Cousin Jeff Frischkorn, on the line from Lake County early this week, just had to mention the little fishing trip he and buddy Paul Liikala made - "to the pond, you know the little one, not the big one."
Yeah, I know. A year ago Frischkorn and yours truly had a whale of a good time there, out in the back country of Ashtabula County, casting for largemouth bass from a beat-up old canoe.
This time with Liikala, Cousin says, "we probably took 50 fish. Those 12 to 14-inchers a year ago are now chunky 14 to 16-inchers. We had a ball. The fish were leaping out of the water and crashing down on surface plugs."
Well, it certainly has not been that good everywhere of late, given the weather and all. But Frischkorn's foray is a harbinger of things to come, for fall fishing typically is some of the year's best.
As days grow shorter and water temperatures cool gamefish tend to move into shallower water in search of food.
The feedbags go on to store fat energy for the cold, slow, winter and females have to stock up to develop eggs for next spring's spawning.
That can hold true for smallmouth bass in Lake Erie, largemouth bass in farm ponds and inland impoundments, and Erie walleye and yellow perch, among others.
Last weekend, for example, Dan Tucker and crew won the Wild Wings Marina annual perch tournament with a 10-fish entry measuring 119.6 inches, almost a 12-inch average, and this for western basin perch, which on average run smaller year for year than central basin perch.
Fishing with Tucker were perching veterans Marty Kruser, Tony Barry, Jerry Meyers Sr., and Jerry Meyers Jr.
"We had about 70 other perch, but no sorting, and most were over nine inches," said Tucker. Still he thinks that catching only will improve as autumn draws on.
Following is a summary of other choice opportunties for fall fishing in the region:
Walleye - Try trolling for big female fish east of Kelleys Island, principally from Huron to Vermilion, from month's end to freeze-up. Some boats fish after dark, and some years an after-dark fishery develops along the shorelines of the same area, casting crankbaits as walleye move inshore after schools of gizzard shad.
Smallmouth bass - Try targeting depths of 20 feet or less as fall progresses, around any rocky structure, islands, reefs, and the like. Tube jigs or drop-shot rigs that mimic gobies in size and color are popular. Or try live soft-shelled crayfish, or softcraws, fished on a hook beneath a barrel swivel and egg sinker.
Steelhead trout - The Vermilion River is the most consistent steelhead stream in the region, about 90 minutes east of Toledo. Drifting runs with an assortment of artificial flies or drifting spawn bags can be effective, especially from October until freeze-up. The run should be excellent, though the Vermilion can be erratic in terms of flow, depending on rainfall patterns.
Yellow perch - Try Findlay reservoirs No. 1 and No. 2, Ferguson Reservoir near Lima, and Willard Reservoir near Willard. Shiner minnows fished just off the bottom are a top tactic, just like on Lake Erie.
Channel catfish - Virtually all of the region's municipal upground water-supply reservoirs, along with area rivers and streams are reliable catfish producers.
Walleye, saugeye - Try trolling worm harnesses or drifting jigs and leeches at the Findlay reservoirs for walleye, and Lima Lake at Lima and Veterans Memorial reservoir at Fostoria for saugeye. Crankbaits also are popular among artificials.
Largemouth bass, bluegill - Almost all lakes and ponds at state wildlife areas, along with private farm ponds, are good bets. The state's Lake La Su An lakes in Williams County also provide fine fishing for trophy-size bluegills, 9 1/2 inches and larger, plus lots of catch-and-release bass fishing that is regulated by slot and length limits. The area will be open until Oct. 8. Call 419-636-6189 for reservation or Wildlife District 2 in Findlay for details, 419-424-5000.
Three in-stream impoundments around Mansfield make for a fine fall fishing trip. Try Clear Fork Reservoir for bass or muskellunge, Pleasant Hill for bass, and Charles Mill for bass and hybrid striped bass.
Decent stream fishing for smallmouth bass and crappie can be found on the Maumee River from Maumee-Perrysburg upstream, the Sandusky River above Fremont, and the Auglaize River.
The many lakes in southeast Michigan's Irish Hills also offer a host of fall bass and panfish angling opportunities as well. Check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Southfield Operations Service Center, for details, 248-359-9040.
A useful fishing guide for Ohio lakes and streams is available free from the Ohio Division of Wildlife by calling toll-free 1-800-WILDLIFE. Ask for Publication 77, Public Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife Viewing Areas.
Upcoming fishing events:
Tomorrow and Sunday - Buckeye Division, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, final regular-season event, 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., starting from Sandusky city boat ramp, Sandusky. For registration and information call 270-252-1000 or visit on-line www.FLWOutdoors.com.
Sept. 23 - Huron Hawgfest, starting 7:30 a.m., Huron city boat basin, Huron; sponsored by Western Basin Sportfishing Association. For details visit on-line www.huronhawgfest.com.
Oct. 12 - Rainbow trout stocking, Lima Lake, Allen County, Lamberjack Lake [Fostoria Reservoir No. 3], Hancock County, Norwalk Reservoir No. 1, Huron County; also, Oct. 13, Swanton reservoir, Lucas County.
Notice to readers: This will be the last installment of the Follow the Fish feature for the season. In its place Steve Pollick's Outdoors column will appear Fridays in the Sports section, in addition to Tuesdays and Sundays.