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Published: Sunday, 4/20/2008

Welcome Back Walleye Week at Side Cut Metropark reels 'em in

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Erik Young of Perrysburg helps daughter Kelsi, 6, cast her line into Silver Lake while taking part in the park event. Erik Young of Perrysburg helps daughter Kelsi, 6, cast her line into Silver Lake while taking part in the park event.
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Two stages of the walleye fisherman encountered one another yesterday in and around the waters of Side Cut Metropark in Maumee.

On one stood the experienced wader-wearing and tacklebox-toting sort such as Matt Shippey of Swanton, who, thigh-deep in the 55-degree Maumee River, cast reels and lead-head jigs all morning and into the afternoon.

Several yards away inside the park, on the shores of catfish-stocked Silver Lake, gathered troops of smaller, younger, and fresher-faced anglers such as 6-year-old Kelsi Young and her 5-year-old sister, Skylar, of Perrysburg.

The two groups crossed paths during the Metroparks' second annual Welcome Back Walleye Week, which coincides with the peak of the river's "spring run," when thousands of fishermen come to take advantage of the half-million or so walleye that return to spawn.

"This phenomenon has been happening for hundreds of years," said park naturalist Mark Plessner, taking a historical perspective as he faced a row of fishermen.

Dennis Bryant, at left, the owner of ZAP Custom Lure Co., chats with Thomas Fisher about the lures, lines, and bait on sale. Dennis Bryant, at left, the owner of ZAP Custom Lure Co., chats with Thomas Fisher about the lures, lines, and bait on sale.
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"The behaviors that we're exhibiting today aren't any different from those of the people who were here before the first Europeans stepped foot on the continent."

Event highlights include yesterday's The Andersons Family Fun Day - complete with nature walks and a high-volume classic rock band - and the nearly weeklong fishing contest sponsored by Jann's Netcraft that concludes today.

Fishing contestants such as Mr. Shippey generally weren't lured to the park's family day tents and games, focusing more on landing prizes for the longest fish or heaviest stringer of four fish.

"They're catching a lot of them out there," said Dennis Bryant, owner of ZAP Custom Lure Co., Toledo, who cut a visible presence along River Road as he peddled hundreds of bright Day-Glo bobbers and lures from a display trailer.

Yesterday was the first time that either Kelsi or Skylar had gone fishing, and the sisters' parents were a bit confounded about what it was that had possessed the two girls to request such a trip.

"How badly did you guys want to fish today?" asked Tricia Young, their mother.

Sue Billingsley watches as Austyn Underwood, 13, of Oak Harbor puts a worm on her line so that she can fish in Silver Lake during the Welcome Back Walleye celebration in the park. Sue Billingsley watches as Austyn Underwood, 13, of Oak Harbor puts a worm on her line so that she can fish in Silver Lake during the Welcome Back Walleye celebration in the park.
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"Really, really bad," Kelsi replied spiritedly.

Mrs. Young later confessed that she and her husband Erik were a bit anxious over the prospect of having to unhook live fish if their daughters struck beginner's luck.

"We're not much of fishermen. We don't like worms or fish. We're like, 'We hope they don't catch anything,'•" she said with a laugh.

Mike Johnson of Maumee wore a look of pride as he watched his two young daughters, Lauren and Haley Johnson, flick their wrists and launch their fishing lines almost halfway across the lake with remarkable ease.

Eleven-year-old Haley was still beaming after her earlier third-place finish in the children's casting contest.

An avid fisherman, Mr. Johnson said that these family fishing trips are more about the shared experience than they are about landing big catches.

"It's not real big fishing on this end," he said of the waters.

"This is just getting out and trying to enjoy the first couple days of spring."

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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