Published April 2021
It’s spring! And while that means a number of things for the Lake Erie Shores & Islands region of Ohio - warmer weather, major bird migrations, the islands are beginning to come alive again…it especially means that it’s time to get fishing! There are record numbers of walleye just waiting for you to gear up, get to the lake, and take them home for a tasty meal.
According to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), this is a banner spring for walleye fishing, as it is estimated that there are more than 150 million walleye in Lake Erie right now that are at least 15” long – the legal keep length. The walleye are plentiful in the western basin especially, as schools seek shallow depths and warmer waters in which to spawn. Record catches are being reported all throughout the western basin, but especially in the reefs and near the tributary rivers (Maumee, Portage, and Sandusky rivers). The average harvest rate for walleye for the month of April is currently a “record” four-keepers per five hours of fishing and trophy-sized catches are increasing, also according to ODNR.
So, how can you fish the Walleye Capital of the World?
I have a boat and I’m coming to Lake Erie!
Awesome! Get that boat trailered up and head to the port cities on the western basin – Oak Harbor, Port Clinton, and Marblehead, to name a few. You can also trailer that boat via ferry to the Lake Erie islands – Kelleys, South Bass (also known as Put-in-Bay), and Middle Bass – and put in there. You can also launch from the central basin ports of Sandusky, Huron, or Vermilion and head west. Here are a number of launch ramps from which you can access that beautiful lake: LAUNCH RAMPS
Want to know where you can keep your boat on the lake for a bit, maybe the spring or summer season, or even where there is transient dockage for a shorter visit? Here are some of the region’s finest marinas: MARINAS
I don’t have a boat, or I don’t know the first thing about fishing, but I want in on the action!
You’re in luck. FishingBooker.com, the world’s largest online service for booking recreation fishing trips, just released that bookings in Ohio jumped 80% in 2020, making our state #8 in national fishing-trip bookings. Ohio is the only Midwest state on the list, likely due to Lake Erie’s amazing fishing opportunities. Fishing charter boats are captained by experienced Lake Erie fishermen, who are in-the-know as to where the fish are biting and who know exactly what type of equipment and bait is needed to maximize your catch. When you go on a fishing charter trip, sometimes your equipment and bait is included in the cost of the trip. Check with the individual charter company regarding bringing additional supplies, and whether or not snacks and beverages are allowed and/or supplied.
There are two different types of fishing charters offered in the region. Private charters can be arranged for your group, generally comprised of four to six fishermen, depending on the size of the charter companies’ boat(s). Depending on their fleet, sometimes larger groups can be accommodated using multiple boats who travel together. In Port Clinton, a couple of charter options are Blue Sky Charters and Rod Knockers Sport Fishing. Marblehead offers Dunlap’s Fishing Charter Service, Hatchetman Charters, and Tibbles Fishing Charter Service.
The other option is a walk-on charter, often called a head boat because you are paying by the “head,” rather than paying for an entire, private group. These boats can accommodate anywhere from 25-40 passengers and generally only include bait in the ticket pricing. Often equipment can be rented or you can bring your own. Most walk-ons offer two daily trips during peak season – early morning and late afternoon. In Port Clinton you can find Fisherman’s Wharf, Sassy Sal’s, and Shore-Nuf offering head boats. Tibbles Fishing Charter Service in Marblehead also offers daily walk-ons in addition to its private charters.
I just want to try my hand at fishing from the shoreline.
A lot of fish can be caught by simply relaxing along a rocky shoreline, on the edge of a pier, or in a beach chair and casting out to the lake. Grab your gear and head to one of these popular fishing spots:
- Bay View Pier (Old Bay Bridge), Bay View
- Catawba Island State Park, Catawba
- Huron Harbor & Lighthouse Pier, Huron
- Lakeside Pier, Lakeside
- Dempsey’s Fishing Access, Marblehead
- Camp Perry Pier, Port Clinton
- Shoreline Park, Sandusky
- Jackson Street Pier, Sandusky
- Sherod Park, Vermilion
- Municipal Docks, Vermilion
- Kelleys Island State Park, Kelleys Island
- Oak Point State Park, Put-in-Bay
- Aquatic Visitors Center Pier, Put-in-Bay
Other shoreline spots, along with equipment rental locations, can be found by visiting or calling one of the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Centers, located in Port Clinton and Sandusky.
Of course, walleye aren’t the only fish in the lake and spring isn’t the only time to fish. Lake Erie is also famous for its supply of smallmouth bass, which peak beginning in late-June to September and are concentrated near rocky shorelines and reefs; and yellow perch, which are best caught in the deeper waters of the central basin in the summer and along the shoreline in the fall. It was recently announced by ODNR, however, that the perch population has been decreasing as of late and the daily catch limit has been reduced to 10 per day (previously 30) from locations Huron east to Fairport Harbor. The western basin (Toledo east to Huron) will continue to have a 30 per day limit. Shoreline catches can also include additional species such as catfish, trout, and steelhead, depending upon your location.
The links in this post take you to Lake Erie Shores & Islands partner businesses. A complete list of all available options in the region is available from our welcome centers. Other fishing information, such as bait shop locations, fish cleaning services, equipment rental, and fishing license information is also available. The Boating & Fishing Info page under RESOURCES also has great links for such things as an area weather report, the Lake Erie marine forecast, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Here’s hoping one of those record catches is going home with you! And that isn’t a fish tale…