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Published: Friday, 12/22/2006

Tis the season for some walleye fishing

HURON, Ohio Yesterday may have been the shortest day of the year, and winter may have arrived at 7:22 p.m., but the walleye fishing is just fine on western Lake Erie, thank you.

Yes, walleye fishing on the eve of winter. It was an early Christmas present for Ross Robertson of Toledo, his fishing buddy Steve Velte of Belleville, Mich., and yours truly.

Robertson, a dyed-in-the-wool fisherman if ever there was one, didn t even bat an eye or miss a wisecrack when, on Wednesday, it was proposed that maybe he should do some walleye trolling yesterday. He didn t even think it was crazy. He has, after all, been fishing all autumn long until nasty weather shut it down for a while at early and mid-month.

It turns out that this has been a good autumn for Erie eyes, from after-dark pier fishing from Port Clinton to Cleveland s lakefront, to daylight and nighttime trolling off the Huron-Vermilion shoreline erratic as always maybe as to exact time of day when the fish go bonkers and feed in frenzy, but noteworthy nonetheless.

From a boat this offers a fairly close-in shot at schools of walleye, including some pods of big fish, as they herd hordes of gizzard shad into relatively warmer near-shore waters.

Stress the term relatively warmer. Surface temp out there yesterday was 41 degrees. Not that the air was much warmer on this gray, dreary December day. You have to be careful and act accordingly in such potentially fatal temperatures. But Robertson and Velte are veterans, with lots of tournament and nasty-weather hours under their belts, and they don t take foolish chances.

So much for prologue. Fishing off the Huron River mouth no more than about four miles around the area known as the dumping grounds, it took a little hunting to find the fish.

They ve been chasing baitfish around in circles all fall, explained Robertson as he adjusted his electronics and kept cruising.

Presently a run-of-the-litter walleye slammed one of the outlandishly patterned crankbaits, jerking one of the small yellow planer boards sharply backward a sure sign of fish on! Such a walleye would be a two to four-pounder in the 18 to 21-inch range. Two to four pounds.

There are so many fish that size in the system right now, said Velte. Last year s 14 and 15-inchers. All the 15 or so fish we landed in a morning excursion were surprisingly spunky and aggressive. Maybe it s the colder, denser water with more oxygen in it. In any case, these fish are decidedly more sporting than those the same size taken in summer.

Color patterns for the plastic crankbaits ran to chromes, purples, blues, and pinks on a pearly base. Some popular color patterns include such colorful names as Wonder Bread and Mooneye. Reef Runner Ripsticks and Rapala Husky Jerks. The guys ran them at 12 to 21 feet in 38 to 42 feet of water. The best fish were in the 7 to 10-pound class. Nice.

Some days, you stick it out long enough or luck into the just-right school that you will run into 10 to 14-pounders. Better.

Still, this time of year, when most fishermen are merely dreaming of spring, or at least some safe ice to park on, the available run of fish yesterday was just fine. Not to mention a veritable wonder to walleye anglers in most other places.

This time of year, Robertson noted, you can run into long dry spells, but the hot flashes of activity make it worth braving fishing in a refrigerator.

The biggest thing is, a lot of fish that Steve and I are really cracking on are in the top 10 feet of the water column, said Robertson. Merry Christmas, eh?

No deal could be reached on modifications to a bill in the Ohio legislature to buy out at least some Lake Erie commercial trapnet fishermen, and the proposal is dead for 2006, the Ohio Division of Wildlife said.

The legislature s session ends today, and a new slate of lawmakers will be sworn in in January with promises from returning lawmakers of a renewed effort toward buyouts, according to Steve Gray, state wildlife chief.

It didn t get done. We basically ran out of time with the legislature, the chief stated.

He explained that for some lawmakers the bill was just too complex for quick passage at session s end.

Bills to buy out remaining trapnet licenses surfaced in reaction to a felony racketeering scandal involving underreporting and marketing of yellow perch by several commercial netters and related businesses and individuals gained traction in Cuyahoga County courts in 2005. Similar cases are pending in Lorain County.

Ohio deer hunters killed 25,390 deer in the new, additional gun-deer weekend last weekend, the Ohio Division of Wildlife said.

The bag was well above the expected take of 10,000 to 15,000 deer, according to Mike Tonkovich, deer biologist with the state wildlife division. He noted, however, it will not be known until after next week s statewide, four-day muzzleloading rifle season whether the extra shotgun weekend merely redistributed overall hunting effort or actually added to the overall harvest.

The muzzleloder season runs Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 30.



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