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