Fresh Catch

The fish are biting. Here's how to reel them in.
This year promises to be a good one for walleye hatching, and it comes on the heels of a couple other good spawns, meaning the fish are out there — and they’re biting.

“We’re going to have some really, really good fishing for a few years now, both walleye and yellow perch,” says Dave Spangler, vice president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, in his 24th year running charter fishing trips. Here are his tips for catching walleye in Lake Erie.

Location, location, location. The best spots to catch walleye can vary throughout the year. Starting in the spring and getting into the middle of June, the best bet for catching walleye is the western basin, where Spangler predominantly operates, with Dr. Bugs Charters in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Getting into summertime, the best walleye fishing can be found in the central basin, around Geneva or Fairport Harbor, both in Ohio. “And when you’re in that area of the lake, the water’s deeper, so you also have the possibility of catching some steelhead,” Spangler says. And fishing doesn’t stop in the winter, either. Some charter boats in the summer are also guides in the winter for ice fishing. “That’s when you can get the really big ones,” he adds.

Have the right equipment. Spangler typically provides fishing rods and bait, but if you’re going it alone, he recommends minnows early in the season, and then worms after the spawning season. And be sure you have the right fishing rod, which he estimates around 6 feet long, heavy enough to potentially haul in a 10-pound fish. Also, it can be 10 or 20 degrees colder out on the lake on a calm day. “If you get even a little bit of wind, people can get uncomfortable quickly,” he says. “Bring more clothes than you think you need.”

Plan ahead. Spangler says people come from around the Great Lakes to fish for walleye on Lake Erie, and he’s got regular customers who book at the same time each year. “I’ve already got customers booked for next year,” Spangler explains. Unsurprisingly, weekends fill up fast, so Spangler recommends having a couple of days in mind — or come on a weekday. “You’ll have a better chance of getting the day you want,” he says.

Keep it legal. Charter captains can’t get you a license, so make sure you have your own. Spangler says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will occasionally check on the water for licenses but, more often, they check at the docks. And remember: It’s six fish per person per day, and fish have to be at least 15 inches long.