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Erie fishing looks good, but watch out for the algae

People used to ask me, “How’s the fishing at Lake Erie?”

Not anymore.

Now they ask, “How’s the algae at Lake Erie?

“I have actually heard some people say they think the algae helps attract walleyes,” said Jeff Tyson, Lake Erie program administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. “We get mixed reactions, though. Other people don’t like pulling fish through the algae blooms.”

Tyson says scientists see the algae bloom tied to the weather.

“When we have a wet spring, March through June, and loading from the Maumee River (spreading of nutrients from runoff), we can expect algae bloom,” he said. “In 1911 we had record precipitation and that really brought on the algae bloom, but last year it was very dry and we had very little,” he said.

Unfortunately, all the snow and rain has made for wet conditions this spring.

As far as walleye fishing goes, anglers can expect another good year, because there are plenty of fish available from good hatches in 2007 and 2010. And the record hatch of 2003 is still contributing in a big way.

“We figured last year about 35 percent of the walleyes in the lake came from the 2003 class,” Tyson said.

Those 10-year-old fish are now monsters – 30 to 35 inches in length. That means plenty of folks will be catching big fish, more than big enough to earn a “Fish Ohio” pin.

The ’07 fish are 24 inches or more and the ’10 fish are 15 inches and up, making them legal keepers.

Yellow perch fishing is also expected to be good this year. But as it has been in recent years, the further east you go to fish, the larger and more plentiful the perch.

“The catch rate was up last year over 2011,” Tyson said. “It’s holding pretty steady at about 3.5 fish per person, per hour.

“But we’d like to see some better hatches in the Western Basin, There were actually some good hatches in the Central Basin last year and that’s where we’re seeing more stability.”

Although the walleye and perch fishing are considered very good, perhaps the most success in Lake Erie fish management has come with smallmouth bass.

“The catch rate for smallmouth bass in 2012 was the highest we’ve see in at least a decade,” Tyson observed. “It’s been trending up. We have had some good hatches.”

He said the closed season for keeping bass during May and June that was imposed several years ago seems to have improved the fishery.

Generally, the best bass fishing has been around the reefs and the islands, but now bass are showing up along the shore in the main lake – but they aren’t smallmouth. For years, largemouth bass have been caught in the rivers and around marinas and docks, but now they seem to be branching out.

“The University of Toledo has been conducting a near-shore assessment survey over the past two years. We’re seeing a lot of largemouth bass, so it’s a developing fishery and that’s kind of interesting,” Tyson said.

Quotas set: The Lake Erie quotas for yellow perch and walleye have been set. Ohio’s total allowable catch for walleyes is 1.715 million. Last year an estimated 920,000 were caught in Ohio waters. The perch quota is 4.8 million pounds. About 3.5 million pounds were caught in Ohio in 2012.

Tyson said those numbers indicate there will be no change in bag limits for either species this year. The walleye bag limit is four until May 1, then six until March 1, 2014. Perch limits remain as 30 lakewide.

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