Walleye outlook is excellent for 2022

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

Based on Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) trawl surveys, it appears that another excellent Lake Erie walleye hatch may be underway as we speak. In research presented to the Ohio Wildlife Council, fisheries biologists reported the 2021 walleye hatch was the fifth largest recorded over the past 35 years and there’s every reason to think this spring’s may top that. 

The 2021 walleye hatch index was 90 fish per hectare (a standard measure of area), well above the rapidly increasing prior 20-year average of 34 fish per hectare. The young walleye averaged just over 4 inches long and were caught at every site sampled.

“Our fisheries biologists survey nearly 40 locations between Toledo and Huron by dragging a large, concave net along the bottom of the lake,” said Travis Hartman, Division of Wildlife Lake Erie Fisheries Program manager. “Smaller first- and second- year fish tend to feed near the lake’s floor and are captured in the net, while larger fully-grown fish dodge the net and are not routinely caught.”

Lake Erie is managed cooperatively by the five states and provinces that border it: New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada. Each August, Ohio’s fisheries biologists contribute to lake-wide efforts to survey hatch success in Lake Erie’s western basin. Ohio’s results are combined with surveys from the other bordering states to estimate the total walleye population in the lake. This estimate is then used to establish fishing regulations and daily limits.

Combined survey results over the last several years show that the Lake Erie walleye population is on the rise. Angler catch rates are near one fish per hour, proving now is a great time to get out and pursue the fan-favorite fish. What’s more, trophy-sized walleye are increasing. A Lake Erie walleye 28 inches or longer qualifies for recognition from the Fish Ohio program, and records show that Lake Erie walleye entries have increased every year since 2017. More information can be found on the Fishing Lake Erie page at wildohio.gov.

Weekend fishing workshop offered at Stone Lab

Speaking of Lake Erie fishing, Ohio Sea Grant fisheries biologist and avid angler Tory Gabriel is offering a sportfishing workshop at Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island, Put-in-Bay, from May 20-22. The price is $500, which includes three days of fishing from boats primarily for walleyes. Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white bass and perch will be pursued as weather and species availability allow. Meals and lodging will be provided on Gibraltar Island.

Gamefish behavior, feeding patterns and seasonal movements will be covered to better understand proper tackle and gear selection and fishing strategies using specialized gear for improving lure presentations. For more information or to register, see: https://ohioseagrant.osu/education.edu/stonelab/courses/6i44m/lake-erie-sport-fishing-workshop.

Avian flu discovered in gull and eagles

The ODOW has confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in two bald eagles and a herring gull in northwest Ohio. The results were detected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory. 

The herring gull was confirmed HPAI positive in Erie County in early March, as was the first of two bald eagles in Ottawa County. The second eagle was confirmed HPAI in Mid-March mid and all three birds are deceased. Additional tests are pending. 

HPAI has been detected in several states in recent months. The Division of Wildlife is working closely with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other state and federal agencies to monitor HPAI. The virus does not present an immediate public health concern but you should avoid handling sick or dead birds as a precaution. 

All Ohioans can report sick or dead wild birds suspected of HPAI at 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543) or wildohio.gov. The following bird species should be reported:

• Any raptor, such as a bald eagle.

• Multiple waterfowl, such as geese or ducks.

• Any other large congregation of sick or dead birds.

HPAI occurs naturally in bird populations and is monitored closely by the U.S. Geological Survey. Native Ohio birds such as shorebirds, raptors, and waterfowl are vulnerable to HPAI. Domestic chickens and turkeys are also vulnerable to HPAI. The virus is transmitted from bird to bird through feeding and interactions. More information about HPAI is available at aphis.usda.gov. 

Help with spotting turtles

Similarly, the wildlife agency is asking for the public’s help in keeping the state’s spotted turtle safe and free from illegal pet trade. Because spotted turtles are threatened by illegal pet trade, wildlife officials are asking the public to report poachers in order to keep turtles in the wild this spring.

So what do spotted turtles look like? They are small, semi-aquatic turtles that have yellow polka pots all over their carapace, which can vary in number and distribution. Wildlife officials say their carapace is smooth and relatively flat. You can find a spotted turtle most likely in early spring along streams or wetland banks. They can also be on objects protruding from the water. When the turtles are disturbed, they may dive into the water for safety or walk into the water and swim to the bottom.

The spotted turtles show preferences for the shallow and sluggish waters of wet prairies and meadows as well as fens, bogs, marshes and small streams. According to wildlife officials, it can occasionally wander away from the water and into wet woods. To report a case of turtle tampering — spotted or otherwise — call the TIP (Turn-in-a-Poacher) hotline at 1-800-POACHER. 

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