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Walleye Week: Why Erie is Such a Fun Summer Destination for Walleye Fishing

It's hard to beat a Lake Erie summertime walleye trip. To find success when the kids are out of school this year, here's our guide to the summertime season at the walleye capital of the world.

Walleye Week: Why Erie is Such a Fun Summer Destination for Walleye Fishing

Finally, we can reach for the sunscreen, pull out the shorts and flip-flops, and put on our shades with a sigh of satisfying relief. Because after a winter that never seemed to want to go away, and a spring season that didn’t last long enough, the sweetness of summertime is finally here.

In many parts of the country, summer is the year’s best when warm days roll into town, mild evenings deliver dreamy sunsets and lingering conversations over dinner, and the nighttime beckons with fun options for the entire family.

erie walleye fishing
Trip options are many when it comes to a Lake Erie angling adventure for walleyes, ranging from do-it-yourself outings to guides on tournament rigs and six-pack boats to even a full-fledged party boat for dozens at a time. (Photo courtesy of Powderhook)

And nowhere is that more evident than Ohio’s Lake Erie, a Great Lake natural wonder that offers a little something for everyone with beaches, lighthouses, historical landmarks, fine dining, great shopping venues, and all kinds of fun-filled options for the family. Oh yeah, and there’s also some world-class fishing to be found too, particularly in and around the Port Clinton area, aptly billed as the "Walleye Capital of the World.” As such, the weeks of sweet summertime offer some of the best walleye angling options found anywhere on the planet at any time of the year.

Family Options Abound

If fishing stories and family fun seem like a recurrent theme around Lake Erie, well, that’s correct, especially in and around Port Clinton. Located at the mouth of the Portage River as it flows into Erie some 44 miles east of Toledo, Port Clinton is a Midwestern community straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting where some 6,000 people call the Vacationland community home. Situated in Lake Erie's southern shores and islands region, a summertime visit here can bring anything from swimming, suntanning, walking on the beach, windsurfing, enjoying local parks, enjoying a picnic or cookout, and seeing the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge among other things. To top it off on a warm summer evening, add a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream and your day is complete!

Depending on when you visit the region this summer, there are all kinds of small-town Americana activities each summer including the 42nd Annual Main Street Port Clinton Walleye Festival over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Complete with free live music concerts, a Kids Fishing Derby, a big parade, carnival rides, food trucks and vendors, and all kinds of educational programs and activities, this year’s Walleye Festival—see, it really is the Walleye Capital of the World!—is a great time to visit Port Clinton and the beautiful southern shoreline of Erie.

family fishing
With summertime days slipping by, a family trip to the Port Clinton region of Lake Erie--the Walleye Capital of the World!—is a great way to build memories and spend time together before fall school and work demands come calling. (Photo courtesy of Powderhook)

Of course, that's just the start to a summertime calendar filled with activities in the Port Clinton area—and really, in much of the region from Toledo to Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, since there's also the Fourth of July holiday thrown into the middle and the Labor Day holiday weekend to complete the season. In between these three great American summertime holidays, there's also a host of other things to see, do, and experience in Port Clinton, including a visit to the Liberty Aviation Museum, the Tin Goose Diner, and the famed Port Clinton Lighthouse among other things.

Walleye Tops Erie’s Summertime Angling Options

There are all kinds of angling and seasonal bucket list opportunities available at Lake Erie virtually year-round. From smallmouth bass to yellow perch to steelhead and more, this region rocks for top-notch fishing action when the water is liquid. And when it’s hardwater season and the ice is thick, well, that’s a pretty good time to fish at Lake Erie too!

But the star of the angling show here, so to speak, is the world-class walleye fishery that can be found in the renowned Great Lake lying along the Buckeye State’s northern boundary, particularly in the western and central basins of Lake Erie. To prove that claims of Erie’s stellar walleye fishing aren’t chamber of commerce hype, all an angler has to do is consider a few biological numbers about the fishery. For starters, the Ohio Department of Natural Resource Division of Wildlife paints an incredible numerical picture in its “Status of Lake Erie Walley Fishery in 2022” report where ODNR-DOW biologists estimated that an incredible 82 million adult walleye were estimated to swim in the big lake the previous year!

walleye in the net
With some of the highest totals on record in recent years, Lake Erie's walleye fishery is one of the best fishing experiences in North America for the individual angler, a business trip adventure, or family fun on the water. (Photo courtesy of Powderhook)

And don’t forget that the 2021 walleye hatch was record-breaking in Erie’s western, central, and eastern basins and that five of the past eight walleye hatches have been in the above-average to the exceptional range. Add in the fact that DOW biologists also reported that the 2022 adult walleye population in Erie was within the top 20 percent over the past three decades, and comparable to the legendary fishing experienced back in the 1980s, and the picture gets even brighter for walleye anglers. Finally, if you need any other incentive to start planning your Lake Erie walleye adventure soon, then remember that the Dow also says that the 2021 walleye harvest per hour figure was the fifth-highest on record. Yeah, the walleye fishing is really good here at Lake Erie!

