Walleye, Yellow Perch hatches below average in Lake Erie Western Basin

CLEVELAND - Walleye and Yellow Perch hatches in Lake Erie's Western Basin were below average in 2012. That is the word from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The numbers come from the ODNR's yearly survey which is done in August every year.

In that survey, DNR trawlers drag nets through targeted waters to collect and count the fish species in a designated area. In 2012, only about two young-of-the-year walleyes were collected per hectare of water. A hectare measures out roughly to 2.5 acres of water.

Normally, nine young-of-the-year walleyes are found per hectare.

DNR biologists are not overly concerned. They said a single hatch will not seriously affect the walleye population in Lake Erie. The DNR does not think the low hatch numbers will have an adverse affect on Ohio's lucrative sportfishing industry and that better hatches in other years will make up for any shortfall. They also said fishermen still have a very good chance of hooking a trophy fish because many of the large 2003 hatch remain in the lake.

Sportfishing on Lake Erie contributes $680 million to Ohio's economy. Much of that is generated by fishing for walleye and yellow perch.

The state reported that young-of-the-year yellow perch numbers were also down in the Western Basin.  However, good hatches in other years should also overcome any deficit from the 2012 hatch.

The most prevalent fish in the DNR's survey was the white perch. The white perch is a non-native species from the brackish waters of the east coast.  It is believed the white perch were able to get into Lake Erie though the Welland Canal or the Erie Canal.

There was some good news from the survey. The numbers of Emerald Shiners, the predominant fish in the diet of walleye and yellow perch are near an all-time high.  That means more forage for fish. That usually translates to a thriving fish population.

The hatch numbers will be used along with other data to revise creel limits, as well as to determine fisheries' management policies. Scientists from the ODNR will also use the data to try to figure out what conditions affect hatches, and why some hatches are lower than others.

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