If you listened to the latest episode of the Outdoor Journal Radio podcast, you likely heard Ang and Pete talking about Lake Erie being in its walleye fishing prime. Here is where that story came from.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and originally reported by James Proffitt of Great Lakes Now, it is estimated that roughly 95 million two-plus-year-old walleye are currently swimming Lake Erie. For those who like to eat fish, that translates to roughly 95 million fish 15 inches or larger, the perfect size for eating. Not to mention the tens of millions of small fish that will reach their harvest size within the next few years.
This boom in population is thanks to a long string of above-average hatches, beginning back in 2015 which saw four above-average years and two that of the largest samples ever recorded.
As seen above, the last few years have seen walleye numbers higher than have been recorded since 2003 and the drought that occurred between 2004 and 2014 seems to have finally reached its end.
But why the change?
Some, such as Jim Francis of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, point to water levels, as the lake seems to be at a similar level as it was during a major population boom that took place in the 1980s.
Others, such as Lake Erie Fisheries program coordinator Travis Hartman, add to this by saying that although high water levels would provide more spawning habitat for fish, Plankton is likely a more highly contributing factor.
“At the end of the day, it’s having the plankton food they need available when they hatch so they can start eating,” he told Great Lakes Now. “Once that yolk sac is used up there has to be a plankton bloom. I think this high water is a part of it. We have a lot of productivity when we have high water.”
Other theories for the boom in population include zebra mussels opening up breeding habitat and an abundance of baitfish, though no one factor seems to provide the answers as of yet.
All we know is that Lake Erie, even here on the Canadian side, is indeed in its prime and we can’t wait to see what it has to offer this spring!