Few fish have such a strong fan base as cool-water-loving walleye. The unofficial state fish of Ohio, walleye are targeted by anglers who chase these toothy predators year-round, in rivers and lakes, from boats and shore, and even through the ice. Walleye enthusiasts from across the region descend on Port Clinton every year for the annual walleye festival.
Lake Erie is the most biologically productive of all the Great Lakes, often producing more fish for human consumption than all the other Great Lakes combined. However, climate change now threatens this lake and the walleye it supports. Lake Erie water levels, already below average, could drop four to five feet by the end of this century, significantly altering shoreline habitat and decreasing water quality.
A warming climate is changing the world around the walleye. Environmental changes and extreme weather events are likely to result in more suitable water temperatures for invasive species, which could cause the number of walleye and native fish in Lake Erie to decline as their food sources are gobbled up by other fish.
In addition, changes in climate directly threaten treasured wildlife-associated pastimes in Ohio, including fishing. In 2012, Ohio had nearly 800,000 licensed anglers, including 104,000 non-Ohio residents who came to the state to fish. Fishing is not just a recreational pastime; it is also a major contributor to the Ohio economy.
This summer, the National Wildlife Federation in Ohio will focus on raising awareness of the negative effects of climate change on walleye. Our volunteers and partners will be distributing information and asking for support from anglers, charter boat captains, and others in the state who depend most on walleye for sport and economic livelihood.