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Lake Erie walleye population expected to surge in 2021

John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Outdoors

As the international Lake Erie Committee meets to set 2021 commercial harvest limits on walleye and yellow perch, the group’s biologists are anticipating another phenomenal year of walleye fishing.

With record numbers of walleye in the lake, the allowable commercial take is expected to rise, while the industrial perch limit is expected to go down to shore up spotty populations.

In western Lake Erie spawning waters, improving agricultural runoff conditions could result in another spectacularly successful spawn.

The number of trophy-size Lake Erie walleye caught in Ohio waters has grown steadily since 2017. The average harvest rate was recently documented as a record four keeper walleye per five hours of fishing, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

A Lake Erie walleye measured at 28 inches or longer qualifies anglers for “noteworthy catch” recognition from the Fish Ohio program. Entries have increased every year since 2017, culminating in 1,901 submissions in 2020.

“Anglers will find plenty of keeper-size walleye, measuring at least 15 inches long, from the 2014 to 2019 hatches,” said Travis Hartman, Lake Erie fisheries administrator for Ohio DNR’s Division of Wildlife, in a statement. “Many of the 2-year-old fish will reach the minimum length by the end of the 2021 summer.”

 

The walleye migration that reaches Pennsylvania waters in June and July follows spawning in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and shallow off-shore plains, underway in March and April.

Lake Erie’s 2020 walleye population began at 116 million catchable fish, said Mr. Hartman.

Outstanding walleye hatches in 2015, 2018 and 2019 are expected to sustain the fishery for years to come.

Modest-to-good hatches in 2014, 2017 and 2016 will add to the stockpile of older, larger fish. Walleye remaining from the 2003 year-class are dwindling, said Mr. Hartman, but expectations are high that they may yield a new state record this year to replace the Ohio’s current record of 16.19 pounds, which has stood since 1999.

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