September 23, 2008

Erie Perch Plentiful, but Not As Many Anglers


Last week's big storm didn't do much damage around the western side of Lake Erie, but it did shut down the fishing for a few days.

"Right now it's a mud hole, and there's not much fishing going on," said charter captain Dennis Lutz of Miamisburg. "So far, the fishing hasn't been all that good, but the water temperature is still in the 70s."

Lutz is hoping fishing for yellow perch will return to normal once the water temperature drops a few degrees and the lake clears up.

According to Roger Knight, leader of the Sandusky Research Unit of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, fishing pressure for perch in the Western Basin has been about 50 percent of what it was last year.

"I think you can point a suspicious finger at the economy for that," he said. "It's been down all over up here."

He doesn't think the lower bag limit west of Huron since July 1 (from 30 to 25) has had much of an impact.

"Pressure was down for perch and walleye even before July 1," Knight observed.

Despite what some anglers who have had little luck in recent days might think, there are plenty of yellow perch in the Western Basin. The perch from that monster 2003 hatch are in the 9- to 12-inch range and they are numerous. There are also plenty of smaller fish, since the hatches from 2005 and 2007 were strong.

"Yeah, we have been running into plenty of small fish," Lutz said. "One day we had about 200 throwbacks and kept about 50."

Before the lake was churned up, some of the best spots were: near the turnaround buoy of the Toledo shipping channel; north of West Sister, between Green and Rattlesnake Islands; north of C can on the Camp Perry range; and east and northeast of Kelleys Island.

Charter captain Chuck Crum of Washington Court House said he has encountered larger fish in deeper water, around 40 feet.

"But the best fishing has been around Pele Island," Crum said.

Fishing costs rise

Lutz agrees the main reason people aren't fishing is the economy, especially the cost of gasoline.

"It's taking its toll on fun fishing," Lutz said. "If I run (from Wild Wings near Davis Besse) up to the North Bass Island area, it costs me about $125 in gasoline. If I am going up there on a charter, that's one thing, but if I go just to fish for fun, it gets pretty expensive."

He said he paid $4.19 for gasoline on the water last week.

Just driving to the lake from around Ohio and neighboring states seems to be taking a toll on Erie charter business. Lutz said he has only a few trips booked the rest of September and none in October.

"Everyone is down," he said. "I just hope when the water temperature drops some and the lake stays clear, the fish will start biting again and people will come out."

A decent hatch

Knight said the Western Basin data from his unit's summer trawling is in, showing a "below average, but not weak" perch hatch in 2008.

"For the even years since 2000, this is probably the best we've had. The hatches in '02, '04 and '06 were nonexistent for the most part. Compared to those, this year's is very good. But it's below '07 and '05 and far below '03."

This year's walleye hatch, Knight said, was also below average and not as good as the perch hatch.

"But it wasn't the worst we've had. If this was the worst we ever get, then I would say we're doing all right."

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