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It was a fun to see walleye being caught on western Lake Erie this week with both the jig-and-minnow rigs of early spring and the hybrid mayfly/night crawler rigs of summer. It's transition time.
What wasn't fun, for most of us out there it seems, was not catching enough fish. Our four-man crew Tuesday, including Dan Tucker, Jerry "Meatpole" Meyers, and Steve Hathaway, hooked just seven fish. The "fish," by the way, mean walleyes and not the many sheepshead, white bass, white perch and such we also landed in seven hours of picking on the many inshore reefs off Davis-Besse.
Whatever you do, though, purple is a great color in both jigs and in the hybrid worm-harnesses, or "Weapons."
Over at Jeff Shatto's fishing-cleaning station next to Wild Wings Marina, the customer boxes ranged from sparse to a couple, from charters, that were pretty full. If you call such results spotty, you will be calling them the way everyone else does.
"Thirty-one years in the business, this was the worst April," said Shatto. But he waxes philosophical: "It's all Mother Nature. The fish are there."
The Ohio Division of Wildlife's Jeff Tyson agrees. As supervisor of the division's Lake Erie Fisheries Research Station at Sandusky, he hears more than his share of angler whining about the catching.
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But he cannot control the wind and weather, which has led to abnormally prolonged cool water temperatures and heavily muddied near-shore waters. "East wind," Tyson summed about the spring's weather. That has kept pushing cooler central basin water to the west, and strong wind churns it all up.
As for the slow action so far, Tyson simply and rightly notes, "I can't make them go." Based on the nearshore marine forecast the water temperature is just 55 at Toledo and 50 at Cleveland.
John Jokinen at Jann's Netcraft said trollers are having decent results by pulling worm-harness/spinner combinations with night crawlers along the Canadian line from north of North Bass Island to Gull Island Shoal. No. 5 and No. 6 Colorado or No. 5 Indiana blades have worked best on the in-line spinners, he added.
Dan Baker at Butch and Denny's Bait on Corduroy Road said that some of the charters have done well with seven-man limits in the 100-plus-pound range, fishing in as little as eight feet of water off Turtle Island in Maumee Bay. But overall results in the bay have been like elsewhere, spotty.
The good thing about it all, fishermen are not giving up. Tuesday perhaps 80 to 100 boats could be seen in the near-shore reef complex, for example. Great for midweek nowayears.
Lake-watchers know that the fishing community cannot keep mining what's left of the 2003 mega-class of walleyes forever, and that the fishery needs a good hatch and soon. The lake's standing stock of walleye is down to 18 million, a small number. Still, it is capable of producing a bumper crop if the weather cooperates, just as in 2003, when a small stock produced Gargantua.
Tyson noted if the stock were to fall to 15 million walleye or less, fisheries managers around the lake would switch into crisis mode rather than the current rehabilitation mode. Rehab means continuing conservatively with setting of catch-quotas, which mainly affect commercial netters and not sport anglers. For Ohio waters, walleye netting is banned and hook-and-liners rarely come close to catching even reduced quotas of walleye.
As for this spring's hatch, Tyson simply notes, "till we get a net on them, it's hard to tell." That will not happen till mid to late summer, when young-of-year show up in test trawls.
Speaking of nets, Tyson noted that rumors about commercial yellow perch netting west of Huron are just that. A few netters are working west of Huron, but they can target only other, lesser species, Tyson said. Sport anglers also remain limited to 25 perch a day west of Huron.
In other fishing news, the Western Basin Sportfishing Association is hosting the second event on the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tomorrow at Lakevue Marina. For details, visit online at wbsa.us.
Elsewhere, the white bass runs on the Maumee and Sandusky rivers are going well and should explode in the next few days with clearing and receding flows. Shiners under bobbers or on bottom-rigs, small spinners, small jigs, small crankbaits all work. "Just about anything you throw at them," said Bernie Whitt at Anglers Supply in Fremont. Some 100-fish catches are reported on the Maumee.
Fair to good numbers of jack or smaller male walleyes remain in the Maumee mix as well, noted Gary Lowry at Maumee Tackle. Upground reservoirs also are producing crappies, using tactics similar to those for white bass.
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