Fish of Lake Erie | Top 5 Species

lake erie fish
lake erie fish

Ever wonder what the most popular species of fish are in Lake Erie? There are more than you think, but in this article, we will cover the top 5 fish of Lake Erie. These are fish that anglers pursue and are most known to live in Lake Erie.

The species of fish of Lake Erie in this article are found in other Great Lakes. They are also found in inland lakes throughout the United States. These fish are not exclusive to Lake Erie.

With Lake Erie being the most shallow Great Lake the fish thrive. Lake Erie has a current throughout the entire lake, which aids in the spawning of the fish. Some species of fish, such as walleye, need waves and currents for their eggs and young to survive. Lake Erie is good at both!

Lake Erie has had a pollution-ridden past, which has affected the fish. With the EPA focusing on the lake, things have gotten better. Large populations of walleye, perch, and smallmouth bass are found in the waters of Lake Erie. There are many more species of fish found in the lake. We will name the top 5 in this article.


Walleye Fishing

Walleye has been in Lake Erie for thousands of years. They have had their ups and downs with weather, fishing, and pollution playing a role in it all.

The walleye is a low-light feeding machine. They thrive during the night time, sunset, and sunrise. During the day walleye can be found in the deep, cold waters trying to catch prey. Walleye feed on other fish such as gobies, shiners, smelt, perch, and even themselves.

Lake Erie is known as the walleye capital of the world. It gets this name because of the population size and average size of the walleye in the lake. People come from all over the country to fish for walleye on Lake Erie. The western basin of Lake Erie in the spring has one of the largest spawning habitats for walleye. This is known as the reef complex. These fish also travel up the Maumee River and Sandusky River to spawn, both located in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. In recent years, the walleye population in Lake Erie has increased significantly, leading to more fishermen frequenting the area.

Yellow Perch

Lake Erie Perch

Yellow Perch are native to Lake Erie. They are in the same family as walleye and are predatory fish. Perch feed on other fish such as gobies, shiners, and smelt. They also feed on the young of other game fish.

Environmental conditions for yellow perch to thrive in Lake Erie are necessary. Lake Erie has had its ups and downs over the years, and in 2024 we are in a low population condition. Limits have been reduced in the past few years in the central basin of Lake Erie.

The perch in Lake Erie’s western and eastern basins is good. Most fishermen frequent these areas in the spring during the spawn and late summer when they are schooled up feeding. Perch are pack hunters and will move with the bait. They are often found in large schools, making fishing for them fun. They also are great table fairs.

Steelhead Trout

Steelhead Trout

Steelhead Trout is a stocked resource in Lake Erie. Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania all stock steelhead of different types in their rivers. Steelhead are stocked in the rivers to encourage them to return in the fall and spring months to spawn. These trout are migratory rainbow trout that do not die after spawning.

Steelhead trout are most often found in the deep, cool parts of Lake Erie in the summertime. In the winter, spring, and fall they can be found making their way into the rivers. Once in the rivers, they can be caught by river fishermen. This is the most popular way to fish for them. Steelhead will develop colorful patterns after they have been in the river for a while. This makes them one of Lake Erie’s most unique species of fish.

Smallmouth Bass

Lake Erie Smallmouth Bass Charters

Smallmouth bass can be found throughout Lake Erie. They frequent rocky areas that have plenty of bait. Smallmouth can be found on shallow structure during the spawn, and deep structure during the summer. The best time to fish for smallmouth is in the spring and fall. Smallmouth are predatory fish that feed on gobies, darters, shiners, and shad in Lake Erie.

The smallmouth bass population in Lake Erie has been up and down over the years. This is due to angler harvesting. During periods when other gamefish are not available, fishermen will target smallmouth bass. This is detrimental to their population numbers as smallmouth take years to reach maturity.

Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish

With Lake Erie having so many different types of baitfish available, catfish thrive in the lake. Channel catfish are normally known to frequent river systems, this is true but they also are found all over Lake Erie.

Catfish can be found in all areas of Lake Erie. Most known for its massive population of channel catfish is Sandusky Bay. Sandusky Bay is shallow in most parts but has deep channels and lots of current. This makes for the perfect habitat for channel catfish. Channel catfish in Lake Erie are predatory and feed mostly on forage fish, such as shad and white perch.

This wraps up a quick summary of the fish in Lake Erie. Make sure you check out our Fishing Reports page for the latest fishing reports on Lake Erie.