What’s up with fishing on Lake Erie? The State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Lake Erie Fisheries research unit has released the details of their Open Lake Angler Survey for June 2021 and everything is broadly below. According to the report, anglers’ effort has decreased significantly – around 64,000 fewer hours of fishing than in June 2020.
Walleye fishermen are a tough bunch. The Southtowns Walleye Association of Western New York is the largest pikeperch club in the world, and they eat, troll, and forage pikeperch early morning, day, early evening, and night. You could say that if the weather cooperates, there is probably someone fishing around the clock for pikeperch.
The SWA Club Derby takes place in June and was on the calendar from June 12th to 20th this year. There were 825 people attending this year’s event, slightly fewer than in 2020 but not enough to make a big difference. In conversations with club officials who organized the huge competition, several reasons emerged why some people were unable to register this year. The same reasons would probably also apply to the fact that there were no more people on the lake chasing the old marble eye.
At the top of the list is the ongoing effects of COVID-19. A year after the coronavirus saw an increase in fishing licenses, the negative effects include work-related issues. Many people have lost their business and simply cannot afford to go to a derby or go fishing. Others who return to work cannot become free because they are still trying to catch up. Let’s hope things go back to normal soon, if there is such a thing.
The closure of the Canadian border has had an impact on fishing, especially the various competitions that Canadians love to participate in. Finally, the border was due to reopen to fully vaccinated anglers on August 9th. However, there will be some restrictions that must be followed.
Another impact on the SWA derby and fishing in general was the fact that a huge air show was held from Buffalo from June 18-20. The event closed the launch pads in the Safe Harbor area, one of the largest in the state, for all three days. Some people didn’t participate in the derby because they fish out there and chose not to go to other access points farther away.
Speaking of other access locations, Sturgeon Point Marina was eventually dredged to re-enable access to the lake. It didn’t open until the first week of June. In addition, the marina was not opened, which left many boaters without slipping, which also had an impact on the number of catches. It seems like the fishing community can’t take a break.
Walleye spent just under 38,000 angling hours in June, according to the DEC count – less than half of the 86,000 hours recorded last June. It was also below the 20-year average of 46,400 hours. Most of the effort took place from Buffalo or Barcelona, with anglers hitting 1.75 pikeperch per boat trip and a catch rate of 0.21 fish per hour. The average size of pikeperch caught was 20 inches long. Only 1.5 percent of the anglers in the lake caught a limit.
Perch fishing was even more alarming for the month. The DEC report shows that perch fishing efforts have decreased in each of the past 3 years, with June 2021 having the lowest effort in the last 2 decades at 6,000 angling hours. As for fish, the boats fished an average of around 12 fish per trip at a rate of 0.98 fish per hour. This is the June average of 1.06 fish per hour and is still quite high when compared to other popular bass waters. With the amount of awards the area has received from groups like Bassmasters, you’d think the fishing effort would increase. Last year it was listed in the top 10 perch fishing destinations for the past 25 years.
Lake Erie is still a great fishing lake. It should be on every bucket list. The estimated population of pikeperch is nearly 100 million fish, and the adult perch numbers are stable and fun to catch with most anglers who practice catching and releasing for bronze backs.
My trips on the lake this year were just fantastic. I have a good stash of pikeperch in my freezer as well as some fond memories of smallmouth fishing. Get out there and try one of the best fishing resources in the world.