We’d say the folks at a Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands don’t like to boast, but that’s their job. As a tourism agency, the staffers’ goal is to let folks know why it’s great to vacation in this all-American outpost along this renowned lake.
“Lake Erie is the most productive sports fishery on all of the Great Lakes,” says Larry Fletcher, president of the regional tourism group. “In fact,” he adds, “Lake Erie has more sports fish than all the other Great Lakes combined. According to Ohio Sea Grant, Lake Erie has about 2 percent of the water in the Great Lakes and over 50 percent of the fish.”
Hundreds of professional fishing guides are available to take people out, and the goal is generally to catch walleye and yellow perch. “People come to Lake Erie from all over the Midwest, including from other Great Lakes states,” Fletcher observes. “Here, the walleye are generally bigger and the season is more flexible: We have a spring season. Our walleye population is so abundant that we call our destination the Walleye Capital of the World.” [Editor’s note: Other locales also claim that distinction.] Small- and large-mouth bass also bite freely, as do steelhead trout in the rivers that feed into the lake.
The area includes two counties, Ottawa and Erie, with primary destinations including Port Clinton, Sandusky, Marblehead and Lake Erie Islands such as South Bass and Kelleys. “We are surrounded by water, either bays, rivers or the lake wherever you go,” Fletcher points out. “Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands is in the western basin, which is very shallow. That’s why we get walleye and perch earlier in summer. As it gets warmer out, the fish start heading down to the east where the lake is deeper. You’ll see charter captains follow the fish down the lake as the summer progresses.”
Visitors often hire a boat, and the fun begins. They go lake trolling or drift casting for walleye and for yellow perch, dangling a hook down with a couple of minnows, Fletcher explains. The catching is frequently good, so strong that the government sets limits: four walleye per angler per day in spring, six in summer. “Many people book for several days, fill up their coolers and go home with all that fish,” Fletcher reports. Yellow perch limits are larger: 30 fish per day per angler, year-round. “Perch come on pretty heavy from mid-July into August and September,” Fletcher notes.
In 2017, the Ohio Division of Wildlife recorded 724 Ohio-based licensed charter captains on Lake Erie, Fletcher shares. They operate out of 270 licensed marinas on Ohio’s Lake Erie waters, according to Ohio Sea Grant. (There are 38,000 registered boat docks altogether, including residential ones.) If you add up all the fish caught by private charters, public “head” boats and personal watercraft, 682,634 fishing trips were taken on the lake in Ohio in 2017, accounting for 6 million pounds of fish, according to the Wildlife statistics. Add on 4.4 million pounds by commercial outfits, and you’ll see how rich with fish those waters are.
If you arrive without your own watercraft, look for private fishing charters, which are known locally as six-packs. That’s because many of the boats accommodate six guests maximum. You can find one, in advance, that’s great for you within the Lake Erie section of FishAnywhere.com; to fish in Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands, be sure to choose one located in the geographic cluster midway between Toledo and Cleveland, since Lake Erie also borders Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario, not to mention other parts of Ohio. Make a reservation online, and you’ll know before you arrive that you’ll have the experience you seek.
The charters will give you access to the fish, and way more: The professional fishing guides provide equipment, bait, licenses, know-how, knowledge of fishing limits, and even the savvy to stay in legal waters. Those anglers on their own could accidentally drift into Canadian waters, which requires a separate license. Guides also work behind the scenes, involving themselves in scientific and legislative efforts to keep the water clean for future fishing enthusiasts.
During your time off the water, this destination is a wholesome place for the family to relax. Roller coasters, water parks, historic walking tours, lighthouses and historic sites are all delightful places to spend time together.
In August 2018, the Buckeye State celebrated its 39th Fish Ohio Day, which brings together anglers, government representatives, outdoor writers and professional fishing captains to celebrate the gift of local waters.
The rest of us can celebrate any day of the year. Let’s just say a vacay at Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores and Islands is perched for success.
Planning a fishing trip?
Find a Fishing CharterSearch Trips
Rona Gindin is a multimedia writer, editor and television personality covering a broad range of subjects for national and local media outlets. Working from an Orlando base, she’s Central Florida’s go-to source for information on the destination’s restaurants and attractions.
As published in: