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Lake Erie

Species: Bass, Perch, Steelhead, Walleye/Pickerel

Season: Fall: September through November

Coordinates: 42.2°N 81.2°W

Location: Bounded by Northern Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan

Surface area: 25,744 square kilometres

Hottest spot: Port Dover to Port Colborne

Why we chose it:

In 2012, ranked #15 in all-time hot spots

Smallmouth bass, walleye and perch, with a side of steelhead—that’s what Erie has to offer. It’s remarkable, really, considering how the Great Lake suffered a near-death experience in the mid-20th century due to pollution. Then there are the waves of invading species that have virtually transformed Erie’s ecosystem in places. Yet for both numbers and sizes, this shallow, storm-prone lake in southern Ontario remains a hot ticket (and the perch have never been tastier).

In 2011, Best for yellow perch

Mention Port Dover, nestled on the north shore of Lake Erie, and two things typically come to mind: motorcycles and yellow perch. Why? Every Friday the 13th, some 50,000 motorcyclists and another 80,000 party seekers descend on the quaint Ontario village for North America’s biggest fun-filled gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts. As for the perch, they’re the featured dish in the fishing port’s many restaurants.

Not that you need to own a Harley or visit a local eatery to get in on the action. Just launch your boat at one of the many ramps along the lakeshore and you’re bound to catch dinner. In fact, Erie’s yellow perch population is in great shape, thanks to bumper year classes in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008. Indeed, 2003’s fish are now 13-inch-plus jumbos, with the biggest concentrations in the eastern end of the Central Basin near Port Dover.

You’ll find the perch relatively shallow in the spring, typically in 12 to 20 feet of water. They drift deeper as the season progresses, and by autumn, you’ll find massive schools, sometimes dozens of feet thick, farther out from shore in 30 to 40 feet of water. Overall, the lake’s yellow perch quota is 12 million pounds, with Ontario’s share set at 5.7 million pounds. That’s a whack of fish, no matter how you look at it.

Hot lure: Multi-hook spreader rig baited with emerald shiner

Hot fly: Superglue Buzzer

—Gord Pyzer

Learn more: Niagara Sportfishing

In 2010, Steelhead; Unbelievable numbers of fish (20 to 30 a day)

When to fish: The end of July and early August.

Where to fish: Look for baitfish in the main basin out of Erieau; a guide is recommended.

Tip: Troll small, light spoons in a variety of colours behind planer boards, Dipsy Divers, Jet Divers or leadcore line. Experimentation is key.

Walleye; Lots of fish and the possibility of a double-digit trophy during summer

When to fish: The end of July and early August.

Where to fish: Find roaming fish chasing bait fish in the main lake out from Erieau.

Tip: As with Erie steelhead, try a variety of trolling tactics with spoons.

—Richie Tripp, freelance photographer and tournament angler, who also does camera work for Dave Mercer’s Facts of Fishing TV show

Smallmouth bass; An exploding fishery

When to fish: Fall is best for quickly finding footballs; mid-May, July and August are also good.

Where to fish: Head for the border, and look for main-lake rock piles.

Tip: Drag tube jigs in the fall, or use stickbaits in May.

—George Wallace, Canadian market manager for Bass Pro Shops

In 2009, Smallmouth bass; Good numbers of very big fish

When to fish: The action is great all season long.

Where to fish: Focus on rock rubble and sand transitions, as well as rock humps.

Tip: Drop-shot rigs and tube jigs can’t be beat.

—Tom Brooke, vice-president of Shimano Canada

In 2008, Perch; Easy to catch, excellent numbers and fantastic eating

When to fish: All season long.

Where to fish: From Point Abino west to Kingsville; it’s really hot around Port Colborne and Pelee Island.
How: Minnow dunkers have a field day.

—Darryl Choronzey, host of Going Fishing TV

Silver bass; Lots of schooled fish

When to fish: Mid-May to late June.

Where to fish: Current edges and breaks, near rivermouths, rock piles, shoals, breakwalls and pier supports.

Tip: Use in-line spinners, tiny crankbaits, jigs with grub imitations, and hair jigs.

—Karl Kalonka, host of Extreme Angler

Smallmouth bass; It’s the world’s greatest smallmouth factory

When to fish: May, October and November.

Where to fish: Isolated rock pilings; start shallow in the spring and go as deep as 40 feet as the season progresses.

Tip: Cast tube jigs, drop-shot four-inch Gulp! Alive Minnows or try a Rapala X-Rap in four to six feet of water early in the year.

—Dave Mercer, host of Dave Mercer’s Facts of Fishing: The Show

Steelhead; Good numbers of aggressive, hard-fighting fish

When to fish: June to August.

Where to fish: The Erieau area is the centre of attention.

Tip: Troll copper-pattern lures on a spread of downrigger, Dipsy Diver and planer board set-ups at 2.8 to 3 mph.

Walleye; Good numbers of fish averaging seven to nine pounds

When to fish: June through August.

Where to fish: The lake’s east end, from Port Colborne to Port Maitland.

Tip: In June, troll worm harnesses and Jet Divers behind planers; as temperatures climb, use side divers to probe deeper (30 to 40 feet).

Chinook; Good numbers of active 10- to 18-pound fish

When to fish: April through June.

Where to fish: Jordan Harbour to the Niagara River.

Tip: Early in the year, troll planer boards and Bomber Long As in water as shallow as 15 feet; as the water warms up, move deeper and use spoons.

—Charlie Wray, host of The Fishful Thinking Show

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