The commercial fishery for walleyes (Stizostedion vitreum vitreum) in Lake Erie virtually collapsed in the late 1950's. The extreme decline in production was attributed primarily to a succession of weak year-classes, caused by habitat deterioration (increased water temperature, enrichment, and pollution) in western Lake Erie. Unusually high fishing intensity and high yields of walleyes in the mid-1950's contributed to the collapse.
Annual lakewide production of walleyes dropped from a record high of 15 million lb in 1956 to a record low of 717,000 lb in 1962. Canadian catches exceeded those of the United States only during the high production years of 1956-58; U.S. fishermen took 71% of the total catch in 1915-62.
On the basis of the numbers of fish of the various year-classes in the fall trapnet samples at Sandusky, Ohio, in 1943-62, all but one of the 1942-52 year-classes were above average strength, and all but one of the 1953-61 year-classes were below average. Fish of the 1953-61 year-classes grew much faster than those of the 1942-52 year-classes. The strong 1948 year-class was followed by a series of progressively weaker year-classes until 1958; year-class strength remained low through 1962.
Additional publication details
Walleye fishery of Lake Erie in 1943-62 with emphasis on contributions of the 1942-61 year-classes