Marblehead Peninsula.
Here's what anglers can expect when fishing Erie during 2002:
Walleye
Fishing for the lake's number one sportfish will continue to be good.  Last
year, anglers filled coolers with many limit catches of Lake Erie's most
popular game fish and this trend should continue.  Anglers should anticipate
reeling in many 17 to 18-inch walleyes from the 1999-year class, and 22 to
26-inch fish from the 1996 walleye hatch.  Other catches will include fish
from the 1998 hatch measuring 18 to 20 inches, as well as some lunker fish
from older year classes now in the Fish Ohio category at over 28 inches.
There will be few 13 to 15 inch walleye entering the fishery because of a
poor hatch in 2000, but strong spawn in 2001 will provide a good class of
fish in 2003.
The current state record walleye was caught off Cleveland in November 1999
and weighed 16.19 pounds, a remnant of the large 1986-year class.
The walleye harvest for 2001 on the Ohio waters of Lake Erie was 1.2 million
fish, slightly higher than the two previous years.  Walleye catch rates last
year were the highest since 1998, with catch rates for private boat anglers
peaking in July at more than one walleye for every two hours of fishing.
Catch rates for charter boat anglers peaked in July at just under one
walleye per hour.
About 35 percent of the walleyes caught last year were fish from a strong
hatch in 1999.  These two-year-old fish averaged 14 to 16 inches.  A reduced
bag limit, which took effect in March 2001, will help conserve these young
fish.  Ohio's reduced bag limit was part of measures taken in a walleye
management agreement with the Lake Erie states and Ontario to help rebuild
Lake Erie walleye stocks from lows in the late 1990s.
The reduced bag limit for Ohio anglers remains in effect at four walleyes
during March and April and six walleyes the remainder of the year.
Yellow Perch
The excellent perch fishing anglers have experienced the past six years
should continue through 2002 and beyond.  Conservative regulations for sport
and commercial fishermen and improved spawns have helped Lake Erie's yellow
perch stocks to gradually recover after low levels in the early 1990s.
Limit catches should not only be plentiful all across the lake this year,
but many of these excellent table-fare fish will be in the 8- to 12-inch
range and longer.  Anglers can expect to see many yellow perch from a large
1996-year class, the largest hatch in 10 years, and measuring 10 to 12
inches.  Added to the catch will be perch from the 1998-year class now in
the 8- to 10-inch range, and 1999-spawned perch that will be 8 to 9 inches.
The top perch jerking locales during 2001 included numerous sites in both
the western and central basins.  If anglers weren't doing well in one spot,
all they had to do was move to another location.
Ohio perch anglers caught 5.5 million yellow perch last year, similar to the
2000 harvest.  Catch rates peaked during the traditional peak month of
September at four fish per angler hour.  Ohio's daily bag limit for yellow
perch remains at 30 fish per angler.
Smallmouth Bass
Bass anglers can anticipate reeling in many of Erie's lunker smallmouth bass
during 2002.  Typical catches will measure in the 14- to 18-inch range and
weigh 1.5 to 3.5 pounds.  Anglers can expect fishing to be good at many of
the traditional smallmouth haunts, especially in the spring and fall.
Smallmouth bass catches will include fish from spawns of 1995, 1996, 1997
and 1998 now ranging in size from 14 to 18 inches.  Hot spots should include
the Bass and Kelleys islands areas, Western Basin reef complex, Sandusky
Bay, Ruggles Reef and harbor breakwalls from Cleveland to Conneaut.
Successful spawns over the past decade have provided excellent smallmouth
bass fishing opportunities across Lake Erie.  Anglers target smallmouth from
spring through fall with the best action occurring in May, June and
September.
In 2001, angler pressure remained high with anglers spending over 400,000
angler hours in pursuit of smallmouth bass.  Creel interviews reveal that
most bass anglers practice catch and release with six out of seven
smallmouth bass released after being landed.  Ongoing research coupled with
recent regulations changes should help ensure that the lake's smallmouth
fishery continues to be among the best anywhere in the country.
The state record smallmouth bass, taken in June 1993 by an angler fishing
off the Bass Islands, weighed in at 9.5 pounds.  The world record is 10
pounds, 14 ounces.
The daily bag limit for smallmouth bass is five fish with a minimum size
length of 14 inches.
Steelhead Trout



Yet another popular sport fish has entered the scene on Lake Erie in recent
years - steelhead trout.  Central basin anglers can expect the same great
fishing they experienced last year - a steelhead bonanza on the open lake
during August and September.  Five-fish limits were the norm when wave
conditions were favorable.



"The division's steelhead stocking program adds yet another dimension to
Lake Erie angling - one that lures anglers from near and far as word spreads
about this popular fishery," said Budzik.



These feisty fish provide some top-action angling on the open lake in the
summer with continued fishing opportunities on central basin streams from
fall through spring as steelhead move into spawning tributaries.



The Division of Wildlife will maintain this popular fishery in future years
by releasing approximately 400,000 steelhead trout this spring into the
Vermilion, Rocky, Chagrin and Grand rivers and Conneaut Creek.



Trout are being caught on the open lake by anglers targeting steelhead as
well as those trolling for walleye.  Anglers should look for peak steelhead
action on the waters off Lorain to Conneaut throughout July and August.
Catches should measure 19 to 28 inches with a total harvest similar to the
previous year of 28,000 steelhead trout.  Many charter guides now offer
steelhead charters as an alternative to traditional walleye charters.



For a recorded Lake Erie fishing report, call 1-888 HOOK FISH.  For
additional information on lodging, charter boat services, and local launch
ramps, contact one of the following lakeshore visitors bureaus:



Ashtabula County Convention & Visitors Bureau             1-800-337-6746

Lake County Visitors Bureau                               1-800-368-5253

Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland   1-800-321-1001

Lorain County Visitors Bureau                               1-800-334-1673

Sandusky/Erie County Visitors Bureau                         1-800-255-8070

Ottawa County Visitors Bureau                               1-800-441-1271

Greater Toledo Convention & Visitors Bureau             1-800-243-4667

Ohio Division of Travel & Tourism                        1-800-BUCKEYE

-30-

For additional news online, check out the ODNR Press Room at Ohiodnr.com

For Further Information Contact:

Vicki Mountz, ODNR Division of Wildlife, (614) 265-6393

-or-

Andy Ware, ODNR Media Relations, (614) 265-6882



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