"This is the crummiest spring weather I've seen in a while, if not my lifetime," said veteran Toledo outdoorsman Kent Snyder at an informal e-meeting of the Hot Stove League earlier this week.
"Turkey hunters gotta be havin' a hard time in this no-end-in-sight rain," Snyder said. Indeed. Then he posed some questions that have to be on a lot of minds:
"Do these windy conditions impact the walleye hatch? I know the eggs need to be oxygenated, but does the silt roiled up from the runoff, etcetera, have a negative effect on the stream fish? "What about the reef spawning? The big lake has to be well churned up now. Coffee with extra cream anyone?"
Snyder's concerns are well founded, timely. As is an item from Steve Davis, a watershed specialist with U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service at Lima. Earlier this week he e-mailed a Lake Erie Modus Satellite photo from April 21.
"It shows the sediment right now in all the areas adjacent to agricultural watersheds, as compared to the areas with nonagricultural drainage, such as Lake Huron, Detroit River, and the eastern watersheds of Lake Erie," Davis explained.
All of western Lake Erie appears about as brown as the surrounding land, and even the central basin is streaked with mud swirls, including substantial portions of the south shore all the way to Cleveland and beyond.
"Some of this seen [in the satellite photo] is from tributary information -- streams here are bank full and brown right now," said Davis.
He acknowledged that some of the lake's muddy state comes from resuspension of bottom mud from recent wind events.
But the satellite shot still shows where the sediment is to resuspending, Davis said, "and that is at the mouths of the agricultural watersheds."
In the western basin that principally includes the Maumee and Sandusky rivers, and to a lesser degree the Portage River.
"I would say the lake right now is as bad as I have ever seen it, over the largest area," said Davis.
Which brings the muddy question around to Jeff Tyson, supervisor of the state's Lake Erie Fisheries Research Station at Sandusky. He agrees that recent wind and rain conditions have made the lake, "very, very muddy."
Northeast blows in particular at this time of year, the spawning season, are thought to impact the hatch on the reefs in particular, Tyson said. But too many such contentions are merely anecdotal -- gut feelings, guesses, and surmising. Not enough for a fisheries scientist to hang a hat on.
So, Tyson said that Ohio Division of Wildlife lake biologists over the next three years are hoping to collect some hard data on the impacts of weather patterns on hatch strength. Notably, they have installed current meters around the western basin reef complex and off Maumee Bay and that will provide some real-time insights.
In a related project, a graduate researcher is collecting eggs and larvae with an eye toward determining their distribution and hatch sites.
In any event, the muddied western basin waters are hardly conducive to successful fishing during this, which in calmer springs is the height of jig-and-minnow season in near-shore areas. So far, far more trips have been canceled than run.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but those who argue against spring fishing often conveniently forget that unsettled weather often enough cancels out much spring fishing anyway.
Still, at least some boat-anglers will be out trying to fish any time the winds and waves settle down. It is just that dirty water makes catching problematic. You have to practically bang a walleye on the nose to tease a bite when muddy water cuts visibility to near zero.
On the Maumee and Sandusky rivers, typical high-water fishing sites remain the better bet for the weekend, what with all the rain all week.
Both rivers should still be holding plenty of walleye in this weather-slowed season, and white bass are moving upstream and should provide some action as well.
Also, remember that the special March and April angling restrictions will be lifted as of midnight Saturday. That includes the inner portions of Maumee and Sandusky bays.
So on Sunday, which is May 1, the walleye daily creel limit will be six fish, up from four, for the rest of the year. The 15-inch minimum keeper size remains in place. Fishing hours will not be restricted as in March and April, and use of treble hook again will be allowed.
Austin Taylor, a Life Scout from Troop 62 in Rossford working on his Eagle Scout project, is joining with the University of Toledo Lake Erie Center and fellow Scouts to raise public awareness about the possible dangers of lead, particularly lead fishing weights, to humans, wildlife, and water supplies. He suggests such alternatives as tungsten, steel bismuth, alloy, and tin sinkers.
In keeping with his commitment he is conducting a lead sinker collection day at Duricek Automotive, 700 Dixie Hwy., Rossford on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. and at the UT lake center, 6200 Bayshore Rd., Oregon, on Thursday[May 5], 5:30 to 8 p.m. He will offer free samples of non-lead sinkers and a brochure on the potential lead threat.
Contact Steve Pollick at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.