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Published: Friday, 4/8/2005

Erie walleye falling for jig-and-minnow

BY STEVE POLLICK
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

If you are not taking advantage of the jig-and-minnow season for

western Lake Erie walleye because of the reduced creel

limit this month, you are missing some of the season s best

fishing.

The daily limit during March and April in Ohio waters

of the lake and its tributaries to the first dams is three walleye

of 15 inches or longer. The length limit stays put yearround,

with the creel limit going to six fish on May 1.

But anglers forgoing fishing until the six-limit falls into place may be guilty of false economy.

Though the daily possession limit is three walleye, an angler can catch and release all the walleyes he wants on a given trip, and sometimes that can be 50, 75, 100 fish. Too, if you keep your fish in a livewell, you can upgrade your keeper size by exchanging and returning smaller, live fish to the lake.

Since bigger fish are easier to come by this time of year, it is possible at day s end to keep three fish that will be heavier

than a limit of six smaller fish in June or July. Besides, if meat

is the main object, save your time and go to the fish market.

Sport anglers should not be obsessed with limits.

In any case, Ohio s reduced limit is part of a long-term comprehensive conservation strategy to rebuild walleye

stocks among all lake agencies.

It is a strategy that is working and aims at carefully shepherding

along the mighty 2003 yearclass.

Michigan waters of the lake, for example, are closed to walleye

fishing all of April and May and thereafter the daily limit is five walleye of at least 15 inches.

Ontario waters are closed from March 15 through May 13,

whereafter the limit is six walleye a day, any size.

Anglers can fish any time for walleye in the Detroit River, however, on both sides. It is a popular fishery, with the Michigan limit at five fish 15 inches or longer and the Ontario limit at four in March and April and six in May, no size minimum.

As for action as of this week, the fish are bringing it on. It s lit up everywhere, said Rick Ferguson at Al Szuch Live Bait in Jerusalem Township. He said that boats are taking fish from Maumee Bay to the reef complex off Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and the Camp Perry Firing Range between Toledo and Port Clinton.

Some skippers are limiting on walleye then switching tackle

and working on daily limits of 30 yellow perch per angler.

We re whacking them, added guide Dick Beverly about the walleye action.

Most boats are searching out transitions between murky and

clear water. Gale-force winds over last weekend dirtied the water but it was settling out nicely at mid-week.

Weekend fishing will depend on the impact, if any, of yesterday s cold front and north winds, said Ferguson.

Beverly and guide Russ Merrihew, who runs Reel Affair, are among some guides who have done some savvy marketing to accommodate the reduced spring catch-limit.

They are offering a reduced trip rate of $300 during the month of April, this to entice anglers reluctant to book because of the lowered limit this month. I ve had bookings because of that, Beverly said.

Reach him at 419-351-5522 and Merrihew at 419-345-9870.

Anglers are taking walleye both by vertical jigging dropping

1/2 to 3/4-ounce leadheads, tipped with shiner minnows, straight over the side and then jigging them up and down. Others are casting out and hopping the jig and minnow back to the boat by slowly

lifting the rod and letting the rig drift back down while taking in

slack line.

Sometimes the method depends on wind. Stronger breezes may push a boat on such a fast drift that vertical jigging just can t be done and casting-lifting-hopping is the ticket. Some anglers also turn

to blade baits, which can be vertically dropped and then jigged or snapped.

On a regulatory note, know that the use of treble hooks is prohibited on Maumee and Sandusky bays until May 1, just as it is on the Maumee and Sandusky rivers.

When the jig-and-minnow action is light or tentative, anglers sometimes tie on a small trailer treble hook or stinger to increase the rate of hookups. Not on the bays, not until May. Same goes for blade baits, which usually come with treble hooks.

Travis Hartman, a state fisheries biologist at Sandusky, said

that spawning on the reef complexes is well under way. The

Ohio Division of Wildlife has been test-netting fish on Toussaint

Reef for research samples, and Wednesday s catch produced

more fish than all the rest of the spring s hauls combined,

Hartman said.

Female walleyes are flowing their eggs and many females already are spawned out, the biologist noted. This week compares to the biggest week we had all last year, he said, adding that another spawning peak may occur later. The 2004 season had peaks in

March and late April, but the 2004 year-class turned out

be poor.

Slowly warming weather and no nasty northeast storms are the hope for the rest of this spring when it comes to enabling a successful hatch.

Elsewhere, the walleye runs up the Maumee and Sandusky rivers are at their peaks, and fishing pressure heavy, as expected.

Contact Steve Pollick at: spollick@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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