So many fish, so little time. What's a fisherman to do?
Typically this feature is devoted to a fish flavor-of-the-week, as in what's hot. But it turns out that right now you can angle with very respectable results for a wide range of species on a wide range of waters, from Lake Erie to rivers and streams and inland impoundments across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
"It seems that everything is biting right now," summed up Chris Martin at River Lures in Grand Rapids on the Maumee River. "It's the best fishing spring in at least five years," adds Vern Zunk at Zunk's Bait on State Rt. 2 near Bono.
Larry Goedde, fish management supervisor for Ohio Wildlife District 2, passed the parking lot at Veterans Memorial Reservoir, along State Rt. 12 on the southwest corner of Fostoria, and saw at least 20 vehicles parked there -
midafternoon, midweek. He suspects it had something to do with the fine action there for yellow perch, saugeye, crappies, and/or channel catfish.
"There is a lot going on everywhere right now," said Goedde. But he hedges his bets a mite by going with the Maumee River and western Lake Erie as his first choices.
"The river is still one of the best fisheries around with the white bass and the walleyes. And so is the lake itself [with walleyes and yellow perch]."
The weather-switch late this week, to rainy and cooler, may suppress activity temporarily and winds certainly will keep Lake Erie boat-anglers pinned down. But expect action, if it slumps, to resume as soon as conditions settle.
Some limits of walleye still are being taken at the popular rapids above Maumee-Perrysburg at the popular Blue Grass Island [Side Cut Metropark] and Buttonwood Public Access, and along the Towpath and Ford Street access, according to Maumee Tackle. Try using small to medium-size flating jigheads with two to three-inch tails.
White bass are being taken as well, using shiners or small jigs. The best fish of last week checked at Maumee Tackle was a 2.93-pound white bass by Toledoan David Czlapinski. But even that whopper is still more than a pound shy of the state record.
Lots of white bass also are being taken below the Grand Rapids Dam, according to Martin at River Lures. He notes considerable catches of smallmouth bass there as well.
Speaking of which, anglers are strongly reminded that all largemouth bass and smallmouth bass taken from Lake Erie or tributaries to the first dam must be immediately returned to the water until June 23 during the catch-and-release season, which began May 1. That means waters to the Grand Rapids Dam on the Maumee River, the Elmore Dam at Elmore on the Portage River, and the Ballville Dam at Fremont on the
Vern Zunk said that some anglers apparently showed up at his shop with Erie bass last weekend, apparently ignorant of the rules. [Obviously they did not - or cannot - read the state's free, color fishing guide.]
Meanwhile, back at Grand Rapids, Martin weighed the biggest flathead catfish so far at his shop this season, a 42-pounder stretching 44 inches. He added that channel cats also are taking baits eagerly, and crappie fishermen still are searching for schools, some of them successfully, at the North and South Turkeyfoot access sites above the dam and around the docks at Mary Jane Thurston State Park marina just west of town.
"Flatheads - and channel cats as well - can be caught from now through the summer," said the state's Goedde. The little brown catfish, bullheads, are
active in lower Lake Erie tributaries and backwaters.
Goedde noted that state biologists netted more than a half dozen flatheads during a recent attempt to sample for sturgeon in the Maumee River between Rossford and the dam. Spawning mats also were placed below the dam, all marked with floats from the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The sturgeon project should be completed within a week.
The Sandusky River at Fremont remains productive for white bass. "The fish are in thick," said Bernie Whitt at Angler Supply there. With special seasonal rules now relaxed, anglers can fish all the way to the Ballville Dam. Some walleye remain in the stream as well, though nowhere nearly as heavily as in the Maumee.
Elsewhere inland, Goedde rates the following upground reservoirs as "pretty good" for yellow perch, crappie, saugeye, and channel catfish: Fostoria No. 6 [Veterans Memorial]; Lima Lake in Allen County; Findlay No. 2, and Wauseon.
Directions to each are available in the free map-sized state guide, "Ohio Public Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife Viewing Areas," available free by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE. Or find directions and lake maps at www.ohiodnr.com.
Goedde noted that bluegill fishing has been excellent at the state's popular, reservation-controlled Lake La Su An State Wildlife area lakes in Williams County. Call Mondays between 8 a.m. and noon for fishing Thursdays through Mondays, 419-636-6189.
Another fine venue for largemouth bass, bluegill, and rainbow trout is the St. Joseph River State Wildlife Area southwest of Monpelier, also in Williams County. Two lakes are available there, Barton and McKarns, the latter providing stocker rainbow trout of 10 to 12 inches and some larger carryovers from 2005.
On western Lake Erie, the jig-and-minnow tactic remains very much in play for walleye, weather permitting, in Maumee Bay, around K-Can on the Camp Perry Firing Range, and north of North Bass and Kelleys islands. Blade baits also are working, though skipper Steve Connor said some anglers were doing well simply with purple hair-jigs, unbaited.
Trollers were taking larger fish, many of them pulling spinners and worm harnesses.
Yellow perch are being taken off Toledo Harbor Light, Little Cedar Point, and the Toledo Water Intake, according to Dan Baker at Butch and Denny's Bait in Jerusalem Township. Further east, perch are being taken northwest and southeast of Kelleys Island, at Gull Island Shoal, and south of Luci's Point on Middle Bass Island.
State fisheries biologists said that a virus remains the most likely candidate in the deaths of tens of thousands of freshwater drum, or sheepshead, that have washed up on the lakeshore between Toledo and Vermilion. Confirming test results will not be available, however, for six weeks or so.
A relative handful of other species also have been found dead, but such smaller dieoffs are common and attributed to spawning stress.
However, Neal Thurber reports seeing 10 to 12 muskellunge, each 30 to 40 inches long, on the Michigan lakeshore just north of Toledo Beach Marina. Given the location it is believed these muskies may be part of the recent dieoff on Lake St. Clair and St. Clair and Detroit rivers. That dieoff is under scrutiny by Michigan biologists.
Last and not least, Bill Powers, Sr., took a 6-pound, 12-ounce whitefish on a Sonar blade bait while fishing for walleye in Maumee Bay on April 21. Jeff Tyson, the state's Lake Erie fisheries research supervisor, said whitefish typically move to the western basin in the fall, spend the winter here, and head east in April. They prefer cool waters and that means east and deep, in summer.
Get the lead out - That is the theme of tomorrow's second annual Maumee River cleanup, based at Riverview Shelter in Side Cut Metropark in Maumee. A consortium of organizations and businesses are asking for 200 volunteers to help clean up litter, spent fishing line, and lost lures in the popular Maumee River rapids fishing zone.
Sign up by calling Maumee Tackle, 419-893-FISH, or just show up and help between 9 a.m. and noon. This is riverkeeping at its best and shows that anglers are conservationists too.