Get In On Lake Erie'™s Hot July Walleye Bite!
September 28, 2010
Walleyes from year-classes dating back to 1989 are cruising Lake Erie this month. Anglers in Ohio and Pennsylvania can expect good catches from shore or boat. Our expert has the story. (July 2007)
Photo by Ron Sinfelt.
Most anglers typically think of May as the best time of year to get into Lake Erie's walleye bite. We all know walleyes throw on the feedbag after a long winter and as they prepare for the spawn. Recent studies indicate that walleye die-hards can have just as much luck in July as they can at any other time of year.
The only difference between summer and spring walleyes is that they aren't in the shallows spawning and feeding. They'll still be in schools roaming around looking for food. But now, it's a matter of find the right location and presenting them the right lure.
Here's where to find mid-summer walleyes off Lake Erie's Ohio and Pennsylvania shores:
Pennsylvania boasts some of the very best walleye fishing in the Northeast. As the fish migrate from the western shore of Lake Erie and head east, Pennsylvania is in the heart of the mix.
Donald Einhouse, a fisheries biologist with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Lake Erie Unit, predicts that 2007 will be a productive year.
"The abundant 2003 walleye hatch will be four years old and measure from 18 to 22 inches this summer," he said.
As the summer wears on, key areas to target are off the shores of Northeast and Erie, Pennsylvania, in the 50- to 60-foot vicinity. As the summer advances, the fish migrate east and tend to move deeper.
Presque Isle State Park offers a launch and facilities near the border of Pennsylvania and New York, as well as a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission launch and marina in Northeast.
"As a solid thermocline develops in the summer, the highest concentration of walleyes is often near the thermocline," said Einhouse. "By late summer, that can mean water in the 70- to 90-foot range. Offshore and deepwater techniques, especially Dipsy Divers with worm harnesses, and sometimes stick baits, are most commonly used by offshore walleye anglers."
Once you find fish offshore, mark them on your GPS system. Walleyes will tend to stick to their "comfort zone" for some time, so a return trip will pay off with more fish being boated. Of course, this all depends on the weather and where the thermocline has set up.
Another key tactic is to utilize planer boards. The more lines in the water, the better your odds are going to be. Planers with stick baits and worm harnesses work wonders in the dead of summer.
For more information on Presque Isle State Park, contact the marina office (seasonal) at (814) 833-0176 or (814) 833-8981.
Northeast Marina is at 11950 Lake Road in Northeast, and may be reached at (814) 725-8244. Owned by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the marina has 220 dock slips, a tackle shop, full marine service, used boat sales, inside and outside winter storage, a gas dock, picnic area and four launch ramps.
For additional information, contact the Erie Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.VisitEriePa.com, or you can phone 1-800-524-3743 or (814) 454-7191.
In Ohio, the 2003 year-class of walleyes that dominated catches across Lake Erie during the 2006 season will be a year bigger for the 2007 season. With most of the 2003 females becoming mature and spawning for the first time in 2007, anglers can count on a heavier migration than they've seen in past years.
Travis Hartman, a fisheries biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said that the location of walleyes in July would depend on summer weather.
"During cooler years like 2006, the adults, especially the females, don't tend to migrate as far into eastern Ohio or Pennsylvania and New York," said Hartman. "In hot summers such as 2005, the adults migrate as far east as Buffalo and as far north as Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron."
Weather conditions are always the deciding factor on how well anglers will fare from one day to the next. The good thing about most walleye anglers is their ability to adapt to conditions and make adjustments as necessary.
"Ohio anglers should adapt to weather conditions and determine where the biggest schools of fish are to have success in July," Hartman added. "In western basin waters, West Sister Island is usually a favorite July staging area. Look for schools of bait (usually shiners) and the walleye that follow them. The best areas tend to be north of West Sister Island to the Canadian border, and east along the border to North Bass Island."
Other key areas off the shores of Ohio to target include the central basin.
"The sandbar area offshore between Lorain and Vermillion is usually good in July," Hartman noted. "The east side of the bar can be loaded with baitfish and walleyes. Another area to try is the weather buoy at the north end of the bar and then east along the Canadian border."
If the summer is exceptionally hot, look for migrating females to be anywhere from Avon Point to Conneaut within five to 10 miles of shore.
Other than the 2003 year-class, older fish back to 1990 will be present in catchable numbers.
"Some 21-year-old fish from the big 1986 year-class will still be found in creel surveys," Hartman said.
One of the most productive Lake Erie walleye-fishing techniques is to troll Dipsy or Jet Divers using stick baits or worm harnesses. Don't forget to put on a good hunk of bait. Walleyes react well to the smell of meat coming off a lure.
If trolling isn't your dish, try working the depths with bottom-bouncing jigs. Tip your jig with a shiner, crawler or leech. Once you locate a good pod of fish, the chances of landing a few of these lunker 'eyes depends on how well you can adapt to the conditions.
One of the best launches to use is the Shelby Street Boat Launch at 101 Shelby Street, Sandusky, OH 44870. This is operated by the city of Sandusky, and costs $5 a day.
Check the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Web site for regulations, as well a
s plenty of information on where to go to enjoy this fantastic fishery at www.ohiodnr.com.
For more information on lodging and tourism, contact the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism at 1-800-BUCKEYE. You can hear a general Lake Erie fishing report at 1-888-HOOK-FISH.