The best Lake Erie fishing charters aren’t just there to take you out on the water; they’re responsible for providing you with an experience. They should offer Lake Erie fishing reports, all the gear you need, and the guidance you want to catch more fish. That’s what you’re paying for.
We’re breaking down the best charters on the Lake from Ohio to New York in this guide. By the end, you’ll understand what to catch, how to catch it, and what charters you should consider looking into this year.
Fishing Lake Erie
If you’re considering a fishing trip to Lake Erie, one of the first things that should come to your mind is what you can expect to catch there. The good news is, Lake Erie is a popular destination for smallmouth bass anglers of all skill levels, and if you’ve never considered it, you should add it to your bucket list.
One of the reasons it’s so popular is that it’s an affordable fishing destination compared to offshore chartering or some of the other great lakes.
Lake Erie has experienced its share of hardship over the years. Throughout the 1960s and for many years after, Lake Erie was a perfect example of water pollution from factories, sewer systems, and pesticides from farms. The water was so polluted that you could actually stick your hand in and pull out a handful of algae.
Even today, fertilizer and manure runoff runs into the streams and rivers that flow into Lake Erie, which is why the lake has such large algae bloom compared to all of the other Great Lakes.
All of that aside, anglers still have a ton of success on the lake and consider it some of the best smallmouth, steelhead, and walleye fishing in the country.
What Can You Catch
Let’s break it down a little more and talk about each species you can expect to find when you charter a boat on Lake Erie. It’s known as the “Walleye Capital of the World” for a reason. You’ll find dozens of crazy stories around anglers bragging over their walleye “catch of a lifetime.” Even if you’ve never fished for walleye before, as long as you get there during the right time (which we’ll talk about), you can expect to fill your well with plenty of fish.
The lake is broken up into three sections. You’ve got:
- The Deep Eastern Basin
- Flat-Bottom Central Basin
- Shallow Western Basin
Each of these basins contains its own unique challenges, conditions, and characteristics, so you’ll want to understand each before requesting a charter in any of these three sections.
The shallow western basin houses the smallmouth bass population. These feisty little fish put up quite a fight, and you can expect to find them along drop-offs and ledges in the shallow waters.
The deeper eastern basin is where you’ll find most of the walleye. Some of the best walleye fishing in the country happens here. Walleye travel a large distance every year, so you’ll have to play the lake by season. During the summer months, expect to find them in the east in New York. In the winter/fall, you can find them a bit further south.
Lake Erie: By Season
It’s crucial to understand the seasons and how they impact the fishing on Lake Erie. Taking a look at each of these will help you learn what you can catch to decide when you’d like to charter a boat.
Springtime is a hit or miss when it comes to temperature. Sometimes it’s frigid and cold, and most of the water is still frozen, and other times, the water doesn’t freeze at all. Lake Erie is more shallow than the other Great Lakes, so it tends to freeze over faster.
Fishing in the spring is great for perch, smallmouth, and rock bass, while fishing for walleye is a bit slow this time of year.
One interesting opportunity is shore fishing for walleye at night. It seems like local anglers know that the fingerling population comes out at night during the spring and the walleye chase them along the shore. This factor creates an interesting opportunity for the angler who understands what they’re doing.
Summer is when fishing on Lake Erie heats up, and this is when most anglers will charter a boat. It’s prime walleye season from July to September, and most of the best fishing for walleye happens as far to the east or west as possible.
After September, the lake loses some of its luster, but there are still plenty of great fishing opportunities, especially when chartering a boat. Boat charters allow you to get to places other anglers can’t, and schools of walleye are still mulling around the waters through October.
Best Lake Erie Fishing Charters
Now that you understand what to expect when fishing the lake, now let’s take a look at the best Lake Erie fishing charters, so you know who to call when it’s time to plan that trip. These charters are the most recommended by locals and online authorities, so be sure to take these recommendations.
Mark Rose offers an exceptional fishing experience on Lake Erie for smallmouth bass. He recommends doing so between the months of May and October if you plan on getting the most out of your trip.
One thing that seems a little different about Mark than some of the other charters is his guiding seems a bit more intimate where it’s done on a one-on-one basis. Mark will guide you through fishing on Lake Erie and really stick by you to help ensure you understand how to catch smallies and so you’ll have the best time possible.
If you’re looking to take your Lake Erie fishing to a whole new level of enjoyment, comfort, and style, iOutdoor Adventures offers a great experience. Captain Tom Goodrich is a U.S Coast Guard Certified Boat Master Captain and has over 20 years of experience fishing these waters.
The team is professional, courteous, and helpful when working with children and anglers of all skill levels. Their goal is to keep you safe and ensure you have a great experience. Expect to catch walleye, steelhead, lake trout, and perch when fishing with iOutdoor Adventures.
One thing we like most about this charter is that the package you purchase is generally targeted to a specific species of fish. For example, you can do a four-hour trip specifically for Walleye for $399.99 You can also do a “mix bag,” which can be anything for six hours.
Oak Harbor, Ohio
Captain Jim Mitchell leads the team at Erie Angler LLC in Ohio. They provide a great charter experience for both kids and adults. The charter has a 30-foot Baha Cruiser capable of taking six people out on the water, and the boat comes with full safety features, navigational equipment, fishfinder, and more.
You always want to look for a charter with a fish finder because that will give you the edge and ensure you have a great experience.
The Captain says you can expect to catch walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass, which is right up our alley. They provide all high-quality equipment, including Berkley, Daiwa, Okuma, and Pflueger brands. You need to have an active license to cast from the boat.
Pacifictime Sportfishing operates a large assortment of fishing charters across the country. It’s no wonder they included Lake Erie on their list. Captain Todd Pavilk encourages anglers of all ages and skill levels to come aboard a charter to not only learn more about fishing but to have a great time as well.
The Captain has a 30-foot Pursuit offshore boat powered by twin 265HP Crusader engines, and the boat accommodates up to five guests with plenty of room.
Walleye, yellow perch, and steelhead are the fish of choice here, and trolling is the method that the Captain uses most frequently. All equipment is included in your price, but you’re required to supply your own fishing license.
Rod-bending walleye is the promise of Erie Doghouse Charters in Pennsylvania. This team has a Carolina Classic 25-foot boat designed to handle the ocean-like conditions of rocky Lake Erie. Expect to find the gamut of species, including walleye, lake trout, perch, and steelhead with Captain Tony.
As with all fishing charters in Pennsylvania, you need to possess a license to fish, and you can get a one day pass if you’re just in the area for the charter. You’re able to keep up to six walleye, 30 perch, and three steelheads per person, and the first mate will clean your fish for you.
If you’re looking for something a little different, you can travel to downtown Cleveland and hit the lake’s western basin. Captain Daniel McDonnell offers exceptional walleye fishing and 25 years of experience tracking them down.
He recommends that you book a spring walleye fishing trip because that’s when they migrate back to the western basin, and you’ll be able to find them near Port Clinton and Oak Harbor. The shallow water is where you can expect to find them, and jigging around the reefs will yield a great result.
Lake Erie has something for everyone, a true outdoor adventure that has to be experienced to truly experience the thrill!