Catch of the Day
After a short, cold and wet spring, most of us are ready to make up for lost time this summer. Road trips, camping and hiking are great ways to live outside these next few months and see more of what Ohio has to offer. Another summer pastime—fishing—can provide you with a delicious, clean and sustainable meal at the end of a fun day spent outside.
For Ohioans, it is difficult to beat the fishing opportunities that Lake Erie has to offer. Just a two-hour drive from most of Columbus, Lake Erie has 312 miles of coastline to explore. Ohio’s part of Lake Erie, the south shore, boasts numerous coastal communities that are tied to life on the lake, and in turn, the tourism from recreational fishing.
For the anglers who devotedly fish Lake Erie, the walleye is the fish that keeps them faithful. Yet another popular Lake Erie fish, the yellow perch, offers beginning anglers both an enjoyable day of fishing and a flavorful post-fishing meal. A relatively small sport fish, an adult yellow perch typically weighs up to a pound, may not even reach 12 inches in length and isn’t going to put up a fight like a walleye or largemouth bass. For anglers who are just looking to catch some fish, schooling yellow perch provide a memorable fishing experience that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Whether grilled, seared, baked or battered, yellow perch is one of the best-tasting fish found in Ohio. It has a firm but flaky mild white meat that makes it one of the most popular freshwater fish for lovers of “seafood” cuisine. For years, anglers have bragged about the versatility of this fish in the kitchen, with recipes as simple as battered and fried perch to a more-complex perch risotto. While you could head to your local grocery store and order a few pounds of perch fillets from the seafood counter, there’s nothing better than catching it yourself, cleaning it and savoring a home-caught meal at the end of the day.
To plan your next perch fishing and culinary adventure, consider the time of year for your trip. Like several other species of fish that live in Lake Erie, yellow perch move seasonally in response to water temperatures.
In the spring, perch move close to shore to spawn, and can be caught from shore or from piers. While some anglers think that fishing from a boat is the only way to fish Lake Erie, large perch can be caught by shore anglers. In April 2016, the Ohio state-record yellow perch was caught from shore in Lake County, and weighed in at a monstrous 2.86 pounds!
During summer and fall, perch are typically in deeper water located offshore. While you will need to be on a boat to get to big schools of perch during these times of year, you don’t need to own your own boat to make that Lake Erie fishing dream a reality. In Ohio, over 700 charter captains offer trips to catch yellow perch, walleye and other Lake Erie species. Other large vessels, called headboats, offer visitors the chance to take a half-day perch fishing trip with larger groups. Both charterboat and headboat trips are available along Lake Erie’s southern shore from Port Clinton, Marblehead, Sandusky, Cleveland and Conneaut.
Although Lake Erie is definitely the perch capital of Ohio, these fish can also be found in many of Ohio’s inland rivers, lakes and man-made reservoirs. The ODNR Division of Wildlife also stocks yellow perch in northern Ohio lakes and reservoirs to provide more fishing opportunities for local communities. City reservoirs in Findlay and Wauseon offer fantastic inland perch fishing located a bit closer to Columbus.
Many fish found in Ohio, including yellow perch, can help you maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Fish contain many vitamins and minerals, and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, to reduce your potential exposure to pollution and contaminants, the Ohio Department of Health advises most people consume no more than one meal a week of Ohio-caught sport fish.
So consider going out and catching your own dinner this summer. There’s nothing fresher than the fish you just caught yourself.
Fishing in Ohio
Fishing in Ohio is regulated to conserve populations and maintain sustainable harvests. Before you go fishing, make sure you understand size limits, bag limits and basic species identification. All Ohio residents (with a few exceptions) are required to purchase a fishing license before hooking into their dream bass or their dinner of yellow perch. A new license must be purchased annually. Specific regulations may apply for anglers fishing for certain species or fishing on specific lakes, such as Lake Erie.
You can learn more about fishing in Ohio on the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s webpage at www.wildohio.gov.