State of the Lake

Lake Erie 2016-2020
In general, the status of the Lake Erie fish community and associated fisheries during 2016-2020 was fair to good. The lake is primarily managed for walleye and yellow perch, supporting economically important commercial fisheries and harvest-oriented sport fisheries. The walleye population increased during 2016-2020, providing high catch rates for commercial and sport fisheries. Yellow perch population status varied by basin with stable populations and fisheries in the west and east basins, and declining population status and harvest rates in the central basin. Populations of black bass and rainbow trout (steelhead) remained high and stable, supporting important sport fisheries. Successful sea lamprey control resulted in population decline during 2016-2020 and a record low adult abundance in 2020. Positive population trends were observed for lake whitefish and lake trout, while declines in muskellunge, white bass, and prey-fish populations and associated fisheries were observed. Overall productivity increased in the west and central basins and was stable in the east basin. Identification of functional habitats that support fish stocks was completed and will be used to prioritize future habitat actions, funding decisions, and research priorities in the Lake Erie basin.

1.0 Intensively Managed Species

  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch
  • White Bass
  • Lake Whitefish
  • Sea Lamprey

Intensively managed species support economically important commercial fisheries and harvest-oriented sport fisheries. Invasive sea lamprey, which must be controlled to prevent negative impacts to fish stocks, is also considered an intensively managed species. Management decisions for these species are informed through monitoring programs and statistical models designed to estimate population size, safe harvest limits, or control objectives. In many cases, species-specific lakewide management plans drive annual decision making. The goal of this style of management is long-term sustainability of economically important fish stocks.

2.0 Other Managed Species

  • Black Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Rainbow Trout

These species support economically important localized sport fisheries that are not commercially harvested. Lakewide objectives drive the management of these species, with management decisions based on annual monitoring programs and agency-specific regulations such as seasons and bag limits.

3.0 Rehabilitation Species

  • Lake Trout
  • Lake Sturgeon
  • Cisco
  • Sauger

These species have potential ecological or fishery importance but were extirpated or exist at a small fraction of their former abundance. Restoration or preservation programs are in place for some species, with the goal of restoring naturally reproducing populations or protecting populations that still exist in the Lake Erie Basin.

4.0 Prey Fish

Prey Fish

Prey-fish include largely unfished and unmanaged populations that are necessary to support sustainable commercial and sport fisheries. Monitoring prey-fish species composition and abundance along with predator growth and condition promotes a better understanding of predator-prey dynamics and fishery performance.

5.0 Environmental Objectives

  • Lower Trophic Levels
  • Habitat

Environmental objectives encompass a range of abiotic factors, such as trends in productivity and status of critical fish habitat, that are necessary for the long-term sustainability of fisheries and fish populations.