Best Time to Fish Lake Erie [Seasonal Fishing Guide]

Laker Erie is an incredible place to visit with it’s fantastic views and even better fishing. It’s well known for being one of the best Walleye fisheries in the world. In addition to the incredible Walleye fishing it also provides anglers with some great Yellow Perch, Trout, Bass and even some Salmon catching opportunities. 

If you are planning a fishing trip to Lake Erie sometime soon you might be wondering what time of the year you should go and when is the best time to fish Lake Erie. The truth is you can catch fish year round at Lake Erie, but there is no doubting there are certain times of the year and day where the fishing is much better. So when is the best time to fish Lake Erie?

If you are targeting walleye the best all around time of the year to fish Lake Erie is Mid-May through July. Perch fishing at Lake Erie is best April through May and August through October. Smallmouth bass fishing is most productive at Lake Erie August through October. The best time of the year to fish for steelhead is March through April and in the early fall. 

With this being said, Lake Erie can be a productive fishery year round and as long as you understand the seasonal patterns of the fish you are targeting you’ll be able to catch them all throughout the year. 

In this seasonal Lake Erie fishing guide, I’ll break down the best time of year and day to catch each species of fish at Lake Erie. After you read this article you’ll know exactly when and where to fish to give yourself the best chance of success fishing this beautiful lake. 

Let’s get started. 

Lake Erie Season Fishing Guide [Each Species]

In general the best time of the year for overall fishing at Lake Erie is during the summer months. Late spring and early summer is when most of the fish will be active and willing to bite.The best overall month to fish Lake Erie is in July. In July the walleye will still be active and the bass, perch, salmon, and steelhead are in prime seasons. 

The best time of day to go fishing on Lake Erie is in the early morning and late evening in the summer. During these periods of low light fish will become more aggressive and easier to catch. On colder parts of the year the afternoons are often the best time to Fish Lake Erie. 

Here is a quick breakdown of what the best time of year and day is to fish for each species at Lake Erie. 

SpeciesBest Time of Year to FishBest Time of Day to Fish
WalleyeMay through JulyEarly morning and late evening
Trout (Steelhead, Browns, Lake Trout)March through April,Afternoons & Early morning and late evening
Salmon (Coho)August through OctoberEarly morning and late evening
Smallmouth BassAugust through OctoberEarly morning and late evening
PerchApril/May & August through OctoberEarly morning and late evening

Lake Erie Seasonal Fishing Breakdown


One of the best times of the year to fish Lake Erie is during the spring. Fish will leave their winter homes and head shallow to feed and some will spawn during the spring as well. Some of the biggest Walleye’s and Smallmouth Bass are caught during the spring. If you are looking for a true trophy fish the spring gives you the best chance at landing a fish of a lifetime.

In general the best time to fish Lake Erie in the spring is on warm days and afternoon when the sun has a chance to bring life to the lake. During the wildlife around the lake will wake up and the fish tend to be more active during the warmer days. 


The summer is by far the most popular time for fishing on Lake Erie. The weather is warm, the fish are active and productive fishing days are common on most summer days.

The best time of the day to fish Lake Erie is in the early morning or late in the day around dusk. Night fishing can also be a great opportunity to catch some big fish during the summer as well. You’ll get away from the crowds, heat and the fishing can be really good. 

Another great time to fish Lake Erie is on days that are overcast. These typically are before or after a storm and are often neglected by anglers. If see a cloudy day in the forecast with mild wind in the summer go fishing! This combination can be great for fishing.

When temperatures are at their peek most of the fish such as Walleye, Trout and Salmon can be found off shore in deeper cooler waters. This time of year it helps a ton to have and understand your fishing electronics. These tools will allow you to quickly locate and target off shore fish in deep water. 


Fall fishing on Lake Erie can be super productive and is one of the best time of the year to catch numbers. Walleye will typically remain offshore through October when the start to move to shallower water. Smallmouth Bass will also leave their summer time haunts and head to the backs of coves and feed up as they prepare for the winter. 

