Thursday, May 24, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Matt Markey

Anglers get caught up in so many fishing options

It’s hard not to put the spotlight on a nine-pound walleye pulled from the Maumee River, or an oversized cooler dragged up the bank of the Sandusky River, stuffed with more than 100 white bass.

That’s what the spring spawning runs of these two species will yield repeatedly, and on an annual basis, so the attention is well-deserved.

But with mid-May in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan comes the real anglers’ dilemma — where to go, and what to fish for, when there are just so many options.

First, the usual headliners. The white bass run appears to be flirting with super-charged status on the Sandusky River in Fremont. The water in this stream warms up faster than that in the Maumee, so the walleye run ends sooner and the white bass show up earlier.

“They’ve been catching them like the old days, with a lot of big, fat females coming in,” said Bernie Whitt of Anglers Supply, a block or so from the heart of the action downtown. “They’ve been really hitting them — guys in waders, fishing from boats, and fishing from shore. When the fish are in here this thick, it doesn’t seem to matter much where you are.”

The preferred rig for the white bass run calls for lightweight tackle, jig heads of one-sixteenth of an ounce, and twister tails in white and chartreuse. Bobber fishermen are doing well with hair jigs and shiner minnows fished about 3 feet down, said Whitt, whose shop has seen scores of fishermen from the Cleveland area come in to take advantage of the run.

Gary Lowry at Maumee Tackle said that although anglers are picking up good numbers of white bass on the Maumee River using anything from jigs to spinners to small crankbaits, he expects the fishing will improve headed into the weekend.

“We’re probably in the middle of the white bass run, but I think the best is yet to come, because we’re not seeing a lot of females yet,” he said. “Everything is a little behind last year, since it was so warm so early last year. This is more like a normal year, and I think a lot of these fish are staged out in the bay and ready to make the move up the river.”

Lowry said he is still seeing a few walleye come from the river, but the mixed bag fishermen are finding in the Maumee is the real story.

“They’re catching more channel cats than they know what to do with right now, and there’s been a few smallmouths in the four to five pound range, with a whole lot of smaller ones at the same time,” Lowry said. “Some guys are taking white perch by fishing night crawlers on the bottom, and there are even some saugeye being caught.”

Lowry said the river was close to “summer level” on Thursday, and he believes a fresh push of water from a rain event would really ignite the bite.

Things have been a little more unpredictable on Lake Erie, because the wind has made fishing difficult or nearly impossible some days. Pro guide Ross Robertson has worked around the Bass Islands recently and confronted that challenge.

“The bite is as tough as I’ve seen it at this time of year,” Robertson said. “This is supposed to be the ‘easy’ time of year to catch them, but I know very few people who have been getting limits. Some guys do OK one day, and then crash and burn the next.”

Robertson has been able to coax some limits from the waters of Erie, trolling spinners at very slow speeds. He has found a mix of small to midsized males, plus a few giant postspawn females, locked in a very small portion of the water column.

Brian Baker at Butch & Denny’s Bait Shop on Corduroy Road in Curtice said when the winds permit them to do so, some anglers have been finding cooperative walleyes north of A-can and B-can, using harnesses or trolling with spoons.

The lakes in Michigan’s Irish Hills region are producing decent numbers of bluegills and sunfish, with a few crappies mixed in. Small jigs tipped with wax worms or colored grubs have worked well.

Ambitious anglers are finding lots of cooperative panfish around the harbors and marinas throughout the region, as well as in the near-shore waters of area reservoirs.

Throughout much of the year, fishing the larger reservoirs can be tough sledding, because many of them are like a large cake pan filled with water and lack significant structure to hold fish. But in mid to late spring a lot of the fish that roam most of the year are clustered close to shore, and ready to take a run at any live bait.

In recent days, the Maumee River in downtown Toledo has yielded nice catches of crappies and a mixed bag of yellow and white perch, white bass, sunfish and sheepshead, with night anglers more likely to hook up with catfish and bullheads.

Toledoan Tom Hall tied into a monster cat recently while fishing the waters off Promenade Park in the wee hours of the morning. After a 20-minute battle, Hall landed a 45-pound flathead cat that stretched to 42 inches. Hall, a faithful fisherman for the last eight years, used a baited Carolina rig weighted with a two-ounce sinker to entice the flathead.

On yet another front, the state has stocked close to 100,000 rainbow trout in 63 public lakes and ponds in Ohio. Stockings occurred over the last six weeks at White Star quarry in Sandusky County; Delta Reservoir No. 2 in Fulton County; Pearson Metropark pond, Lake Olander, and Swanton Waterworks Reservoir in Lucas County, and Lake Lamberjack in Fostoria and Giertz Lake in Hancock County.

These trout, raised at state fish hatcheries operated by the Division of Wildlife, are from 10 to 13 inches long at the time of release and will bite readily on a variety of baits.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: or 419-724-6068.

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