As the weather has emerged from the recent cool, wet spell and near summerlike conditions are setting up, western Lake Erie's walleyes are switching diets from minnows to nightcrawlers.
It is a change that typically occurs much sooner, but ideal weather and fishing conditions for much of the spring appear to have kept walleyes focused on hairjigs and minnows. But as of this week, and presumably for the summer, the fish are onto various nightcrawler rigs.
For casters, the popular choice is the mayfly rig, a hybrid of the classic Lake Erie weight-forward spinner and the worm harness.
Laura Jones, who works on the staff of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, displays a hefty Lake Erie walleye.
Mayfly rigs, many of them homemade and going by the name Weapon, consist of nothing more than a barrel sinker on a length of stout leader material, a spinner blade, and a hook. These are single-hook affairs and shorter than the multi-hook worm harnesses, which also employ a spinner but which often are used with a lead-and-wire "bottom bouncer."
Mayfly rigs are meant to be cast and "swept" upward, mimicking an emerging mayfly, one of the lake's prime fish foods. Harnesses are meant to be dragged on the bottom.
Only Dave Ray, at Edgewater Bait on 131st Street in Point Place, reported any customers still using jigs and minnows.
These anglers are fishing mornings between Turtle Island and Toledo Harbor Light and finding fish with purple hair-jigs and minnows. "I can't believe this spring," said Ray of the prolonged minnow binge by walleyes. Afternoon anglers, however, found better results dragging worm harnesses between the Toledo Ship Channel and Toledo Water Intake in 16 feet of water.
Edgewater also reports some yellow perch anglers taking some 10-inch fish around the Intake, and eight to nine-inchers around Toledo Harbor Light.
Some anglers trying Maumee Bay, however, are finding the water too clear - and loaded with white perch and sheepshead.
Outside the bay, the area marked as Gravel Pit on charts, between the Ship Channel and West Sister Island, has been a hot zone for walleye, according to Rick Ferguson at Al Szuch Live Bait on Corduroy Road. Best spinner colors, on mayfly rigs or harnesses, have been gold or copper.
Rick Catley, at Rickard's Bait on Catawba Island, said that the area around D-Can, off Camp Perry Firing Zone, and around Crib and Niagara reefs have been productive among anglers checking in at his shop. Others have found fish northwest of Kelleys Island along the Canadian line.
Trollers also are doing well pulling worm harnesses, Jet or Dipsy Divers and spoons, or crankbaits.
On the rivers, the white bass bonanza continues in force and water levels return to normal, wading becomes possible, and clarity improves.
"They're just really turning on right now," said Bernie Whitt at Angler Supply in Fremont. "It's awesome." He was enthusing about the quantities and quality of white bass being taken in the Sandusky River from the rock banks below downtown around the old sugar plant all the way to Ballville Dam. Many large femmale fish of 14 to 16 inches are being taken.
On the Maumee River, white bass are being taken from Perrysburg's Maple Street launch up to Jerome Road and beyond. Mike Swartz at Maumee Tackle said the biggest fish weighed in the contest there this week so far is 2.28 pounds and fish are averaging 10 to 14 inches.
Everything is working, from minnows under bobbers or tightlined on the botton to in-line spinners and jigs and tails.
Revised Ohio fishing lakes guides have been released by Sportsman's Connection, of Superior, Wis.
Two guides, Northern Ohio and Southern Ohio, are available, each 240 pages in an 8 1/2-by-11 format, spiral-bound. They contain color contour maps and fishing hot-spots for hundreds of inland lakes and impoundments, the Ohio River system, Lake Erie, and many streams.
Want to know which of the popular Fostoria Reservoirs are which, and where? It's right on pages 116 and 117, with details. Same goes for the favored fishing grounds of the Maumee River, page 93, Lake Erie fishing sites from Toledo to Ashtabula, and so on.
The guides also are filled with such details as Ohio Division of Wildlife stocking and sampling data, general lake characteristics, and fishing tips from local guides, anglers, baitshops, and state fisheries staff.
Priced at $21.95 each, the guides are available at such retails as Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain stores, Wal-Mart and other local outlets. They also can be ordered on-line at www.sportsmansconnection.com, or by calling 1-800-777-7461. Shipping varies from $4 to $7.50.
The second annual Maumee River fishing litter cleanup, called Get the Lead Out, is rescheduled for Saturday, June 3, 9 a.m. to noon. Meet at the Riverview Area at Side Cut Metropark. At least 200 volunteers are needed to collect trash, spent fishing line, and fishing jigs snagged in rocks along the banks. To sign up call Maumee Tackle, 419-893-3474.