Trolling for Trout and Salmon around the mouths of the tributaries is a popular and effective way to catch them in September and October as they prepare to make their runs in the mouth of the creeks. 

The best time of day to fish Lake Erie in the fall is in the early morning and the few hours before it gets dark. These low light conditions can be advantageous to anglers and make fishing much easier. 


While some anglers hang up their rods and gear for the year others are beaming with exciting because they know when it’s winter it’s ice fishing time. Ice fishing is a big deal on Lake Erie and can be a great time of year to target perch and other species.

During the winter the best time to fish Lake Erie is during the afternoon hours. Fish are often more active and the lake is much easier to navigate and fish on warmer days. Cold weather and snowstorms do present some challenges to anglers but the fishing can be well worth the effort during the colder months. If you do decide to go ice-fishing on Lake Erie make sure to do you research and prepare before you head out. 

Best Time to Fish Lake Erie [Complete Species Guide]

Now let’s take a closer look at each species and break down the different seasons and what kind of fishing you should expect during the different times of the year. 

Best Time to Fish for Walleye on Lake Erie

The best time to fish for Walleye on Lake Erie is during the summer months. The summer is considered to be the high season for Walleye and is probably your best chance to catch both size and numbers. With that being said the fishing can be great year round the spots and techniques will just change depending upon the season.  

Here is what you can expect fishing for Walleye in every season. 


In the early spring Walleye will spawn on Lake Erie. The Walleye spawn typically starts in February and runs through April. During the spawn the Walleye will be up shallow and feeding close to shore. Many charter captains say that Walleye fishing really picks up in April and is great all the way until November. 

The spring can be a great time to fish from shore or at night as the Walleye will be up up shallow and feed closer to the surface. If you do go fishing on Lake Erie in the spring make sure to come prepared with warm clothes. You never know what kind of weather you are going to get. 


The best time to fish for Walleye at Lake Erie is during July and the other summer months. The peak season for Walleye is during the heat of the summer. As the water warms and weather stabilizes the Walleye will move into deeper waters to find relief from the heat. 

During the warmest time of the year, you’ll see a lot of charter boats on the lake, and even more excited anglers battling their prey on light tackle. Walleye set out offshore after spawning and can settle up to several miles from land. Casting and trolling with planer boards will reward you with trophy sized catches at the end of the day.

Whether you’re in it for a new personal record, or you’d just like to stock up on delicious filets, Lake Erie is a great place to fish in the summer. This hot fishing will continue all through September and into October depending upon the weather conditions. 


As temperatures cool down in the fall, Walleye will return to shallow water much like in the spring. September and October are your best months to go fishing for Walleye in the fall. You can still have some great fishing days in the fall but it can be more hit and miss. That’s why it’s important to have a good guide that can get you dialed in. On Lake Erie the Canadian waters is a popular area to target. If you do head that way make sure to bring your passport. 


Walleye fishing at Lake Erie is good all year round. That even includes the coldest months of the year when the lake is frozen. Most anglers put away their fishing gear for the year, but this can be a big mistake. The winter on Lake Erie just means its ice-fishing time. 

Before you hit the ice for some great Walleye fishing remember it’s important to be safe. There are ice fishing guides who can help you find the best and safest spots out there. The waters between the islands are usually your safest bet. Make sure that the ice is thick enough to drill holes, always go out with someone, and remember to dress warm. It can get super cold on Lake Erie.

Best Time to Fish For Trout & Salmon

Steelhead, Salmon and Brown Trout can all be found and caught at Lake Erie. Steelhead are by far the most predominate and a more frequently stocked. Coho Salmon and Brown Trout are stocke as well be in far few numbers. Lake Trout are aslo found and Lake Erie and are a native fish. They dont’ grow as fast as Salmon or Steelhead but they are some giant fish swimming around Lake Erie. 

Tout and Salmon can be caught year round at Lake Erie, however the best and most productive time to fish for trout and Salmon is March and April. During this time of year these fish will be actively feeding, easier to catch, and you’ll have a chance landing some trophy sized fish. 

