Jim Morris
Jim Morris

Jim Morris has worked for newspapers, radio, television and various Websites for more than 47 years. He has been a writer, an editor, an editorial writer and a columnist. For 23 years, Morris worked for the Troy Daily News as sports editor, managing editor and executive editor. In 1994 he began working at the Dayton Daily News as an outdoor sports columnist and night sports desk editor. He retired from the DDN in January of 2010 and is now a freelance writer with his own Website for outdoors stories.

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If you have fished at Lake Erie in the past, but came home with an empty cooler, don’t be discouraged. Or maybe you’ve never fished Lake Erie. Whatever the case, this should be your year for walleye or perch fishing on Lake Erie.

If ever there was a year to go walleye or yellow perch fishing on Lake Erie, this is it.

Walleye fishing probably will never be better, especially in the western basin.

So get your boat ready. Clean up your gear. Call up your favorite charter captain. In other words, don’t wait around. This is it!

“There are plenty of walleyes in the western basin,” said Travis Hartman, program administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Sandusky Fisheries Research Station. “Fishing will be phenomenal for the next four years and beyond.”

So the question is: How did the fishing get so spectacular?

“In 2016, anglers told me they were throwing back many short fish. Then in 2017, anglers threw back more short fish than ever before. So they wondered, ‘Why aren’t these fish legal this year? The fish we threw back last year should have grown to legal size (15 inches).’”

Hartman explained that what anglers were seeing were two different year classes. In 2016 they were seeing walleyes from a really good 2014 class. Last year that class was outnumbered by fish from an incredible 2015 year class. In fact, the hatch of 2015 is considered the best on Lake Erie since the fantastic hatch of 2003. And it might even be better.

“At first we thought we had two better than average classes back to back and we were happy about that,” Hartman explained. “But lately indications are the 2015 hatch may exceed the hatch of 2003.

“Without a doubt, we are seeing the best back-to-back hatches ever on Lake Erie!”

If that’s not great news for walleye hunters, I don’t know what is.

To make it even better, the above-average hatch of 2017 is expected to contribute to the fishery in two or three years.

Because the 2003 hatch was so large, there are still close to a million left in the lake. They are now in the trophy category, 10 pounders and up. Those are 15-year-old fish. That means the class of 2015 will likely be contributing in 2030 and beyond.

Now do you see why I say, “Start planning a spring or summer trip!”?

If that isn’t enough good news, consider the forecast for Lake Erie yellow perch is just as bright.

“The western basin is in the best shape that it’s been in for a long time,” Hartman reported. “We went through a period of three or four straight years of poor classes. But we’ve come out of it with five decent hatches in a row.

“The class of 2014 is the big one. They will be four years old this season, so most of the perch being caught this year will be from that hatch.”

Interestingly, while folks fishing for perch in the western basin will be catching good numbers — more and larger perch than what they’ve been used to — anglers in the central basin aren’t likely to fare as well.

‘Catch rates were down in the central basin last year and we’re not sure why,” said Hartman. “The size is good, but figuring out how to catch them has been the frustrating part.”

There for a while when anglers wanted to fill coolers with big yellow perch, they headed east. Now, not so much. Perch fishing on the western basin should be super all year.

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