In the latter part of summer, the Maumee River gets that lazy, late-season feel that can lull a fisherman into thinking he may not find anything to catch.
Not so, as some personal experience and recent experiences shared by other anglers will demonstrate.
On a recent mid-week evening I met up with Eric Kraus at his riverside home below Waterville to target smallmouth bass. We found enough fish to talk about, casting Texas-rigged plastic grubs, rigged on 1/16-ounce bullet weights ideal for the low flow.
Tyler Bocian, 4, water wings and all, wades into the Maumee River to heft a stringer of fish he helped his dad, Brian, catch.
The water is so warm this time of year, in the mid to high 70s, that old sneakers or water-shoes and shorts are ideal for wading. Kraus, a longtime river rat, was amazed by the amount of algae - known popularly as "moss" - in the river that fine evening. "Just last Friday it was practically clear," he said.
And that same Friday the smallmouth were on the bite, big-time, Kraus said. He lost a 17-incher which chomped his bait practically at his feet, and landed a bunch of others that night, which he said were fairly moss-free.
This night, the fishing was slow and the moss-bloom was high. Clumps of it drifted by continually, and it coated long stretches of the rocky rapids, not to mention lines and baits. One of us would catch a fish, it seems, whenever a bass would take a bait almost immediately - before it got mossed. If the cast was in the water more than a few seconds, however, you could feel the green stuff accumulate and interfere with the retrieve.
No matter, a bald eagle overhead, a pastel sunset, and the peace and the breeze of the river were pure therapy. We were fishing for fun, not for food, and we were not disappointed.
Nor were Brian Bocian of Toledo and his four-year-old son, Tyler.
In fact, Bocian recently landed the largest channel cat he ever hooked in the Maumee River, a dandy 35-incher from "a spot I had found the previous day.
"I caught the fish using a 1/16-ounce jig tipped with a nightcrawler. I was short casting about 12 feet into a pool just below a tiny fall when the fish took the jig. Landing the fish took nearly 10 minutes, despite the short cast."
Young Tyler, water wings and all, wades right in with dad and helps with the stringer on some trips. On a later trip the pair took a variety of the Maumee's finest, including smallmouth, white bass, channel cats, and freshwater drum, or sheepshead.
Earlier in the summer when the water flow was high, said Bocian, "all of the hot spots I know of just weren't holding fish." But as the water has returned to summer pool, the "on" switch has been thrown.
Gary Lowry at Maumee Tackle advises moss-beset anglers to pinch a BB-size split-shot about two feet ahead of any shallow-diving crankbaits when the stream is moss-heavy. The shot will pick up some of the moss. Also, a jerk of the rod may help dislodge and release some of the accumulations, Lowry notes. He added that smallmouth anglers also are using soft plastics or topwater plugs, or they are drifting nightcrawlers.
Then there's 14-year-old Collin Carter, son of Greg and Traci Carter, of Maumee. He took a surprise from the rapids on a recent fishing trip - a 26 3/4-inch steelhead trout that went 6 pounds, 15 ounces.
Collin was on a smallmouth trip on the river with his brother, Miles, and a buddy Mark Foley and his dad, Paul Foley, of Maumee. The young angler was fishing a hole by himself when he spied two long, silver fish swimming by.
He tossed a live crawfish ahead of where the sleek fish were headed and hooked up. After 15 minutes of spirited fight, he was able to beach the big trout.
"Collin says he owes a lot to Mark and Paul for showing him how and where to fish in the river this time of year," said Greg. The young man, his dad notes, admits that he has a lot of chores and lawns to do to pay to have this special steelhead of summer mounted. "His life ambition is to be a pro bass fisherman," added Greg.
In other fishing news, western Lake Erie walleye action has slowed this week, but the lake has produced some fascinating catches.
Greg Schumaker was trying for 'eyes about three miles off Crane Creek in about 17 feet of water when he hooked, then landed a 26-inch muskellunge. "I have fished all over Michigan, Canada, and other states," he said, "but this is the first muskie I ever landed. I have fished Lake Erie 40-plus years and this is the first muskie I have seen caught in it. I did release the fish."
His is one of several muskies reported caught in the western basin in just the last few weeks.
Then there is the fish, and fish tale, of the week. That would be an enormous sturgeon that Toledoan Diana Burtscher hooked when on a perch-fishing trip last Monday with her son, Nate, of Perrysburg, and Toledoans Dan Lepkowski and Juanita Seery.
Lepkowski, a veteran of 47 years' fishing on the lake and skipper of the day, said they left Turtle Creek Marina and headed for the C-Can area, finding the perch cooperative there. At one point Diana hooked a monster fish which Lepkowski estimates was five to six feet long when he saw it close to the boat.
"It jumped out of the water about 20 feet out. The thing was enormous. It may have been a 150, 200-pound fish. I've never seen anything like it out there in my life. It was incredible. It was surreal when it jumped out of the water." And it got away after dislodging the wire perch spreader.
Oh, the foursome caught their limits of yellow perch, too.
With a couple of exceptions, walleye angling on the lake this week has been slow. John Jokinen at Jann's Netcraft said that a fair bite is on about two to four miles off Ward Canal in 17 to 19 feet of water. He said fishermen there are reporting 'eyes on worm harnesses and perch on minnows fished off spreaders.
Rick Catley at Rickard's Bait on Catawba Island said that the best walleye reports coming in this week are from northeast of C-Can and west of Northwest Reef. Best yellow perch activity is reported a half-mile west of Green and Rattlesnake islands.
The Friends of the NRA have set their annual Northwest Ohio dinner and auction for Thursday at Holland Gardens, 6530 Angola Rd., Holland. Social hour is at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 7:15 p.m. For tickets call John Snyder 419-893-5173 or Matt Snyder 419-882-6032.
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