To help you know what to expect fishing for Steelhead and Salmon on Lake Erie here is a seasonal breakdown. 


One of the most popular times of the year to target Trout and Salmon is during the Spring. March and Arpil are typically some of the most productive months but the fishing is pretty solid all through out the spring. 

In April and May, the newborn Salmon run downstream to the Lake. They begin ascending tributary streams later in summer and early in autumn.

In the spring Trout and Salmon will often be found in shallow water and around the Lake Erie tributaries. Standard Trout and Salmon fishing techniques work really well during this time of year.  

Weather can change fast at Laker Erie so it’s important to come prepared and stay especially during the colder months of the year. 


When temperatures are at their highest they will be for the year Trout and Salmon will move offshore and seek the relief of deep cooler water. This time of year it helps a ton to have and understand your fishing electronics. These tools will allow you to quickly locate and target off shore fish in deep water. 


The fall time is one of my favorite season to go fishing on Lake Erie. Steelhead start migrating into the rivers around the Lake in September. For this reason anglers will target Trout near the tributaries of Lake Erie or go up river. Fly fishing is a popular and effectively way to catch Trout this time of year. 


At Lake Erie ice fishing for Trout can be an exiting time and add some variety to your fishing. During the winter the lake is covered with ice. Ice fishing at Lake Erie starts around mid-December and goes through March. With peak ice fishing season being in January. 

Trout will most likely be found in deeper water this time of year. If you do go ice-fishing just make sure to be careful. Anglers are stranded every year on Lake Erie so it’s important to go with someone that has experience and to come prepared. 

Best Time to Catch Smallmouth Bass On Lake Erie

Lake Erie is often regarded as one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the world. Although you can catch Smallmouth year-round at this massive lake there are certain times of the year where the fishing can be lights out. 

The best time to fish for Smallmouth Bass on Lake Erier is the end of July through October. During this time of the year anglers can expect to catch Smallmouth in the 3-5 lb. range on a consistent basis. Another great opportunity to catch Smallmouth Bass on Lake Erie is during the pre-spawn which typically happens in March & April. Many bass fishermen consider the pre- spawn as trophy hunting season and might just be your chance to catch a fish of a lifetime. 

With all this being said Smallmouth bass can be caught year round at Lake Erie as long as you adapt their seasonal patterns, fish the right areas with the proper techniques. 

Here is what you can expect fishing for Smallmouth Bass during each part of the year. 


The Smallouthmouth Bass fishing season really kicks late March and early April. One of the best baits to throw during the early spring when water temperatures are around 40 degrees is a blade bait or jigging spoon. As the water starts to warm up a bit suspended jerkbaits like the Megabass vision 110 can be super effective. Long pauses are key when its still cold outside. As water temperatures continue to rise you can be more aggressive with your jerkbaits and start to throw more reactive style lures. 

The pre-spawn happens on Lake Erie for Smallmouth around April and will last unit the fish move up and spawn. The time of year is a great opportunity to catch a trophy sized fish. The bass will be aggressively feeding as they prepare for the spawn and will often weigh the most during this time of the year then any other. Reaction style lures like jerkbaits, crankbaits, swimbaits, spinnerbaits can all be great ways to cover water and catch aggressive bass during the spring. 

When water temperatures start to reach above 50 degrees in the spring, Smallmouth move from deep-water and will start making their way to spawning areas within the lake. At Lake Erie Smallmouth usuall spawn in May when water temperature are between 55 and 65 degrees. 

During the spawn you can typically find fish on beds 4 to 20 feet deep depending upon the water clarity and area. If you do catch a spawning bass its important to care for it and get it back in the water as soon as possible. 

After the spawn Smallmouth will move back out to deeper or water or head for shallow structure to rest and recover from spawning activities. During this time they also start to transition into their summer time seasonal pattern. 


