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Published: Friday, 4/28/2006

Walleye jacks chasing bait

The morning sun was warm on my back as I slipped into the Maumee River, mid-week, not a soul around at the upstream access site.

I was geared up with an ultralight spinning rod and reel, loaded with four-pound-test line. I had tied on a white Beet-L-Spin - a small jighead with a topspinner - and a chartreuse plastic tail, and started quartering casts downstream.

It didn't take long. The little whip of a rod bent nearly double as a feisty jack walleye, a younger male about 16 inches long, inhaled the bait.

This was not the subtle, watch-the-rodtip-and-feel for a short hit or a soft take. This guy wanted all that bait and jumped on it with both hands and feet, so to say. Better still, he was not alone, and in no time I had my fish.

Post-spawn jacks put on the feed bag this time of spring, and anglers geared to take advantage of it enjoy some of the stream's best fishing of the year.

White bass, which are just starting to rev up, are a bonus fish on a Maumee jack-fishing trip. So are smallmouth bass. You might take all three from the same spot. Imagine.

Too, the special fishing restrictions, including a ban on treble hooks and no fishing sunset to sunrise, fall away come Monday, and the walleye creel limit jumps 50 percent to six, from the four of March and April.

Just remember that the minimum keeper length all year round, though is 15 inches.

Moreover, the heavy crowds of several weeks prior, their end-of-winter enthusiasm fanned by cabin fever and the runs of large female spawners, have dwindled. Fishermen who prefer to have a stretch of stream mostly to themselves and their thoughts can finally partake in peace.

So what's not to like about all this? Nothing, nothing at all.

Because of the super-size 2003 year class, almost all of which is legal size now, the jack run should be excellent, maybe the jack run of all jack runs. Expect it to last well into mid May, though the mix of fish on the line might grow increasingly white, as in white bass.

Some of the traditional sites above Maumee-Perrysburg remain go-to places, stretching from the Maumee-Perrysburg Bridge up to Jerome Road above the I-475 crossing. Other anglers have good success at upstream sites such as Miltonville, Weirs Rapids, Van Tassel access sites and Otsego Park on the Wood County side above Perrysburg to Grand Rapids, below the Grand Rapids/Providence Dam, and around Farnsworth Metropark on the Lucas County side.

Smaller floating jigheads on 30 to 40-inch leaders are very effective now, according to Gary Lowry at Maumee Tackle. Use plastic tails in white, chartreuse, pink, orange, or yellow, or Berkley Power Grubs in sunkissed, Christmas lights, lemon meringue, fire tiger, pearl white, or black marble color patterns.

"They're crushing them," Lowry said mid-week. Most female walleye have left the river at this point, but loads of 15 1/2-inch to 19-inch jacks remain. As long as heavy rains do not disrupt a normal flow, the river should provide excellent action for days.

On western Lake Erie, the spring's terrific jig-and-minnow action for walleyes also continues in inshore areas from the Michigan side to Port Clinton.

The Sandusky River at Fremont is teeming with white bass, which usually run there earlier than in the Maumee.

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Lake Erie items - Anglers in search of black bass - smallmouth and largemouth - in Ohio waters of Lake Erie and all its tributaries to the first dam are reminded that all bass taken must be immediately released, beginning Monday and continuing through June 23.

The catch-and-immediate release rule, in its third season, is aimed at helping conserve bass stocks by not removing fish from nest territories for more than very short periods. From June 24 through next April 30, the daily limit will be five bass, 14-inch minimum length.

In other news, the Western Basin Sportfishing Association has set its second tournament of the season for Saturday, May 6, at Lamberjack's Marina and Bait at Turtle Creek, just west of Davis-Besse. For details visit the WBSA Web site, www.westernbasinsportfishing.com.

Last and not least, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is investigating a significant dieoff of muskellunge in Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair and Detroit rivers. Other species, such as walleye and black bass, have not been affected.

The MDNR said that the dieoff could have resulted from a combination of problems, including post-spawn stress, a warm winter that may have set the stage for a high incidence of disease, and rapid warming of water in the last two weeks. It is unknown whether musky pox - Piscirickettsia - a bacter-ial infection that showed up in muskies in 2002, is involved.



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