Maumee River fishery not just a spring thing

Ben Carter, 13, holds a 2.1-pound white bass he caught while fishing on the Maumee Rive downtown. Ben and his father, Chris, caught 40 white bass in about an hour.
Ben Carter, 13, holds a 2.1-pound white bass he caught while fishing on the Maumee Rive downtown. Ben and his father, Chris, caught 40 white bass in about an hour.

There’s a 13-year-old fisherman from St. Joseph’s school in Maumee who seems to know something about his river that thousands of other anglers have either missed, or foolishly allowed to pass them by.

Those legions of fishermen who crowd into the Maumee each spring for the walleye and white bass runs, often standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the foulest of weather, have been absent for months now, and that puzzles young Ben Carter. This kid finds fish all over the place on the Maumee, especially throughout the summer months when the other anglers seem to be long gone.

Ben and his dad Chris work the Maumee, from the fast water upstream all the way to the open lake, and they encounter a real who’s-who list of Ohio gamefish — largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, yellow perch, walleye, white bass, pike, and more.

On a recent outing, the pair took 40 white bass in about an hour, casting twister tails. One of these fish cleared 2 pounds, and Ben knows now that a 2-pound white bass on lightweight gear is an experience any angler will remember.

“There are some really nice fish in the Maumee River, and there are fish all over the place in quantities that are unbelievable,” Chris Carter said. “We’re never disappointed by what we find on the river, but a lot of times, it’s just us. We don’t understand why a lot of other people aren’t taking advantage of this.”

The Carters have found good numbers of crappie under the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge, they’ve located bass feeding on baitfish near the culverts that drain the casino property, and they’ve tracked down perch, pike, and a few largemouths near the Erie Street Market, a little ways up Swan Creek from where it drains into the Maumee.

“It’s amazing, but we’re hearing trucks rumble by, horns blaring, and we’re catching fish right in the middle of all that,” the elder Carter said.

The summer river formula for the fishing Carters is to find a place where there is some movement in the water, and don’t hesitate to check out every nook and cranny along the waterway.

“There are so many isolated areas to catch anything you want, so every cove or bay or grassy area is worth a look,” Chris Carter said. “I am so lucky that Ben nudged me to go explore the river and not always fish the same place, like so many guys do. He really educated me on how to use the whole river and go find these fish.”

Jann’s Netcraft, a Toledo-area tackle supplier with roots that go back more than 70 years, sends its gear to anglers all over the continent, but also maintains a finger on the pulse of the local fishing options. Bob Barnhart from Netcraft said the Maumee River remains a summer angling gold mine that seldom draws a real crowd.

“The spring runs get a lot of attention and attract huge numbers of fishermen, but there are a few guys who go down there all throughout the year and do very well,” Barnhart said. “Outside of the walleye and white bass runs, the Maumee River fishery seems to be one of the best kept secrets in Ohio.”

Barnhart said smallmouth bass pushing 5 pounds, massive catfish, along with strong resident populations of crappie and largemouth bass make the stretches of the Maumee below the Providence Dam a fisherman’s bonanza.

“There’s such an opportunity here, if people are just willing to adjust their techniques and their tackle a little bit,” he said. “Look for moving water, and don’t be afraid to throw top-water baits or a variety of spinners out there. A diversity of tackle allows you to try different depths and different sections of the river.”

Besides its healthy roster of resident fish, Barnhart said the Maumee occasionally serves up the unusual or the exotic, since marauding steelhead and Chinook salmon show up now and then, and a huge hybrid striper was once pulled from the water below the dam.

“It’s not a fluke to go down to the Maumee in the middle of the summer and do very well,” he said. “The fish are there, but a lot of times there’s just not that many fishermen,” Barnhart said.

The Carters fish other rivers in the area along with Lake Erie, but the success they’ve had on the Maumee makes it tough to pack up the boat and go elsewhere.

“It’s so close that you don’t need a full day just to go fishing, and there’s nothing quite like fishing right there with the downtown all around you,” Chris Carter said. “It’s probably the best time my son and I have together. It seems like everything else is kind of rushed, but we’re out there on the river, relaxed, and catching fish. I don’t think it can get much better than that.”

FISHING REPORT: Maumee Tackle reports that as the high water from last week’s storm recedes, the fishing on the river is improving. Some big flathead catfish are being taken near the Providence Dam on shrimp and cutbait, while other anglers are connecting with smallmouth and largemouth bass and saugeyes in the deeper pools on the river. The fishing in the downtown area has been good, with white bass, white perch, sheepshead, and crappie joining catfish as part of the catch. Out on Lake Erie, the largemouth bass fishery has been outstanding recently, according to Jann’s Netcraft, with fish being taken along harbor and marina breakwalls with crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

The best smallmouth fishing on the lake has been around South Bass Island, and off the deeper reef areas in Canadian waters, with drop-shot rigs with small worms and minnows, along with tube jigs, producing fish.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife reports that walleye fishing in western Lake Erie has been good recently in the area between West Sister and Middle Sister islands, around Northwest Reef, and in the open water between Kelleys Island Shoal and the Canadian border.

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