Can't speak for Erie but in the ocean its not the size of the waves its the frequency that matters. I'd take an 18ft boat in 10 ft seas with a 40 second period before I went out in 3-4 ft 4 seconds apart.
I'd have to imagine Erie is similar. Maybe being shallower Erie stacks up more.
Lake Erie is very dangerous. I started boating on it at a very young age and got comfortable with it very early. I used a `13 Boston Whaler for years in some very rough water but you have to really know what you are doing. Reading that lake and it`s waves are very vital. I love tri-hauls for their stability but they will beat you silly. Lake Erie gets rough very fast. It can go from flat to 3-4 footers or more in minutes. The waves are very close together. If you don`t have a lot of experience with Lake Erie I would recommend a deep v 16 or bigger and still be careful. My last boat was a `17 Whaler.
Ha s never been on Erie in my boat yet....... 17 foot 4-Winns fiberglass deep V. It's a 115 hp outboard and has VHF marine radio and GPS. Runs about 40 knots all out.
A good friend is an Erie charter captain. I showed him what I have and he said it would EASILY do Erie....... IF....... I watch the marine forecast and pick a good day, then listen to NOAA while on the water and if the waves were 1's and 2's but now they're 2's and 3's........ GET OFF !!!
He said if you just use your head and always err on the side of caution, you'll be good.
You can do Erie in a kayak, a couple miles off shore, if you pick your days. That being said, I wouldn't run to the Canadian line in a 18-20' boat even on a great day. Summer pop up storms on Erie are no joke and can land you in big trouble, real quick.
A good, deep 19-20' Deep V that you can enclose the bow off in rough weather (canvas over the open bow, etc.) would be good for the majority of your fishing needs. Personally, if I bought an Erie boat again, I'd want to make sure I could maximize my fishing days so I'd go with a min. 23-24' hard top or WA with a self bailing cockpit and if it was an OB, make sure there is NOT a cut out in the transom. Transom has to be fully enclosed for me to be comfy. I have been out on Erie trolling in our old 24' skiff craft hard top in 3-5's and a following sea and had some sneaky whitecappers almost break over the transom.
Learning to operate your boat in heavy seas is key too. No matter how safe you are and how well you pick your days, if you fish Erie enough, you WILL get caught out in some uncomfortable weather.
I started on Erie with a 17 aluminum deep v and now have an 18 fiberglass and can do fine in any weather that I WANT TO FISH. That is the secret to Erie is what do you want to fish and you have to figure you will get caught once in waves bigger than you want. I have a ranger 1850 with a Yamaha 150 and i can come off in 5-6 foot waves just fine. I don't fish over 2-3 foot waves. I had a 24 walk around with twin 150's and used the same rules because once over 3 foot wave the ride in anything but a freighter is not fun.
Erie danger comes in many ways like old motors or even old boats. A buddy was invited out 2 years ago out of walnut on a 26' boat. He didn't go and glad he didn't because the transom dropped off 18 miles from shore. Luckily a charter spotted them he was the only boat around to pull the 3 guys from the lake. I prefer new equipment and make sure you have proper safety gear. I wouldn't change a thing I love my ranger I can take the kids tubing and skiing on Saturday and fish walleye in any lake on Sunday. I will have the 2050 in the next 5 years not for the extra 2 feet it would be for the extra 150hp (gotta love the speed).
Lake Erie is no joke! Fish my whole life around or on the lake. 2yrs. ago I went over board of the point in 3 to 4 foot waves. We just finish up fishing, I was leaning over the stern when a 4 footer hit the side. Just that quick I was under water. I came up like a great white just to see the boat 15 feet away from me and moving farther away.I start to swim towards the boat and made it! I grabbed the back side but had no strength to pull my self up.Sooo I straddle the out drive,Looked up asked my buddy for a little help. The look on his face I'll never forget, He didn't even no I went in! Angles that day where on my side. When the waves hit 3 feet or more life jacket is on! Getting to old for all this excitement. But nothing like my other bud & his friend, Lost for 3 days of the shores in Harborcreek,They made it! One [censored] of storm kick in.Chopper found them still clinging on the raft! This happen 1969 when they came home on leave,from the NAVY! I can go on and on about Lake Erie. In 1980's they had a pro bass tournament the lake raised it's ugliness and sank 4 bass boats real quick! Still,Lake Erie is the most pleasing,beautiful place to be on hot sunning day. 19'or bigger.Deep V