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Twelve Months of Lake Erie, PA

Pennsylvania has approximately 45 miles of shoreline on Lake Erie. North of the city of Erie, 5000+ acre Presque Isle Bay is formed by a peninsula that is connected to the main lake by a narrow channel. The open waters and Presque Isle Bay are very different in habitat and species of fish. This allows a wide variety of angling opportunities throughout the year. Presque Isle Bay also offers sheltered water to fish in case of rough water on the main lake. Below are some “hot bites” that occur yearly.

January - Depending on the weather, fishing at the beginning of a new year can be a hard or soft water sport. If the weather is mild, fishing the tributaries or nearshore areas for steelhead can be excellent. In colder years, ice fishing begins this month, starting with “protected” waters like Horseshoe Pond, Misery Bay and Marina Bay. Early ice provides some of the best angling of the season, with crappie, bluegill, perch and steelhead.

February - By the beginning of the month, Presque Isle Bay usually has a fairly thick layer of ice. Fishing is usually slower as Winter doldrums take over, but fish are still caught. The stream mouths provide additional opportunities for steelies through the ice if the proper conditions are present. In warm years, fishing for steelhead in the tribs can be good, as well as less crowded.

March - Most years Presque Isle and the lake have a safe layer of ice at the beginning of the month and are open by the end of the month. Late ice, particularly the last two weeks or so before it becomes unsafe are often the most productive of the ice season. Crappies, Perch, Bluegill and steelhead are usually biting well and ice fishing in the more pleasant weather is a nice change. Most of the tributaries are ice free by mid month and offer plenty of steelhead fishing opportunities. By the end of the month, the pike spawn begins in the bay and bass and crappie slowly start feeding.

April - By the beginning of the month, Presque Isle Bay starts to come alive with activity. Panfish are present and biting usually in good numbers throughout the month. Smallmouth begin to enter the bay and the largemouths become more active. The steelhead fishing in the Bay continues to be good and starts to taper by the end of the month. On the open waters of the lake, Lake Trout are the main target in April. Lake Trout are the largest fish commonly targeted in Lake Erie, with catches over 20 pounds common. Most of the lake trout fishing is done east of the peninsula to the NY state line. Downriggers and Dipsy Divers with large spoons account for most of these large predators. The Basin (Waterworks) ponds on Presque Isle State Park are also stocked with catchable trout and are an excellent choice for fishing with the family.

May - May is an excellent month for most species. Much spawning activity takes place in May for a variety of fish. There are still perch and crappie being caught, but they are slowing by the end of the month. Bluegills and Rock Bass are spawning throughout the bay and provide nearly non-stop action throughout the day. Both Largemouth and Smallmouth are spawning as well providing excellent fishing throughout the month. Perch are active on the main lake much shallower than later in the season with good catches in 10-20 feet of water. Smallmouth fishing is some of the fastest of the year in May, as they are feeding well in preparation for the spawn. Casting large stickbaits at night near most stream mouths will produce walleyes over 10 pounds. Patience and dedication are required, but May is the best walleye month for the shore-bound angler. Catfish make there way into several of the larger tributaries in May. Fishing live or dead bait produce good numbers of cats throughout the month.

June - For the most part, boat fishing for walleyes gets underway in the month of June. Most early season action is in 15-40 feet of water. Crankbait behind boards are one of the more productive patterns, but dipsy divers and crawler harnesses work well also. Smallmouth fishing continues to be good throughout the spawn which usually occurs mid-month. Perch fishing is usually good in June in waters 25-50 feet deep. Shiners fished near the bottom as usual are the most popular bait for these tasty treats. Fishing in the bay is slowing but still good, with many bass set up on the increasing weeds.

July - Walleye start to move deeper to areas like the mountain and the trench. Usually during July the thermocline on the lake sets up. Once this happens, walleye will suspend near it. Once this happens, the board bite slows and dipsy divers and downriggers become more popular. Steelhead start showing up in the deeper waters. Perch continue to provide good action in 50-60 feet of water. Bass fishing is still good but the fish are deeper than a month ago during the spawn.

August - Walleye fishing in deep water is in full swing with many fish taken in water 60-100 feet deep. Steelhead can be mixed in and are often caught while fishing for walleye. Perch fishing can slow, but will continue to be good throughout the month. Bass fishing is slower, with the fish even deeper than July, but they can still be caught. Presque Isle Bay can be difficult with the warm temperatures, lots of weeds, and a plethora of recreational boaters. Late in the month, steelhead will start showing up at the stream mouths, usually under the cover of darkness. They are not plentiful then, but a determined and diligent angler may find a few.

September - A transition month, September offers good lake fishing for many species. Walleye fishing is wrapping up with fishing getting harder as the month moves along. The steelhead are moving up most creeks and fishing at the creek mouths continues to get better. Low, clear water often hampers stream fishing in September. Offshore waters continue to produce steelhead as well. Perch fishing is excellent and many anglers regard this month as one of the best for size and numbers with many fish holding in the 55 to 70 foot range. As Presque Isle Bay cools, bass and panfishing action increases as well.

October - By October, most of the walleye fishing is done for the season. The lake tends to be calm less of the time, but the perch and smallmouth are packing on the calories for the long winter ahead. Perch fishing usually stays good throughout the month and the smallmouth are in 18-30 feet of water and bite well on crankbaits this time of year. Steelhead fishing is picking up and most tributaries have fishable numbers well upstream from their mouths. Steelhead fishing in Presque Isle gets much better as the temperature drops below 50. Perch fishing from the piers is starting to heat up as well as the larger “lake” perch move into the bay from the lake.

November - While a few boats may be out, fishing on the main lake is over for the most part. Most boating facilities in the area close around the beginning of the month. Pier fishing continues to be good for perch, bourbot and steelhead. Some anglers find good bass fishing in the bay throughout the month. The piers at the Presque Isle Marina open to fishing at the beginning of the month as well. This area tends to produce perch, steelhead and crappie with a few bass and pike mixed in. Trolling Presque Isle Bay for steelhead continues to be good throughout the month. Many anglers feel that November is the best month 0f the year for tributary steelhead as well. The creek mouths continue to fish well, weather permitting.

December - Steelhead Fishing in the tribs and nearshore areas continues to be good to excellent if the weather cooperates. As the weather gets worse, the crowds seem to thin. Fishing from the piers also continues to produce perch and bourbot. Occasionally, sheltered water on Presque Isle has sufficient ice for fishing by the end of the month.

As long as an angler isn’t selective about the species pursued, good fishing can be had every day of the year.