Last update: 12/09/2023
Current fishing tips and conditions for Lake Erie’s western, central and eastern basins.
- Tributaries are full of steelhead and trout from top to bottom. A bunch of larger fish.
- Anglers report beads, egg sac, and egg paterns are most productive for fishing the tributaries. Nymphs and jigs tipped with grubs are getting bites.
- Fish the tributary creeks in areas that offer a break from the current.
- Walleye fishing is still strong.
- Water is cooling and walleye are moving back into the Western Basin.
- Angler report reapers, bandits, and precision walleye cranks and are producing walleye catches.
Monthly Fishing Reports
Monthly fishing reports and conditions for Lake Erie.
Yellow perch are the most popular fish targeted during early spring.
Walleye can be targeted on the flats surrounding the Western Basin reef complex prior to spawn. Slow troll 4″-6″ stickbaits the upper 5-10 feet of the water column.
Anglers report catching northern pike off Catawba Island, Kelleys Island, East Harbor and Metzger March southeast of Maumee Bay in late winter through March. They’re also found in Cuyahoga River, St. Joseph River, upper Scioto River, Portage River, Tiffin River, and Killbuck Creek. They’ll take crankbaits, swimbaits, jerkbaits, live minnows and minnow imitations.
Steelhead fishing in tributary streams is very productive in March (depending on water flow).
Walleye migrate to the Western Basin reef complex off the shore between Port Clinton and Toledo to spawn. Fish walleye in and around Toussaint Niagara Reefs in the Western Basin. Jig fishing with a 1/2 to 3/4 purple bucktail hair jig or blade bait is a great way to catch spring walleye during spawn.
A 4-inch to 6-inch lift-and-fall technique using hair jigs over Western Basin reefs is effective for targeting walleye on the reefs. Work blade baits near the bottom like a jig. Troll for walleye in the deeper waters surrounding the reefs using crankbaits.
Check satalite images to find water that isn’t too muddy but not clear deep blue. For walleye you want to fish the chalky water in between.
Bass spawn in April is a great time to fish smallmouths. When water levels are high you’ll find bass spawning and holding in flooded shoreline bushes or vegetation in coves, creeks, and off points. You’ll find good bass habit in 15-35 feet of water from the western to eastern basin along the shoreline and in tributary streams.
When water is too muddy, Sandusky and Port Clinton areas are excellent bass fisheries. Bass begin to move into tributary streams in late April. Fishing is best in mid to lower sections of the streams.
Walleye are abundant in the western basin post spawn. Lunker walleye in the 22″-26″ are common. Fish bottom bouncers with a 3′-4′ leader, 2 hooks and a gold blade. Fishing a harness is also productive.
Great success trolling for walleye in 15 and 20 feet of water with willow leaf rigs and trolling spoons, including the Northern King spoon.
Fishing for Lake Trout begins in Lake Erie’s eastern basin. Target reefs and underwater structure from Erie to Dunkirk Harbor slow trolling spoons just off the bottom.
Fishing for smallmouths is strong along the shoreline and especially in tributary streams, harbors and canals. Bass begin to migrate to shallow reefs.
First Saturday in May natural bait is permited.
June is a reliable month for walleye fishing. Water is warmer and the fish are active. Expect walleye catches in the 20″-25″ range. Drift fishing with worm harness tipped with a nightcrawler is productive.
Walleye are migrating from the western basin into the cooler waters of the central basin in pursuite of baitfish.
Fish for smallmouth bass in tributaries, harbors and open lake reefs and shoals—especially in the western basin. Good fishing for smallmouths in Buffalo Harbor, Dunkirk Harbor and Rock Canal in the eastern basin. Concentrate fishing in 15-20 feet around rocky structure. Cast and retrieve using top lure tube jigs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and deep diving stickbaits.
Eastern basin shoreline shallows also hold white bass, catfish and freshwater drum.
Best month for limit catches of walleye—especially in the western basin. Catch rate per angler for walleye is best during July.
Walleye fishing in the central basin picks up. In the central basin, fishing for walleye is best just offshore of the Geneva-Ashtabula-Conneaut area. Troll at depths between 50 and 60 feet.
Fishing for walleye in the eastern basin gets underway. Target walleye in 60 to 80 feet of water using downriggers and dipsy divers. Use planer boards and flatline trolling at shallower depths.
Bait casting for walleye near structure in about 20 feet of water is productive in the eastern basin. Walleye venture into the shallows in the evening to find baitfish. Target humps, rock piles, and drop offs. Cast with jigs tipped with worms or minnows, and fishing weighted inline spinners.