In-Close Walleye Options

Lake Erie’s tremendous walleye action can be sampled throughout much of the year, but there’s little doubt that summertime should be high on any fishing enthusiast’s list, especially since an angling trip can be easily combined with other family-friendly activities. And speaking of family-friendly, there are all kinds of ways to get your spouse and kids involved in catching walleyes here, including the chance to catch walleyes without ever leaving land!

While the lake itself is huge, the late spring and early summer timeframe delivers all kinds of urban fishing possibilities from Easter through Memorial Day and on up to Uncle Sam's Independence Day birthday bash in early July. With walleye being drawn in shallow for the spawn, areas between Toledo and Sandusky are prime as spring deepens and summertime approaches, including Port Clinton's East and West Harbors, and the numerous marinas, piers, rock jetties, and protected bay shorelines. And Ohio’s state parks are tremendous options as well if walleye fishing is on your “To Do” list this summer.

All of those spots give anglers plenty of options with a spinning rod-and-reel rigged up with a variety of baits including jerkbaits and swimbaits, lures that can be as simple to use as chunking and winding where it’s wet by a few feet.

Recommended


crawler harness for walleyes
In the depths of summer, a variety of lures and live baits like nightcrawlers can help anglers land numerous walleyes during a day on the water. (Photo courtesy of Powderhook)

The so-called Great Lakes’ shoulder seasons on the front end and back end of summer also beckon shoreline anglers with intriguing possibilities. In fact, ice out to the end of May and the first cool-downs of September can bring in all kinds of baitfish, with the walleye hungrily chasing them down from behind as they seek to consume some high-protein calories at key times on the piscatorial specie’s annual calendar. In other words, while most anglers think of boats when they think of Lake Erie walleyes, other opportunities can lure in a Lake Erie walleye to someone without an outboard motor powering their fishing adventures!

Offshore for Limits of ‘Eyes

If the shore-bound angler has ample chance to tie into a Lake Erie walleye or two, then an offshore angler in a boat has plentiful opportunities to see their fishing rods bend too. From guides using tournament boats to slightly larger six-pack vessels to “head boats,” or party boats that can hold a few dozen anglers and passengers at once, there are all kinds of walleye fishing options to fit the size of your particular angling crowd, not to mention your wallet this summer.

And if you've got a seaworthy rig sitting on a trailer at home, a little do-it-yourself walleye fishing ability, and an adventurous spirit, there's even the DIY element to a summertime Lake Erie walleye fishing expedition. One great way to plan your own walleye fishing trip here is to visit the Powderhook trip planning resource page, a one-stop website resource that will guide anglers and trip planners to everything they need to know about a Lake Erie walleye adventure.

That ranges from purchasing an Ohio fishing license to ensuring that a boat is ready to hit the big body of water to gearing up with the right tackle to even finding these tasty and sporty fish that are so much fun to catch.

And if you need to figure out what to do to actually catch summertime walleyes at Erie—or the largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch that swim in the lake too—then we’ve got you covered here at Game and Fish Magazine. Want to troll for Lake Erie walleyes with crankbaits? After the spawned-out walleyes finish their spring breeding and go looking for calories, this is a great way to target post-spawn walleyes from Toledo eastward to Presque Isle according to Game & Fish writer Dan Armitage. Well, at least if you're wanting to catch some big and hungry walleyes, that is, which really start showing up at the dinner table come May and beyond.

Midwestern slip-bobber techniques will also work for Erie walleyes in the summer months, as will snap-jig soft plastics worked along the edges of windswept shallow water weed beds. Also, key techniques at this time of the year are spinner-rig/nightcrawler harnesses and deeper presentations when the walleyes are looking more vertical.

And sometimes, when the weather forecast brings heat, humidity, and light winds, one of walleye angling's more effective hot-weather tricks during Shakespeare's midsummer night's dream is to resort to fishing under the moonlight when the heat is on.

In the end, a summertime walleye trip to Lake Erie will bring much enjoyment and enrichment to an angler and his or her family this year. There are great adventures to be had on the water and off, tremendous memories to be made in one of America’s best vacation spots, and even a scrumptious meal or two to anticipate as the grill sizzles or the fish fryer spatters a little hot peanut oil.

walleye fillets
Not only is a walleye fishing adventure to Port Clinton's Lake Erie region a chance to build great family memories and a vacation adventure that won't soon be forgotten, but it's also a chance to take home to the dinner table a few of what is arguably the nation's best tasting freshwater fish. (Photo courtesy of Powderhook)
deep fried walleye
While there are many reasons to consider a family fishing adventure to Port Clinton and the Lake Erie region of northern Ohio, the incredible taste of walleye fillets bound for the dinner table is one of the best! (Photo courtesy of Powderhook)

Because in a summertime season made for everyone young and old, all of the above is an integral part of a memorable trip that will be talked about for years to come.

In fact, about all that's left to do after a rich and bountiful trip to the "Walleye Capital of the World" at the height of vacation season is to start figuring out when to plan your next adventure to Lake Erie, right?

Because the sweetness of an American summer doesn’t get any better.




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