The fishing tide has turned in the Sandusky River at Fremont, and it is running white, as in white bass.
The popular spring runs of this feisty species, following on the heels of the walleye runs, usually peak soonest and thickest at Fremont, with smaller runs in the Portage and Huron rivers and a somewhat later run in the Maumee River.
Fishermen from all over Ohio converge on the Sandusky River around Fremont in the spring trying to catch white bass.
White bass are an angler's dream on light spinning tackle, usually eager to jump on a lure or snatch a minnow. Spawning runs usually peak around mid May, depending on current and water temperature. Ideal water temperature for spawning is about 55 degrees.
Last year an estimated 20,000 white bass were taken from the streams during May. White bass prospects are excellent this spring, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, with most fish running 8 to 13 inches but with a good number of 6-year-old fish in the 16-inch class also in the mix.
Gary Lowry, at Maumee Tackle in Maumee, expects that some of the bigger, older fish even may include one that exceeds the state record of four pounds even, which was taken near Cincinnati in 1983.
On the Sandusky River at downtown Fremont, the first push of large female white bass already appears to have run the rapids to the vicinity of Walsh Park, which overlooks the east banks of the river just above the Hayes Avenue Bridge.
Early white bass in the Maumee River generally can be found around the foot of White Street, the Maumee-Perrysburg Bridge and the Towpath on the Maumee side. Some white bass run all the way to the tailwaters below the Grand Rapids Dam, though numbers there do not appear to be as heavy as lower in the river.
It's a good time of year to catch both white bass and late-run jack walleye on the Maumee. Special walleye-season restrictions, including a ban on use of lures with treble hooks, expired Monday. On that day the walleye limit also increased to six fish a day.
The Portage and Huron have small runs of white bass, but nowhere near their former size, and only a few anglers try the streams. The main fishing zone on the Portage, much of its access limited by private property, is between the State Rt. 590 bridge and the Elmore Dam, downstream from Elmore in Ottawa County. On the Huron, try above Mason Road to the Ohio Turnpike.
A particularly effective white bass bait is a minnow, drift-fished under a bobber or cast when tipped on a small jig. Some anglers also tight-line on the bottom for white bass with minnows.
Among artificial lures, small spinnerbaits such as the Beet-L-Spin, dressed with small twisting tails, are popular, as are small jigs and tails. The smaller floating jigheads with tails, Carolina-rigged, also are effective, as they have been for walleye.
White bass anglers also now, post-May 1, can add small spoons, blade baits and small spinners to the tackle arsenal. White or silver (chrome) are standby colors, but most bright combinations will work.
In any case expect plenty of white bass this month and expect to see some in the rivers well into June. There is no daily creel limit on white bass, but conservation ethics dictate that you keep no more than you will eat fresh. White bass fillets generally do not freeze well.
Lake Erie remains Ohio's biggest lake, not just in terms of geography but in terms of its marvelous ability to produce prodigious numbers of large fish in many species.
A recent report on the state's 2005 Fish Ohio angler-award program proves as much. Lake Erie led all comers in terms of entries in 10 of 19 Fish Ohio categories, accounting for 7,578, or more than 63 percent of the program's 11,990 entries.
Anglers from 39 states fished in Ohio and applied for Fish Ohio pins (freshwater drum) and certificates. The 2006 pin is a yellow perch. A total of 429 anglers won master awards for entering at least four Fish Ohio species to earn a gold pin.
The Lake Erie leader-list includes most entries for walleye, 2,142; yellow perch, 1,832, freshwater drum, 1,152; channel catfish, 748; rainbow trout (steelhead), 562; carp, 448; smallmouth bass, 268; white bass, 257; rock bass, 153, and brown trout, 16.
The grand slam awards constitute another arm of the Fish Ohio program. A Lake Erie slam includes "F.O." walleye, steelhead and smallmouth bass. An inland slam includes largemouth bass, saugeye and muskie. An Ohio River slam includes sauger, hybrid striped bass and flathead catfish. For other program details, visit the special Web site, www.fishohio.org, or call 1-800-WILDLIFE.
The second annual Get the Lead Out cleanup campaign is set for next weekend, Saturday, May 13, to remove fishing lead, fishing line, and litter from the Maumee River rapids fishing zone.
Headquarters will be the Riverview Shelterhouse at Side Cut Metropark. Hours will be 9 a.m. to noon.
Up to 200 volunteers are needed to work in-stream and along the banks. To sign up, call Maumee RAP, 419-241-9155 extension 123, or Maumee Tackle, 419-893-FISH.