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Published: Friday, 6/3/2005

Walleye want worms and Mayflies

The season for mayfly rigs, if not mayflies, has come to western Lake Erie s walleye fishing grounds.

For anglers who would rather cast than troll, the mayfly rig has grown so popular that in many circles it has displaced the classic weight-forward spinner as the Erie walleye fishermen s weapon of choice. In fact, the popular rigs generically are called "Weapons." They can be dynamite producers.

A mayfly rig simply includes a barrel sinker on a length of leader, a spinner blade, and a hook. They are shorter than multi-hook worm harnesses, which often are used as "draggers" with wire-and-lead "bottom bouncers." But they are not nearly as compact as a weight-forward spinner.

In any case, boatloads of anglers are using mayfly rigs with excellent success this week. No report of actual mayfly hatches have been made, however, likely because of the late, cool spring.

One of the advantages to a mayfly rig, which supposedly mimics an emerging mayfly insect, is that it can be fished longer each cast at a controlled depth, said Travis Hartman, a state fisheries biologist and avid Erie angler. But just leave it up to the walleye to figure out why it does not question a "mayfly" that tastes like a nightcrawler, for the rigs typically are tipped with a piece of crawler.

That said, know that Erie anglers also are taking walleye on weight-forwards and worm-harnesses and bottom-bouncers, or by trolling spoons, plastic crankbaits, and worm harnesses as well.

The transition to the staple of nightcrawler-dressed lures from jigs dressed with minnows, the latter the early-season staple after ice-out, was slow this spring because of the delayed warmup. Water-surface temperatures across the lake are ranging just 55 to 63 degrees, the Ohio Division of Wildlife said at mid week. That remains on the cool side for early June.

"Hammered gold blades are the key," said Rick Catley at Rickard s Bait on Catawba Island east of Port Clinton.

"They ve been killing them finally, finally," Catley added. Best reports coming into his shop are from the 25-foot depth between Niagara Reef and D-Can, which lies southeast of the reef along the outer boundary of the Camp Perry Firing Zone. Fish there are averaging two to four pounds.

Catley said that trollers were having success about a mile west of Green Island, again with gold spoons or gold spinners on harnesses. Trollers and casters also were doing fairly well around Gull Island Shoal north of Kelleys Island.

Hartman added that the area from Gull Shoal to the waters off the airport at Kelleys also were producing, fishing mid water-column in 38 to 42 feet of water.

Some boats were traveling northwest and West of West Sister Island, taking a few "hogs" and sorting through smaller fish.

Rick Ferguson, at Al Szuch Live Bait in Jerusalem Township, said that better action in the Toledo end of the lake was coming just east of the Toledo Ship Channel, between a chart area marked "Gravel Pit" and West Sister Island. He said that copper spinners and spoons were working along with gold, and harnesses with bouncers were working in purple, silver, or green. Favored spoons for trollers have been smaller sizes of Stingers and Fintails, run off Jet-Divers in No. 20 or No. 40 sizes.

Note that Michigan waters of the lake just reopened to walleye fishing on Wednesday, but the daily creel limit there is just five fish, unlike the six-limit in Ohio waters. Both states maintain a minimum 15-inch keeper-size limit. Ontario waters reopened to walleye sport fishing on May 14 and the limit is six fish, no size minimum.

In other fishing news, a drawing for a free Lake Erie fishing charter for an angler and three guests is being offered by Jann s Netcraft, 3350 Briarfield Blvd., just west of U.S. 23 off Salisbury Rd. For details call Netcraft, 419-868-8288, or apply at the store. The drawing is set for July 1.

Also, the KeyBank Lake Erie Classic Charity Fishing Tournament is set for June 16-17 to benefit cystic fibrosis research.

The event begins with a captains cookout on Friday evening and registration at the Catawba Island Club northeast of Port Clinton. The tournament winner will qualify for the IGFA Rolex Inshore Tournament of Champions at Islamorada, Fla., next spring.

For details, contact Deborah Barnard at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 1-800-344-4823, and ask to be connected to the South Florida office.

Lastly, the Tom Thacker Memorial Bass Open Team Tournament is set for tomorrow at southeast Michigan s Devils Lake, in northwest Lenawee County. It is sponsored by Maple City Bass Club. Registration forms are available at Jann s Netcraft or at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources launch-ramp at Devils. Check-in is 5 a.m., with fishing 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.



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