The recent warm spell and occasional light rain apparently have not harmed ice-fishing opportunities in the region, though lake and pond surfaces may be puddled and slushy.
“It hasn't hurt the ice any,” summed Pat Chrysler, a veteran ice guide at South Bass Island. He said that the island's fishing grounds remain solidly locked in and he estimated the ice there at 14 inches thick yesterday.
Chrysler noted that the warm spell has created some problems with fog, which interfered with angling parties flying to and from the island. He passed along a critical piece of equipment advice: “Never go on the ice without a compass.”
Walleye action was steady all day Sunday at the island, said Chrysler, whose parties landed about 75 fish. A few fish were being taken yesterday morning as well. The largest walleye he checked over the weekend was a 301/4–incher weighing 12 pounds, 13 ounces.
With predicted below-freezing temperatures for the rest of the week, conditions “should be OK,” the guide said. Best baits on the island have been No. 5 and No. 7 Jigging Rapalas in pearl patterns and orange, black/silver, and black/gold.
On the mainland some anglers are venturing off Catawba Island State Park northeast of Port Clinton, and off Camp Perry. Farther west, a 100-yard-wide lead has developed about a mile or so off Cooley Canal, according to Rick Ferguson at Al Szuch Live Bait on Corduroy Road.
Mainland anglers found good action Thursday and Friday, but slower activity over the weekend, possibly because of increased angler traffic and noise on the ice, Ferguson said.
Vern Zunk at Zunk's Bait on State Rt. 2 said that a few anglers have ventured off Metzger Marsh and taken a few walleye. Yellow perch action, he added, is fair off White's Landing on Sandusky Bay, among other bay locales. The Ohio Division of Wildlife also reports perch action off the Old Bay Bridge, and near the city ramp in downtown Sandusky.
Successful perch anglers are using small ice jigs and spoons with waxworms or minnows, Zunk said. Area pond fishermen have been doing well on crappies and bluegills, he added, noting that panfish also are hitting at area marinas. Zunk stressed that anglers must have permission to fish on the private properties.
North of Toledo on Lake Erie, yellow perch are starting to hit at Luna Pier, according to Dave Tarry at Matthews Bait in Monroe. The Brest Bay area north of Monroe is producing some perch in close and walleye farther out, he added.
Also in the Monroe area, the area off “banana dike” just north of Stony Point is producing some walleye and the area off Pointe Mouillee is producing both perch and walleye.
Perch also top the action at the Mitchell's Bay area on the Ontario side of Lake St. Clair, according to Dennis Shaw at Bass Haven there. Ice there remains in good condition. Anglers are having better success in three to eight feet of depth than in 10 to 15 feet, Shaw said. Panfish action there has been slow.
Action in the Irish Hills lakes of southeast Michigan has been “pretty good,” according to Emerson Parks of Three Lakes Supply near Brooklyn. “Saturday was the busiest day in five years,” he said. But fog Sunday kept many anglers ashore.
Perch and panfish remain the main targets in the Irish Hills, Parks said, with few if any reports of walleye or pike coming in. The brief warm spell did not hurt the ice in the region, but it made surfaces wet, slushy and slippery.
Fofrich, who has been a Lake Erie guide more than 30 years, recently was presented with a plaque at a meeting of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. He has assisted the wildlife division's Lake Erie Fisheries Research Station at Sandusky for three years, tagging 1,289 smallmouth bass with his charter-fishing patrons.
The guide's work amounts to 30 percent of all bass tagged in the project to date. Moreover, the division noted, Fofrich created a fishing experience in which his customers can contribute to the understanding and management of smallmouth bass in Lake Erie.
Last year alone Fofrich's boat caught and tagged more than 550 smallmouth. “Several times we have tagged fish in the morning and re-caught the same fish early in the afternoon,” the guide said. “That's what I call putting the sport back in sportfishing. An unborn generation is counting on us to do what's right for the future of sportfishing.”
All tagged fish are released. Anglers catching a tagged smallmouth should copy the information on the tag and report it to the Sandusky station, 419-625-8062. The project is being conducted to determine bass movements and survival with an eye to ensuring that the populations are not being overfished.
“Smallmouth bass are a challenge for us in our research because we don't capture many in our routine netting surveys,” said Roger Knight, supervisor of the fisheries station. “Cooperative work with anglers was one strategy to increase numbers of tagged fish.”
Fofrich was presented the award by Michael Budzik, chief of the wildlife division. “You don't do these things for praise,” the guide said. “You do it for the resource. I am really impressed with the honor. I still can't believe it.”
Thursday - Trapshoot, 6 p.m., Sandusky County Sportsmen's Club, State Rt. 600 east of Gibsonburg.
Friday through Jan. 28 - Cleveland Mid-America Boat Show, I-X Center at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport; more than 1,200 boats on display; call 440-899-5009 or check Web site (www.boatohio.com).
Saturday - Brush-pile burning, 10 a.m., Kitty Todd Preserve, Old Stateline Road; volunteers should call The Nature Conservancy, 867-1521.
Saturday - Toledo Naturalists' Association, 7:30 p.m., Andersons' activity center, 1833 South Holland-Sylvania Rd.; program on Metzger Marsh restoration by Chris Dwyer, Ohio Division of Wildlife.
Saturday and Sunday - State Line Gun Show, Gillette Building, Williams County Fairgrounds, Montpelier, Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; call Duane or Kay Votaw, 419-737-2801.
Steve Pollick is The Blade's outdoor writer. E-mail him at email@example.com.