Although the reproductive behavior of yellow perch Perca flavescens has been well documented in small systems, relatively little is known about the spawning preferences of yellow perch in large systems, such as the Laurentian Great Lakes. During 2006 and 2007, we compared the presence and abundance adult yellow perch during the spring spawning season with environmental
variables in the western basin of Lake Erie. We also estimated the timing of yellow perch spawning by comparing the relative abundance of gravid and spent females collected in our trawls and then comparing the proportion of gravid females with environmental conditions at our sampling sites. Overall, the probability of catching adult yellow perch and the catch per unit effort increased with increasing bottom temperatures in the spring, whereas the probability of catching gravid females increased with increasing Secchi depth. However, the relationships between our catch metrics and environmental variables were not consistent across years, possibly as a result of the very strong 2003 year-class, which became first-year spawners in 2006. We also documented that yellow perch spawning occurred when bottom temperatures were between 11◦C and 15◦C in the western basin; these temperatures were reached on different dates in different parts of the basin and in different years. Thus, we suggest that management agencies consider basing the start of the commercial fishing season on prevailing bottom temperatures rather than using a set date across years and sites.