Smallmouths move into deeper water zones as waters warm. Fish in 20 to 40 feet of water near rock piles, humples, holes, and structure. Vertical jigging using jigging spoons, jerkbaits, blade baits, and soft plastics is most productive at this depth.
Steelhead are now abundant in the deeper, cooler waters of the central basin and steelhead begin to appear in the eastern basin.
Walleye fishing begins to subside in the western basin as the water temperature becomes too warm and fish go deep and hug the bottom. Walleye fishing and steelhead fishing remain steady in the deeper waters of the central basin.
Lake trout and steelhead hold in the deeper water surrounding the mountain, as well as Barcelona, Dunkirk and Buffalor harbors. Primary fishing method for targeting trout, steelhead and salmon in deeper waters is trolling with spoons using downriggers, dipsy divers and crankbaits on planer boards.
Fishing for yellow perch begins to pick up.
Smallmouth are found in the same habitat as July. Similar fishing techniques and baits still work.
Walleye fishing slows down but walleye are still plentiful. Fishing techniques that work during the summer also work for targeting walleye during the fall. As water temperatures approach 50 degrees fehrenheit walleye migrate to nearshore areas to feed baitfish in the shallows. Trolling and casting in 20-30 feet of water with structure can be productive.
Walleye fishing from Cattaraugus Creek west past Barcelona is usually productive during September. Walleye are typically holding in 50-90 feet of water. Fish 15 feet off the bottom. Lorain and Connueat also offer decent walleye fishing this time of year.
Yellow perch fishing is beginning to ramp up.
In late September, steelhead begin to migrate to inland tributary streams along Erie’s southern shore spanning from Huron to Conneaut.
Fishing for lake trout is strong from Dunkirk west of North East Marina below the thermocline in 80-120 feet of water.
Steelhead are starting to migrate up the cooler tributary streams such as the lower section of Cattaraugus Creek by mid-September. Most steelhead migration will really get underway in October.
Smallmouth are found in the same habitat as August. Similar fishing techniques and baits are productive. Weather is unpredictable. Plan ahead and take precautions.
Yellow perch fishing is strong through October.
Steelhead can be targeted in many of Lake Erie’s tributary streams using drift fishing and fly fishing techniques. Steelhead hold near the stream bottom so you’ll need to get your bait or fly down in the water.
Steelhead are found far up tributary creeks. Best stream fishing for steelhead is often in late November.
Lake trout gather along the southern shore of the eastern basin to spawn. Provides excellent fishing opportunities for anglers.
Ice fishing opportunities begin mid-December depending on ice conditions. Open water fishing continues in areas that are ice free. Top catches during ice over are perch, crappie and walleye.
Fish deep for walleye and the shallows for crappie and perch. 15 feet of water near weed beds for crappie and slightly deeper for perch.
Burbot fishing gets underway in the central and eastern basins as winter moves in and water freezes. Burbor are rarely caught during warmer months.
Ice fishing the eastern basin during December is questionable. Ice conditions can be unpredictable due to the currents from the Niagara River.
December ice fishing hot spots include Sturgeon Point, Presque Island Bay, and Misery Bay. If you venture into Canadian territory the perch fishing at Long Point can’t be beat.
Steelhead fishing in tributary streams is good when the water isn’t frozen over. Fish in later afternoon after water temperatures have risen a few degrees and steelhead are active. Best steelhead baits include beads, egg sac, and egg patterns. Nymphs and jigs tipped with grubs are also good winter bait for steelheads in the tributaries.
Yellow perch is the most active fish species during January. Walleye and Crappie fishing is marginal. Perch are moving deeper.
Walleye continue to chase lures through January along the shoreline when their is open water. Ice fishing during cold years is productive during January.
Walleye are often found just off shore of Cleveland, Lorain and east of Kelleys Island suspending at depths of 30 to 50 feet.
Steelhead fishing is available in tributary streams when not frozen.
Steelhead fishing is available in tributary streams when not frozen. Fishing for steelhead picks up pace in late February early March.
Trolling for walleye is picking up. Trolling minnow imitation diving plugs and crankbais is most popular. Slow your troll to just over 1 mile per hour in these cold waters. Casting with blade baits and jigging spoons is also productive. Port Clinton and up west of Kelleys Island are reliable productive during February.
February fishing is dependent on water and ice conditions.
Pre-spawn walleye fishing is picking up. Just outside the Huron harbor and off Lorain you often find walleye. Recommend using electronics to locate walleye this time of year.
Top fish species
The following are the most common catches on Lake Erie reported by anglers.