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Published: Friday, 3/16/2012

COMMENTARY

Rows of rods, wading anglers signal the run

Walleye fishermen using floating jig heads

BY MATT MARKEY
OUTDOORS

That rumbling sound you heard this week was the cavalry coming over the river bank and charging down to the water's edge. They proceeded out into the swift-moving, mocha-tinged waterway with a little less noise but still unbridled zeal.

When you combine the spring migration of thousands of spawning walleyes with a string of 70-degree days, the fishermen react as if Paul Revere had charged down River Road sounding the clarion call for all anglers to report to the water immediately.

Gary Lowry at Maumee Bait and Tackle stated the river was at 581 feet above sea level Thursday, which he described as "perfect" for allowing anglers to wade out to Blue Grass Island and fish the main river channel, from opposite Buttonwood Access.

"The fishermen can wade just about anywhere, so people are spread out," Lowry said. "That's a good thing because with this very warm weather we are seeing huge crowds down at the river."

Anglers are cautioned that conditions can quickly change because of the precipitation upstream, so the Maumee has a tendency to yo-yo -- up and down -- throughout the run.

Thursday's report indicated anglers were taking walleye from the boat launch area near Ewing Island in Perrysburg upstream to the end of Jerome Road. That would include the area around Fort Meigs, Buttonwood, Side Cut, The Flats near the I-475 bridge, and the rapids just upriver.

Mike Wilkerson, fish management supervisor for the Division of Wildlife's Findlay office said that section of the Maumee offers the spawning walleye from Lake Erie exactly what they are looking for.

"There is a cobbled, gravel substrate present throughout that entire stretch, which is perfect for the females to drop their eggs, so the walleye will concentrate in those areas," Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said the male walleyes will patrol those shallow, gravelly and rocky regions throughout most of the day, while the larger females are believed to hold in deeper water, move into the shallow areas to drop their eggs, and then retreat. For this reason, only 1 to 3 percent of the fish harvested from the rivers are females, he said.

On the Sandusky River in Fremont, the prime walleye fishing area is in the heart of town, from Roger Young Park downstream under Hayes Avenue and State Street, past Brady's Island and out toward the public boat launch.

Anglers Supply in Fremont reported Thursday that the river was murky and running about a half-foot high. There were sporadic reports of four-fish limits but in general the fishing was decent.

John Jokinen at Jann's Netcraft in Maumee, a worldwide supplier of fishing tackle equipment, said more and more of the walleye run fishermen have moved away from the traditional lead-headed jigs and are using floating jig heads that trail behind an egg sinker or an inline sinker to reduce snags and put the lure just off the bottom, where the walleye tend to congregate.

The leader that trails the weight and holds the floating jig head can be anywhere from 30 to 60 inches in length, with the jig head tipped with a colorful swirl-tailed grub or twister tail. Wilkerson said the floating rigs make sense on a couple of levels.

"First, the fishermen won't be losing as many rigs since they are keeping the hook up out of the rocks with the floating head, and secondly, if rigged properly, they will put the lure right in the fish's face, since these fish tend to hug near the bottom."

Wilkerson said the extended run of warm weather has pushed the historical time line on the walleye run forward about a week or so. The special walleye run rules for the Maumee and Sandusky rivers are in place until April 30.

Those rules include permitting fishing only between sunrise and sunset in specified areas, and prohibiting the use of treble hooks. Anglers may use only single hooks no larger than one inch from shank to point. Fishermen may keep only fish that are hooked inside the mouth and all snagged fish must be released immediately.

3-D Archery event

Straightened Arrows Inc., a faith-based nonprofit organization, will hold a 30-target 3-D archery event on March 24 at the Defiance County Fish and Game Club, at 6872 St. Rt. 15 across from the Oxbow Wildlife Area. Adults accompanied by a child under 18 can participate at no cost, as can children under age 18. Registration begins at 8 a.m., and the event is sponsored by the Bryan VFW. Information is available at www.straightenedarrows.org or by calling Allan Hansford at 419-439-3155.

Contact Blade Outdoors Editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068



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