The bass fishing at Lake Erie continues to be strong in the summer is arguably one of the most popular times of the year to target smallies. Many anglers will travel from afar to experience the trophy sized Smallmouth Lake Erie has to offer. 

The best time to fish for Smallmouth Bass on Lake Erie in the summer is early in the morning and in the late evening. During these low light periods bass will be more active and much more likely to bite. Also keep an eye out for cloudy and windy days as these are also a great time catch Smallmouth during the summer. 

As things heat up in the middle of the summer Smallmouth will be found in deep water often in 50 feet or more with 20 to 35 feet being the best depth to start fishing. Crankbaits, drop shot, ned rigs, tubes and my favorite topwater lures can all be effective during the summer months. 


During the fall Smallmouth will move back to the same locations where you found them in the spring. The smallmouth head to the backs of creeks and coves looking to feed heavily as they prepare for the long winter ahead. If you time it right you can experience some incredibly aggressive and hungry smallmouth looking to strike at anything that comes their way. Baitfish are key this time of year. If you can locate a school of baitfish you’ll be in a prime area to catch some big smallmouth.


Most anglers stop targeting bass on Lake Erie when the lake freezes over. Smallmouth will become more lethargic and wont’ be as aggressive during the winter months. This doesn’t mean you can’t target and catch them. It just means you’ll have to do it through the ice with ice fishing gear and techniques. 

Best Time to Catch Perch On Lake Erie

One of the easiest and most family friendly fish to target on Lake Erie is Yellow Perch. They are abundant, easy to catch both from a boat and on shore and are overall a fun species to fish for. 

While Perch can be caught pretty much any time of the year, the best time to fish for them on Lake Erie is during the late summer and early fall. You can easily fill your cooler full during this time of year. 

Here is what you can expect fishing for Perch during each part of the year. 


Yellow Perch fishing is excellent in the spring. The spring fishing starts right after the ice leaves the lake. However, the best time to fish for Yellow Perch in the the spring is during April and May. Large schools of Perch can be found up shallow and can be targeted from a boat or from shore. 


In the summer tournament fishing for Yellow Perch on Lake Erie kicks off. The summer can be a fun and productive time to targe these tasty fish. One of the most popular baits anglers us to catch Perch on Lake Erie is Emerald Shiners. They are commonly found in nearby bait stores and anglers will load up on them by the dozens as they head out for a fishing trip. 


Winter only means on thing on Lake Erie, it’s ice-fishing time. One of the most popular species to target in the winter is Yellow Perch. Traditional ice-fishing tactics work extremely well and anglers can enjoy some fast fishing. 

Just be careful out there weather conditions change rapidly and if you are not careful you might run into some trouble. Every year, inexperienced anglers are rescued from Lake Erie when they go adrift while ice fishing. If you don’t have experience ice-fishing on Lake Erie i’d recommend hiring an experience guide who knows proper ice-fishing safety. 

Best Lake Erie Fishing Charters

If you haven’t had the experience of fishing on Lake Erie or simply want to have a relaxing and stress free day out on the water then I’d recommend hiring a guide or charter. 

When you are hiring a guide, you aren’t just playing for a day of fishing, but are also hiring them for their experience and expertise. The guides on Lake Erie have put in the time to understand exactly what the fish are eating, where they are located and how to catch them. Hiring a guide or charter drastically increases your chances of catching fish and is much more relaxing and easy.

Here are some of the best fishing charters on Lake Erie.

Fishing CharterLocation
Tail Chaser Fishing Charters Lakeside Marblehead, OH
Vitamin Sea Fishing ChartersPort Clinton, OH
Pacifictime SportfishingLampe Marina, Erie, PA
Irish Eyes Sportfishing ChartersLorain, OH 44052
Show Up & Fish ChartersMonroe, MI

If you do decide to hire a charter make sure to check out this resource: Lake Erie Walleye Fishing Charters [Tips & Recommendations]. So you’ll know exactly what to look for and how to book the right charter for your trip. 

Other Lake Erie Fishing Resources

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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