Yellow perch action on Lake Erie may be the best game in town for the Labor Day weekend, the symbolic end of the summer fishing season.
Anglers should be forewarned, however, to be satisfied mostly with seven-inch fish for keepers and happy if they run into some 8- to 10-inchers.
"I d fish for perch on Lake Erie, that s where I d be," said Larry Goedde, when asked about weekend prospects. Goedde is fish management supervisor for Ohio Wildlife District 2 and easily could have picked any number of inland possibilities. But last weekend s perching on the lake convinced him that he would return for Labor Day weekend.
On Sunday he and two partners took 90 perch of seven to nine inches in just 2-1/2 hours in open water about four to five miles west of the tip of Catawba Island peninsula off Port Clinton. On Saturday he and a buddy took two limits of seven-inchers in an hour and 45 minutes between G-Can and H-Can of the Camp Perry Firing Zone.
"It was as fast as you could go," Goedde said. "You don t need to run 12 miles to catch perch in Lake Erie," he added. The inshore areas they tried produced the same quality of perch they would have found at Ballast Island, off South Bass Island, off Kelleys Island, or off Lakeside, Goedde noted, all without having to make expensive gas-eating runs.
Closer to Toledo, try around the Toledo Harbor Light on the Toledo Ship Channel, off Little Cedar Point, the area marked as Gravel Pit on charts, or east of the Toledo Water Intake, said Rick Ferguson at Al Szuch Live Bait in Jerusalem Township.
Rick Catley at Rickard Bait on Catwaba Island said that 8- to 10-inch perch are being taken three miles east of Kelleys Island Shoal for those willing to make the longer run. He added that charter skipper Bob Parker was reporting decent walleye catches as well on the reefs off Davis-Besse. Could be the eyes are chasing gobies up on the rocks.
Travis Hartman, a biologist at the state s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Station at Sanduskysaid that larger walleye also are starting their westward movement from "down east," If fishing locally he would spend the weekend trolling with deep crankbaits or worm harnesses "somewhere between Huron and Vermilion."
Perch fishermen also have an outside chance of coming up with an incidental but memorable catch of a Great Lakes sturgeon, which is an ancient, bony-plated, bottom feeding fish. Two area anglers recently did just that.
Frank McDonald, of Whitehouse, caught, measured, and released a 36-inch sturgeon last Friday while fishing with charter skipper Rob Lawson, who runs Reef Robber out of Brand s Marina. Lawson said they were on a perch trip when McDonald hooked up about two miles northeast of Ballast Island.
"We wanted to get it back in the water as soon as possible," said Lawson. That is the correct move, for sturgeon are endangered in Ohio waters and must be released. Any catches, however, should be reported for the record to the Sandusky fish station by calling 419-625-8062.
Similarly, 18-year-old perch fisherman Nick Cranston, of Toledo, landed a 22-inch sturgeon on a trip last weekend, about 3/8-mile south of the Miller Ferry docks at South Bass. He and his dad, Larry, were aboard a Drawbridge Marina headboat on a special annual trip by North Toledo Sportsmen s Club, said Terry Reiff, a club officer.
Among inland possibilities, good-size white bass are being taken on the Maumee River at Grand Rapids, between the railroad bridge and Ludwig Mill. "They re in there thick," said Chris Martin at River Lures bait shop there.
He said that minnows were working for live bait, and so were eighth-ounce jigs with Berkley Power Baits. At least one angler also was taking walleyes in that area, using a homemade spinner with nightcrawlers.
Area angler John Eisenhart reports salmon catches still are good at Ludington, Mich., on Lake Michigan. His party took 13 one day and eight the next, all in the 12- to 18-pound range.
Finally, the Buckeye Division of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League plans a season-ending two-day tournament on Lake Erie at Sandusky Sept. 10 and 11. For registration details on-line visit www.FLWOutdoors.com, or call 270-252-1000.