Lake Erie Assessment Projects
Assessment and Research Projects:
The Ohio Division of Wildlife's Fairport Harbor and Sandusky Fisheries Units have several continuing projects that allow us to assess conditions on the lake. Three of these are the Lake Erie Creel Survey Project, the Fish Assessment Projects, and the Commercial Fishery Monitoring project. We include this assessment information in our annual Status Report.
The creel project utilizes seasonal employees to interview anglers (fishers) across the marinas and ramps on Ohio's portion of the Lake Erie shore. From these surveys, we can get estimates of how many people are fishing, for how long, what they are fishing for, and how successful they were. We can also collect information on numbers and sizes of fish harvested and released. We take scale samples off selected fish so that we can determine their ages.
Our fish assessment project allows us to get another look at Lake Erie fish populations, collecting some of the same kinds of data as our creel project, and allows us to bring some fish back to the laboratory for more detailed analyses. In the assessment survey, we can also gauge the forage (bait or food) fish populations and determine how successful the hatches were for the current season. We can determine age, sex, maturity, diet and overall health of forage, sport and commercially important fish species.
We monitor water quality and take water temperature and oxygen readings in many different locations. We determine when and where the thermocline sets up in the central basin. We take water samples that determine the amount of total and soluble phosphorus available to plant life, which gives rise to algae blooms. Sampling aquatic invertebrates, such as mayfly and midge larvae, and phyto- and zoo-plankton has become important as we monitor changes in the food web under conditions of changing lake productivity.
We can also monitor the spread and impact of exotic species (such as zebra mussels, round gobies, and spiny water fleas) in Lake Erie. All of this information helps us to determine fish condition, species status, harvest patterns, and lakewide ecosystem health.
Ohio manages its' portion of Lake Erie in cooperation with the other neighboring Great Lakes states and the Canadian province of Ontario. Together, we compile fishery data and research information to set lakewide management strategies, including agency quotas on walleye and yellow perch. In this spirit of multi-agency partnership, we can maintain healthy fish populations for future generations.
Commercial Fishery Monitoring:
We monitor the Ohio commercial fishery which primarily operates out of Lake Erie's western basin and major central basin ports. There are seine and trap netting operations that remove yellow perch, white bass, white perch, whitefish, catfish, and many rough fish species like sheephead, carp, gizzard shad and buffalo. Lake Erie Fisheries Unit personnel contact commercial fishers to obtain up-to-date harvest information, and to get age and growth information from their landed catch. For more info on avoiding commercial nets see our "Lake Erie Fishing Guide."
From time-to-time, ODNR Division of Wildlife researchers at the Lake Erie Fish Research Units perform specific research projects and management evaluations that help us describe Lake Erie's changing lake conditions, fish populations, aquatic habitat, and selected fisheries. These projects have specific objectives and a limited timeframe to draw results, conclusions and potential management actions. Some examples include sampling larval walleye and perch, walleye tagging, yellow perch tagging, northern pike research, Central basin spawning reef identification, habitat mapping, hydroacoustics surveys, smallmouth bass assessments, steelhead tributary and shoreline creel surveys, nearshore fish assessment surveys, and evaluating river, harbor and coastal restoration opportunities. Many of these projects are funded through external federal funding sources such as the Sport Fish Restoration Fund or the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
To contact us:
Fairport Harbor Fish Research Unit
Ohio DNR, Division of Wildlife
1190 High St.
Fairport Harbor, Ohio 44077
Sandusky Fish Research Unit
Ohio DNR, Division of Wildlife
305 E. Shoreline Dr.
Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Division of Wildlife information: 1-800-WILDLIFE