BY D’ARCY EGAN
All of the carnival rides, music, food and the lovely Lake Erie shoreline at Waterworks Park in downtown Port Clinton had made the 39th annual Walleye Festival a social sensation on Memorial Day Weekend.
We shouldn’t forget the star performers, though, were the walleye. Millions of them that have made sure no one forgets Lake Erie is the Walleye Capital of the World.
This generation may take the massive schools walleye we are enjoying right now for granted. The thousands of sport anglers and the flotilla of fishing guides who chase the plentiful schools of walleye along the Ottawa County shoreline, however, know this fishery is unique, a hook-and-line treasure.
They’ve all been enjoying limit catches of the toothy fish this spring, already a fantastic fishing season that has only been tempered by wind and weather. When the lake is calm and its waters clear, the walleye fishing has been fabulous.
The fisheries experts declared months ago that 2019 would be the Year of the Walleye on Lake Erie. A steady string of successful hatches have buoyed the walleye population all over Lake Erie, and especially in the fertile Western Basin where they come to spawn in spring on the reefs and in the steady current of the Sandusky and Maumee rivers.
Social media has reinforced the prediction that our status as the Walleye Capital of the World can’t be ignored. For many weeks our walleye have lured anglers from far and wide. Check out the Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota license plates on the boat trailers parked at launch sites on the Ottawa County shoreline.
On the beautiful waters of Lake Erie on Memorial Day morning, walleye anglers caught their limits and were back on shore in time for an early lunch, the Memorial Day Parade or a stroll around the Walleye Festival.
Now it’s up to Ohio’s fisheries experts to judiciously manage this fantastic resource, and work hard to bring back the large schools of yellow perch, a favorite of Friday night fish fries around the region.
Our legislators must also manage the water quality of Lake Erie, as well.
Harmful algal blooms — the noxious, slimy green coating that threatens fishing and tourism around Western Lake Erie in late summer — is forecast to be bad once again this year. Despite the hundreds of millions spent on research and programs aimed at stopping the phosphorus pollution causing the blooms, we have yet to find even a modicum of success.