COLUMBUS, Ohio – As anglers look forward to the Memorial Day weekend, world-class fishing continues to exceed expectations on Lake Erie in 2020, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Walleye harvest rates set records for the second straight year in 2019, and numerous large hatches point to an increasingly bright future for The Walleye Capital of the World.
The top Lake Erie walleye catch rates from 2019 were in June, July and May, respectively, according to surveys conducted by the Division of Wildlife, so the best fishing this year is yet to come. An estimated 116 million walleye 2 years old and older are found in Lake Erie. Many of these 2-year old walleye will reach the 15-inch minimum size length necessary to be included in the daily bag limit during the summer.
“Lake Erie offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the nation,” said Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker. “The outlook has never been brighter for Lake Erie walleye fishing, with a strong future that has been built by consistently successful hatches since 2014, and solid science-based management.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, fishing is a pursuit that can be enjoyed while safely practicing social distancing. The Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 safety rules and guidelines for fishing can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/fishing.pdf. For more information on COVID-19 and the Ohio Department of Health’s recommendations on prevention and preparation, please visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.
The walleye bag limit on Lake Erie is six fish per angler with a 15-inch minimum size length. 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.
Walleye anglers will mostly catch abundant 3-, 5- and 6-year-old fish that should average 20 inches and could be as large as 26 inches. Abundant young fish from the 2018 and 2019 hatches 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 these sub-legal fish with as little handling as possible so they can contribute to the future fishery.
Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass fishing in 2020 should provide good fishing and trophy catches. Anglers may harvest 1 bass per day, with a minimum size limit of 18 inches from May 1 to June 26, 2020. The daily limit is 5 bass per day with a 14-inch minimum size limit from June 27, 2020, to April 30, 2021.
The yellow perch daily bag limit is 30. Yellow perch fishing has been slower than in previous years throughout the lake, and this pattern may continue. The western basin population is strong, with an abundance of trophy-sized fish and a promising future from an above-average 2018 hatch that is growing exceptionally fast. The central basin population density is less than that of the western basin, but eastern Ohio’s waters should yield above-average fish from the 2012 and 2014 hatches. Updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available by calling 888-HOOKFISH (466-5347).
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.
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.