CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Talk to any walleye angler who takes to the Lake Erie waters and it has been a rough couple of years because the walleye they hooked were just too small to keep.
"We were catching 50 to 100 walleye just to be able to get 18 legal size keepers," avid Cleveland angler Bubba Stauss said.
Legal size for walleye keepers is 15 inches set by the Ohio Division of Natural Resource (ODNR).
Anything smaller than that must be released back into the lake.
But something happened in 2014 and 2015 that will make for a great 2018.
"Lake Erie anglers have hit the lottery with the recent hatches, and we will all reap the benefits for the foreseeable future," ODNR Lake Erie Program Administrator Travis Hartman said.
Hartman explained cold weather in 2014 and 2015 helped for late spring spawning seasons for walleye.
"While the winter conditions themselves most likely don't impact spawning success, they led to ice cover that persisted until late March and pushed walleye spawning back until early to mid-April. It is likely that high volumes of eggs were laid in a relatively short window, " Hartman said.
The late spawning season, combined with a great food sourced, helped once those eggs turned into larva.
"On Lake Erie environmental conditions determine how successful the hatches are, and much of that success is likely dictated by the timing of plankton blooms being available for the larval walleye when their yolk sacs are depleted and they need to start feeding to survive," Hartman said.
With two and three years to grow those young walleye have now turned into legal sized keepers in numbers Hartman said Lake Erie hasn't seen since 2005.
It might take a while again this year for Lake Erie to thaw out but when it does it should be a whopper of a year for walleye, and anglers like Strauss can't wait to bait.
"Real excited. Best it will be in the last 10 years," Strauss said.