Expect to see some early-season anglers on the banks of the Maumee and Sandusky rivers this weekend, but don't expect to see them catching many walleyes.
The region continues to undergo the seasonal ice-out transition - a somewhat belated event this year.
While the two streams, renowned for their annual spring walleye runs, are open at the popular fishing venues, they still are running somewhat high, cold, and muddy.
Winter this year was limited to about three-plus arctic-like weeks in February, and the late cold is having a chilling effect on startup of open-weather angling.
In more mild winters, wader-clad anglers are casting jigs and plastic tails for walleye - and catching a few - as early as mid February. Not this time.
A forecast warming trend, however, and a lack of heavy rain in the predictions all bodes well for upstream movements in the annual walleye spawning runs.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we see a few fish brought in in the next week," said Gary Lowry at Maumee Tackle in Maumee. That will be especially so if the weatherman is correct with a forecast of mid-50s air temperatures by the middle of next week.
Yesterday the river was running at 583 feet above sea level, as measured at the gauge at the I-475 bridge. Normal, at least for wading, is around 579 feet. Lowry said that the water temperature still was a mite under 33 degrees but the water-level had dropped seven feet in five days.
A lot of bank-ice remains piled up on the Orleans Park ramp at Perrysburg and jam-ice remains in the north channel alongside Bluegrass Island at Side Cut Metropark, Lowry said. In the meantime he has started an annual spring feature of daily river updates on his store Web site, www.maumeetackle.net.
In another sign of the season, ice-fishing at the state's popular Lake La Su An chain of lakes in Williams County ended Sunday.
Though the closing was scheduled, ice was getting soft and poor around the edges of the ponds, though it still was solid in the centers, according to Ed Lewis, a fisheries biologist with Ohio Wildlife District 2 at Findlay. He urged caution for any anglers intent on still trying ice fishing on farm ponds or other inland impoundments.
On western Lake Erie, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is reporting open water from Maumee Bay to Camp Perry and north to West Sister Island.
Ice still is hanging on in the popular fishing zone off the west side of South Bass Island. But the torrid walleye action that marked three weeks in February has slowed considerably, according to John Hageman, a Put-in-Bay ice guide who said he has packed it in for the year as far as taking out clients.
Still, he added, "limit catches are being taken around Rattlesnake Island by those seeking them." Some anglers are taking combinations of yellow perch limits, with fish in the 8 to 10-inch range, plus some walleyes.
That said, the warming weather and any rain or wind will make even the islands problematic for ice fishing.
More than 80,000 rainbow trout, 10 to 13 inches long, are scheduled for release this spring in 45 Ohio inland lakes and ponds as part of a popular, ongoing put-and-take angling program.
Following are the dates and release sites for northwest Ohio:
April 4, Schoonover Lake, Allen County; April 5, Delta Reservoir No. 2, Fulton County, and McKarns Lake, Williams County; April 6, White Star Quarry, Sandusky County; April 7, Pearson Metropark pond, Lucas County, youth fishing only first day.
Also, April 21, Van Wert Reservoir No. 1, Van Wert County, in conjunction with youth event; April 28, Olander Lake, Lucas County, youth only 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. first day; May 5, Geirtz Lake, Hancock County, youth only 8 to 11 a.m. first day; May 12, East Harbor State Park pond, youth only first day 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The daily limit for these fisheries is five trout per angler. Those ages 16 and older must have a valid license. For other details call Ohio Wildlife District 2 at Findlay 419-424-5000.