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Lake Erie Continues Historic Run Of Excellent Fishing

Columbus, OH– Lake Erie anglers can expect the 2024 fishing season to again offer world-renowned opportunities, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
 
Following years of strong walleye hatches, Lake Erie continues to affirm that it is The Walleye Capital of the World. Additionally, a stable yellow perch population in Lake Erie’s west zone will provide good fishing in 2024, while low catch rates are expected to continue in the central and east zones.

“Lake Erie is known worldwide as a top fishing destination for a variety of species,” said Travis Hartman, Lake Erie Fisheries Program Administrator for the Division of Wildlife. “Lake Erie’s sustainable high performance is due in part to science-based management which guides regulations and ensures long-term angling opportunities.”

Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system. Each jurisdiction regulates its catches to comply with annually determined safe harvest levels that ensure sustainability. The quotas were announced by the Lake Erie Committee on Friday, March 22.

Walleye
The walleye daily limit on Lake Erie is six fish per angler with a 15-inch minimum length requirement. Walleye hatch success has been well above average for six consecutive years, including the three largest hatches ever surveyed. Anglers will mostly catch abundant 2- to 6-year-old-fish ranging from 15 to 24 inches. Larger fish from 2015 and earlier hatches will provide chances to reel in a Fish Ohio qualifying walleye (minimum 28 inches).

Abundant young fish will show up in the catch and range from 9 to 14 inches, with an increasing number of 2-year-olds reaching 15 inches as the season progresses. Anglers are encouraged to release sub-legal fish with as little handling as possible so they can contribute to the future fishery. In 2023, Ohio’s anglers caught and released more than 1 million small walleye.

“The 2023 walleye hatch index showed above-average results in the western and central basins,” said Hartman. “We expect walleye anglers to find outstanding fishing across the lake.”

Yellow perch
Yellow perch abundance in the west zone from Toledo to Huron is stable as a large year class of 3-year-old fish will anchor the population in 2024. The best success is anticipated during July through mid-August when the water temperature is above 76 degrees, and again from mid-October through November as adult perch move to shallower water to feed at water temperatures below 60 degrees. Warm water during July and August provided a majority of angler yellow perch harvest in 2023. Abundant perch from 7 to 10 inches will dominate the catch, with jumbo 12-inch and larger fish from older year classes also contributing to the catch.

Lake Erie’s central zone from Huron to Fairport Harbor continues to experience low yellow perch abundance, primarily driven by poor to moderate hatches during the past decade. While catch rates are expected to remain low, late season fishing in 2023 provided some limit opportunities from Vermilion to Avon and off Cleveland.

In the east zone, from Fairport Harbor to Conneaut, the population has declined below the prior 20-year average, but moderate hatches from 2019 and 2021 have kept abundance above the central zone. Catch rates are expected to remain low during the 2024 season, except for times such as late fall when adult perch congregate in larger schools near harbors. Five-year-old perch from the moderate 2019 year class will average about 9 inches in length with some reaching 12 inches.

Conservative quotas ensure that sustainable spawning stocks will allow the best opportunity for population recovery. Yellow perch daily limits remain unchanged compared to 2023, with a daily limit of 30 perch in the west zone, 10 in the central zone, and 30 in the east zone.

Bass
Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass fishing in 2024 will remain good with the opportunity for trophy catches. The daily limit is five bass per day, with a 14-inch minimum size requirement until Tuesday, April 30, 2024, and again from Saturday, June 22, 2024, to April 30, 2025. During the spawning season, from May 1 to June 21, 2024, anglers may harvest one bass per day with a minimum size requirement of 18 inches.

Lake Erie fishing reports, information on Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, maps, and links to other Lake Erie web resources are available at wildohio.gov. The current fishing regulations can be found on the HuntFish OH app, at wildohio.gov, or locations where fishing licenses are sold.

In 2022, anglers generated $5.5 billion in economic spending in Ohio, according to a recent report released by the Wildlife Management Institute, Responsive Management, and Southwick Associates. The survey found that 18% of Ohio’s adults, about 1.7 million individuals, participate in fishing, and 37% of them took at least one trip to Lake Erie to fish.

The mission of the Division of Wildlife is to conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all. Visit wildohio.gov to find out more.

In 2024, join ODNR as we celebrate 75 years of protecting Ohio’s natural resources and providing outstanding and award-winning recreational opportunities.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.

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