One fisherman's curse is another fisherman's cure, and at this time of year in these parts that means ice.
Those anglers who revel in dunking waxworms, mousies, and other larval baits, or shiner minnows through holes in the ice, can't wait for overnight temperatures forecast in the low to mid-teens through the weekend. For them colder is better.
But if you fancy the pursuit of steelhead trout, moderate weather is the ticket. Some stray steelhead may be found in any tributary of Lake Erie these days, but serious steelheading begins about 60 miles east of Toledo on the Vermilion River.
“The action is heating up,” said Chris Cutcher, who runs a guide service through Beartooth Mountaineering in Toledo. Cutcher said he and a buddy recently took 50 steelies in two days on the Vermilion, using flyrods and eggs flies and small caddis fly nymphs.
“One of the fish was a 151/2–pound female full of eggs. The rest were skippers in the four to five-pound range,” Cutcher said. The cold weather may not exactly help conditions on the river in the next few days, however, depending on how much slush forms.
Kevin Ramsey, Lake Erie law-enforcement supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, also is an avid steelheader. He noted that the Vermilion was a fair steelhead stream in past years because of stray fish from stockings in streams farther east.
But a formal stocking program started last May, with the planting of 69,000 smolts, will solidify the Vermilion's status as a full-blown Lake Erie steelhead tributary. Those fish will return to the river next fall, Ramsey said. They should be in the five-pound, 25-inch class.
Ramsey added that the Vermilion's next-door neighbor to the west, the Huron River, may be a real sleeper when it comes to steelhead. Although no plans are afoot to stock the Huron, it has the right water quality, bottom structure, and flow to attract even more steelhead than the current strays known to run there. Regular stockings of the Vermilion should only help runs in the Huron.
The next nearest stocked stream on the lake is Rocky River on Cleveland's west side, and it is heavily fished. Eastern Ohio tributaries regularly stocked include the Chagrin and Grand rivers and Conneaut Creek. But virtually all tributaries from Cleveland to the Pennsylvania line have regular steelhead runs.
A check of baitshops east of Cleveland showed that while steelheaders there have been doing fairly well of late, the cold forecast for the next few days is expected to slow activity and increase slush buildup in the streams.
Successful steelheading is highly dependent on weather and stream conditions, which can vary greatly from day to day and stream to stream. For rivers and creeks from Cleveland east, call Grand River Tackle, 440-352-7222, or D&W Bait, 440-354-8473. For the Rocky, call L&D Bait in Lakewood, 216-226-FISH.
Another fishing hole not to be overlooked when it comes to winter steelheading is the warm-water discharge behind the Bay Shore Power Plant on Maumee Bay. A public fishing access site is located on Bay Shore Road just east of the plant, and is so constructed that anglers can wade into the shallows off the banks. Cast jigs with plastic tails, spinners such as Rooster Tails, or try minnows fished under floats or drift with spawn sacks.
“It was good there last year,” added Ramsey. Too, the Bay Shore warm-water pool may also hold some walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and other species.
That said, little is left to report about ice fishing in the region, other than wait-and-see, and don't take chances on marginal conditions.
About the only activity of note comes from southeast Michigan's Irish Hills lakes. John Wing of Reading, Mich., said he and some avid ice anglers have been doing well on bluegills on one end of the lake, where three inches of “good, hard ice” had formed. However, he added, “I can see open water at the south end ....'' So beware.
Tomorrow and Monday - Public trapshoot, 5:30 p.m., Wolf Creek Sportsmen's Association, 349 Teachout Rd., north of State Rt. 2, Curtice; voice-activated traps now available; call Frank Schaffer, 419-691-2769.
Tomorrow - Naturalists' Camera Club of Toledo, 7:30 p.m., Secor Metropark Nature Discovery Center, Central Avenue entrance, program by Adele Shelton on tree detectives; call Shelton, 419-474-2911.
Saturday - Toledo Muzzle Loaders, annual meeting, 6 p.m. supper, 7 p.m. business, Toledo Botanical Gardens, conference center; call Al Zielinski, 419-476-5978; also, Sunday, officers' shoot, 11 a.m., Clinton Boothby Memorial Range, 875 Schwamberger Rd.
Sunday - Northwest Ohio Gun Dog Circuit, sponsors tournament at Ringneck Ridge Hunt Club, Gibsonburg; call Steve Thompson, 419-823-9559.
Sunday - SKS, AK, and M-1 Carbine shoot, noon, Sandusky County Sportsmen's Club, State Rt. 600 east of Gibsonburg, call Bob Caswall, 419-862-2861.
Sunday - Program on bats, 1 p.m., Hayes Presidential Center, Hayes Avenue, Fremont, call the Sandusky County Parks District, 419-334-4495 or 1-888-200-5577.
Sunday - Bowshoots, Mudjaw Bowmen, 6240 Benore Rd., register 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 3-D shoot, call Mike Dutkiewicz, 419-729-4241; also, Monroe Rod and Gun Club, 6280 Lighthouse Rd., Monroe, Mich., register 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 30 3-D targets, call Rick Allen, 734-848-8063; also, River Raisin Sportsmen's Club, corner of Rouget Road and Bradley Highway, Blissfield, Mich., register 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 30 3-D targets, call Jason Steih, 517-486-2513.
Tuesday through Thursday -Public trap, skeet, 5-Stand Sporting Clays, and indoor pistol shooting, 2 to 9 p.m., Toledo Trap & Skeet Club, 3150 State Rt. 295, Berkey; repeats Friday noon to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; call the club, 419-829-5101.
Tuesday - Public trapshoot, 6 to 10 p.m., Dundee Sportsmen's Club, 2300 Plank Rd., Dundee, Mich., repeats Thursday 9 a.m. to noon and Sunday noon to 6 p.m.; also, Saturday, euchre, 7:30 p.m.; call the club 734-529-3581.
Tuesday - Public trap and skeet shooting, 6 to 11 p.m., Camp Perry Shooting Club, Camp Perry, State Rt. 2 west of Port Clinton, repeats Thursday 6 to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m., call the club, 419-635-2682.
Wednesday - Public trapshoot, 6 p.m., Elmore Conservation Club, Portage River Road South, just west of State Rt. 590, call Richard Gremling, 419-729-9518.
Wednesday - Erie Shores Birding Association, 7:30 p.m., Monroe County Community College, Life Sciences Building, Room 201, 1555 South Raisin Rd., Monroe, Mich.; program by Dana Fall, naturalist at Maumee Bay State Park, on the effect of phragmites plants on wetland diversity; call Eugene Naujock, 419-269-0608.