Fishing can go from difficult to dangerous in rush of water

Andy Borton of Wauseon fishes the Maumee River at Side Cut Metropark in Maumee. Swift currents make wading treacherous; debris interferes near shore.
Andy Borton of Wauseon fishes the Maumee River at Side Cut Metropark in Maumee. Swift currents make wading treacherous; debris interferes near shore.

High water, fast water, and dirty water do not play a cooperative role in creating ideal fishing conditions. Those factors are in place on the Maumee River, and working to the contrary, making things difficult, and often dangerous.

If this were the optimum spring, we would see walleye fishermen in the Maumee stacked shoulder-to-shoulder like the front line in a phalanx formation as they cashed in on the peak of the spawning run. These columns of anglers would string out by the hundreds along the Buttonwood access, in front of Fort Meigs, along the Towpath, and at the boat launch at Orleans Park.

There also would be a good-sized flotilla of small boats plying the waters from the I-475 bridge downstream to below Audubon Island. Out-of-state license plates would not be an uncommon sight in the parking lots along the river.

But the last couple of weeks have presented far less than a model situation for anglers wanting to take advantage of the walleye spawning run. Very heavy rains throughout the Maumee Watershed, from Fort Wayne to the bay, have left the river gorged with water and made it virtually unfishable in many of the most popular areas.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reported Thursday the high water, poor clarity, and generally slow fishing had left very few fishermen attempting to work the Maumee, and the ODNR urged “extreme caution” be exercised by those willing to brave the cold, wind, rain, and occasional hail to cast into the wild and roily blast of water surging down the river.

Dennis Bryant of ZAP Custom Lure Co., who most days during the run sets up a mobile tackle shop along the popular Side Cut Park fishing area, said the angling recently has been tough, at best.

“I really wish I could say differently, but the walleye fishing is still awfully slow, everywhere on the river,” Bryant reported. “The high, fast, and muddy water, with far too many cold nights causing the water temperatures to drop, seems to have given the walleye a good case of lockjaw.”

Bryant said most of the fish caught during this prolonged stretch of high water have been taken by boaters who have worked the deep-water channels around and below Audubon Island.

Courageous (or careless) bank fishermen and their comrades in waders have picked up a few fish, but their success has been very limited, sporadic, and at scattered sites. Bryant added that the walleye being caught are mostly smaller males, those usually present in significant numbers in a post-spawn period.

The back channel around Bluegrass Island, which occasionally produces decent catches of male walleye in moderately high water, has served up only shad, suckers, sheepshead, and carp, and a lone trophy smallmouth in the 5-pounds-plus category.

Bryant said anglers have caught a few white bass in the Maumee, likely the initial participants in that large spawning run, which follows the walleye movement each spring.

Gary Lowry at Maumee Tackle also included instances of a few white bass being caught in his daily online fishing update. Lowry has received mixed reports from anglers, with a few coaxing a limit from the stirred-up river. He expects improving weather conditions to get the river water, which Lowry measured at 48 degrees on Thursday, back in a warming trend.

The ODNR reports that the Sandusky River in Fremont was at 51 degrees Thursday, with the water level slightly high and the clarity poor. Low numbers of anglers braved the elements and the conditions and the walleye fishing were very slow, with a few white bass being picked up in the downtown fishing areas.

Out on Lake Erie, Capt. Ross Robertson reported that lots of wind and generally lousy weather had created more lost days than fishing days of late, and he was encountering challenging fishing when he was able to get out on the lake.

“The bite has been fairly tough, requiring us to do everything exactly right to get them,” Robertson said earlier this week.

Robertson said the lake was so stirred up, an area that was productive at one point could be turned into a “mud pit” a short while later. He has been using satellite photos to locate cleaner water, but he is finding the fish are scattered throughout the western basin.

“One day we fished right in front of the Maumee River, and then at Kelleys Island the next day,” he said. “The fish are literally all over right now, since a lot of the fish have spawned out and are on the move.”

YOUTH FISHING: Maumee Bay State Park will host a youth fishing event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 4, with bait and instruction provided. The event takes place at the pond at the park, about 10 minutes east of Toledo off Cedar Point Road.

FREE FISHING/OHIO: The annual Free Fishing Days in Ohio will be May 4-5. Ohio residents can fish any of the state’s public waters without a fishing license on those two days.

TOURNAMENT:MAUMEE-PERRYSBURG: The Maumee-Perrysburg fishing tournament has been moved from this weekend to May 4 because of the dangerous high-water conditions on the river.

The sign-up period for the event will continue until May 2.

For more information, contact Rachel Johnson at Perrysburg Schools at 419-874-9131, extension 2156.

Contact Blade Outdoors Editor Matt Markey at: or 419-724-6068 .