When the masses of anglers hit the Maumee and Sandusky rivers each spring to fish for walleyes during the spawning run, their tackle of choice is quite varied. You will see everything from super stout surf rods to dainty ultra-lights, with some guys pounding the water with one-ounce lead head jigs, and a few attempting to finesse their way to a limit with the tiniest amount of weight.
As is often the case, the best tools for fishing the run are found somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and are more practical, and more productive.
Most seasoned river run fishermen prefer a graphite rod that combines good backbone with a lot of sensitivity.
A medium-action rod is ideal is most situations, since it has the muscle to pull a big fish out of strong current, without sacrificing all of the action.
A quality spinning reel is necessary to stand up to the conditions, which can be sloppy and taxing, with the constant cast-and-retrieve work required during the spawning run. The reel should always be balanced in weight and size with the rod.
The fishing line options for working the river can be a bit dizzying, with monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided line all making a reasonable case for partnering with you during the run. Brian Miller, author of Fishing the Maumee River Walleye Run has likely researched this topic more than any other river regular, and he prefers the strength and zero stretch of braided line, but uses monofilament as the leader.
The business end of the line should most often hold the bait presentation that has been en vogue for some time now, the Carolina rig. While lead head jig were used nearly exclusively for decades, the floating jig heads have stated their case by keeping the hook out of the rocks, reducing snags, and giving the angler more leeway to work the strike zone.
A lot of river anglers use a swivel to attach a leader to the end of their line, and then tie a floating jig with a No. 2 size hook on the leader, with a three-inch twister tail slipped on the hook. They attach a weight to another piece of monofilament, or use some variation of an in-line sinker, to get the rig working along the bottom, where walleyes are usually holding.
The choices of colors for the jig head and the plastic tail are as endless as the hues in a rainbow. The best advice for the river run angler is to carry lots of options, and not be afraid to experiment if what you are using is not producing fish.
That ability to be flexible and modify your approach is deemed essential, according to author Brian Miller, the Swanton native who has studied the Maumee run for nearly three decades. Miller said many anglers err by being married to one tackle setup, regardless of the conditions.
“The biggest mistake [anglers make] is not changing the leader length and sinker weight,” Miller said.
“I suggest increasing the weight until you feel the bottom throughout the entire drift. In high water and heavy current, this could mean going all the way up to one ounce or more. That seams heavy, but it works to slow down the lure presentation.”
Miller also suggests that anglers begin the day with a long leader, and then shorten the length of the leader, adjust the weight used, and play with different colors until they find something that is producing.
Insulated chest waders, a wader belt, an inflatable life jacket, a good fishing vest, a long-handled landing net, and a walking stick are also necessary equipment for the safety conscious river angler.
RIVER RUN REMINDER: Fishing in the special walleye run restriction zones of the Maumee and Sandusky rivers is allowed only from sunrise to sunset through April 30. Anglers are permitted to use a single hook only, with a daily bag limit for walleye of four fish, and a minimum size limit of 15 inches.
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Partners for Clean Streams encourages everyone — especially anglers — to take part in the volunteer cleanup of the Maumee River on Saturday and Sunday. Trash bags will be passed out at the Rotary Pavilion at Side Cut Metropark both days, with volunteers urged to fill them and return to the pavilion. Prizes and raffles will be part of the event.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.