Initial trawling assessment results for 2019’s walleye hatch are the second highest on record, confirming Lake Erie’s continuing walleye abundance.
Multiple-year classes are driving the fishery, with the 2015 class accounting for a lot of current catches. The 2018 hatch was the best since record keeping began in 1988, while the 2016 hatch was below average, and 2017’s was average.
Rich Drouin, lead management biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, said the 2018 hatch should start showing up in angler catches in 2020, and this year’s fish in 2021.
West basin driving population
Although fish spawn in the eastern basin, it’s the lake’s west basin that is the driver in Erie walleye populations.
With the huge number of walleye in the lake, a possible concern is food availability becoming a limiting factor for their growth rate.
“I don’t know, with the number of fish, if they are being moved into an area not optimal for growth,” said Drouin.
Drouin said that while it isn’t known which conditions make for a good hatch, a number of environmental factors may be at play, such as the right water conditions, a good supply of healthy fish, and favourable wind conditions. Even high water levels might be a factor.
Plans are to monitor growth patterns and any changes over time.