Visiting Lake Erie

Lake Erie is regarded as one of the best fishing destinations in the Great Lakes region. Despite its shallow average depth of 62 feet and higher average water temperature, anglers can find several different fish species in Lake Erie, including smallmouth bass, steelhead, and northern pike. But the lake is also particularly known as one of the best places to fish for walleye.

Lake Erie is easily accessible within the city limits of Cleveland and adjacent suburbs. And the Cleveland Metroparks has created several access points for fishing and other recreation along the shoreline. Lakefront Reservation contains a variety of access points that can be found either via car, bike or hiking.

Fishing Lake Erie

Beginning on the west side of downtown Cleveland, Edgewater Park is a favored destination for residents in the city, with good fishing along the breakwall and at Edgewater Pier. To the east of the city center is the East 55th Marina Fishing Area, which includes views of the marina, downtown Cleveland, and Lake Erie. Keep in mind that fishing from the railing at both locations and along the shore typically requires a long net to retrieve any fish caught.

A short distance away, the East 72nd Fishing Area gives more wide open views of the lake beyond the breakwall and of the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. At the East 72nd Fishing Area, concrete platforms provide water-level access in front of the boulders along the breakwall. Be careful in poor weather and in particular during winter months to avoid the cy and slippery surfaces.

Fishing in Lake Erie takes three primary forms. Anglers can cast from shore, use paddle craft to access water within the breakwall and harbor, or use a powerboat to venture further into the lake. Each type of fishing requires a few specific considerations. For example, panfish can often be handled with 6-10lb. line whereas larger, stronger species will need 12lb.+ depending on the conditions and location on the lake. If an angler is fishing for toothy creatures such as pike then a wire leader or thicker line will be needed to land a fish.

Thinking Like a Fish

Fishing from shore is the easiest, most accessible option for fishing Lake Erie. And casting a line from piers, breakwalls and shoreline can provide a different variety of fishing experience without leaving the Cleveland area. However, anglers may need to adjust gear and tactics based on the location, fishing conditions, and weather.

If using live bait, waxworms, nightcrawlers, and minnows are all good options, though anglers may need to vary depth and location of the bait to work different species during the year. Smallmouth bass tend to prefer the rocky shoreline and points along breakwalls. Catfish and carp tend to be found along the bottom of the lakebed, requiring anglers to take a different approach with these species. Walleye can be caught from shore, particularly when they swim closer to the shoreline during the night to chase bait into the shallows. In any case, a long handled net is handy when fishing from piers to retrieve your catch.

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The breakwalls that extend out from the harbors along Lake Erie provide calmer waters from which to fish from kayaks and canoes. With a paddle craft, an angler has access to deeper water to target perch and walleye, as well as catfish. Casting to rocky structure using spinning gear can be productive, particularly for bass. Kayaks can be rented at various Cleveland Metroparks locations for anglers without their own watercraft to get on the water.

Fishing from a powerboat on Lake Erie is the preferred method for chasing bass, walleye, and perch, as well as for trolling for steelhead. For walleye and perch, the first priority on the water is to locate the school, then work with different retrieves while being sure to mark underwater structures such as rock piles or stormwater outlets. Walleye anglers can use bait, troll with lures, or cast using a worm harness. When near the rocks, try a tube jig or crayfish pattern in a sparkling green or brown color. Crankbaits can also be productive. For lure color, consider the baitfish such as emerald shiner, perch, and other native young fish which translate to light gold/silver colors and patterns such as shiner, walleye, fire tiger, perch, and the classic red/white.

Freshwater drum is a native species that is becoming a more popular fish to catch and release. Also known as the Gaspergoo, Sheephead, or Rock Donkey, the fish can grow to a larger size than bass and have the strength to provide exciting fishing. In fishing for freshwater drum t, crankbaits are a favorite lure in Lake Erie. Try specific options such as a Berkeley Flicker Minnow or Rapala Original Floater.

No matter how you access the lake, it is critical to check the weather and swell. Due to its shallow depth and weather patterns, Lake Erie is notorious for turning dangerous in a short amount of time. If you’re not confident you can handle the conditions on the lake, don’t go. In any case, local guides offer another great way to explore the lake and learn techniques for catching more fish.

Lake Erie is a world-class fishery that provides a lifetime of angling experiences. From walleye and perch to fighting fish like smallmouth bass and freshwater drum, the lake offers a range of great fishing experiences and a great reason for spending more time on the water.

Baitstick supports efforts to build the next generation of anglers nationwide, including the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and The Outdoor Foundation