Buckeye State biologists predict a banner year for spring walleyes in 2008. Here's where to find your Fish Ohio qualifier from shore or boat this season.(March 2008).
Photo by Michael Skinner
It has been many years -- perhaps decades -- since the walleye fishing on Lake Erie has been considered "phenomenal." However, biologist's reports and angler's surveys suggest that this spring will be the big one.
Vast numbers of walleyes from the 2003 hatch are still out there and will be adding their considerable bulk to the spring spawning runs.
For Buckeye State anglers, this means that fish which are in the mid-20-inch range will be considered "average."
Last year, I personally saw more Fish Ohio qualifiers and 30-inch fish than I have in the previous four years combined!
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, considers walleyes 28 inches or longer to be trophy-sized fish. Anglers skilled or lucky enough to catch one can receive a Fish Ohio Certificate and pin.
You can find the necessary forms and information online. Log on to www.dnr.ohio.us/wildlife
Here's a look at where to find your Fish Ohio walleye in Ohio this season:
SANDUSKY AND MAUMEE RIVERS
According to Jeff Tyson, supervisor for the Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit, the Sandusky and Maumee rivers are two good places to start your search for a king-sized walleye.
"Remember that spring walleye runs create an incredible tributary fishery as they move upstream from Lake Erie to spawn," Tyson said.
One of his top picks is Perrysburg along the Maumee River near Toledo. There are many public access points in Perrysburg for anglers to choose from. The Side Cut Metro-park and Fallen Timbers State Park are good choices. These two parks merge to create one long fishing access that, combined, offer over two miles of shoreline.
The southern end of the park shoreline has a cobblestone rapids that's a favorite spot for spring walleyes looking for a place to discharge their eggs.
Anglers can find the park from the east by taking the Ohio Turnpike toward Toledo. Cross the Maumee River and take the U.S. Route 23 exit south. Follow Route 23 about four miles to U.S. Route 24 west, also called the Toledo Waterville Road.
Take Route 24 West to Fallen Timbers Lane and follow it south. The road will make a loop eastward and then north. After the north turn in the road, look for Jerome Road on the right and follow it to West River Road. Turn left into Fallen Timbers State Park. Fishermen need only continue along West River Road to reach Side Cut Metro-Park.
Anglers traveling south may come in along U.S. Route 23 before following the above directions. From the south, traveling north, you can best come in along Interstate Route 75. Take the Route 475 bypass south of Perrysburg to U.S. Route 24.
Boat launches are also available in Perrysburg at the foot of Maple Street, and also at Orleans Park.
Fremont along the Sandusky River is another of Tyson's picks for spring walleyes. "Downtown Fremont is a great place to catch spawning walleyes," he said.
From Brady's Island to the Rodger Young Memorial Park are traditional hotspots for spring walleyes here. The area south of Rodger Young Park to the Ballville Dam is closed to fishing, which makes Rodger Young the southernmost spot along the Sandusky River to fish for spawning walleye.
Anglers can find the Rodger Young Memorial Park from U.S. Route 20. Be sure to stay on the business route (also called West State Street) instead of the bypass route around Fremont. Off U.S. Route 20 (West State Street), anglers should take South Front Street one mile to Rodger Young Park. The park has a variety of amenities as well as restroom facilities.
Anglers can find free boat launch facilities off U.S. Route 20 by using North Front Street.
Take North Front Street to North Street, also called township Highway 525. Turn east onto North Street and take it to Sand Street. Turn right and follow it to the launch.
When you're fishing these tributaries for walleyes, there are a couple of points to remember:
One, because of the density of fish on the spawning beds, foul-hooking is often not only possible but actually probable. Anglers should be aware that a foul-hooked fish is not legally caught and must be returned, unharmed, to the water as quickly as possible.
Also, anglers should know that from March 1 to May 1, the following regulations are in effect on the Sandusky and Maumee Rivers:
€¢ No fishing with a line with more than a single hook. The line may not have a hook larger than one-half inch from shank to point, or a lure with more than a single hook larger than one-half inch from shank to point
€¢ Treble hooks are prohibited.
Jigs tipped with grubs or Mister Twisters are the preferred springtime lures on both the Sandusky and Maumee rivers. Most anglers lean heavily toward white, green and chartreuse as the best colors.
Last year, I personally saw more Fish Ohio qualifiers and 30-inch fish than I have in the
previous four years combined!
Sizes and weights are determined by line weight and the river's rate of flow, but a 1/2-ounce jig on 10-pound-test line is usually sufficient.
You should carry weights from 1/4 to 3/4 ounces in a variety of colors to be sure of matching the existing water conditions.
Though tributaries are the traditional spring walleye hotspots, Lake Erie's open waters are also home to their share of spawning walleyes.
"Walleyes will use any of the Lake Erie reefs for spawning," Tyson said. "But the Camp Perry Firing Zone Reefs, the Bass islands, Catawba Island and the areas around them are always good spring spots."
He added that most of the spawning in the western basin takes place on the shallow-water reefs near
the Camp Perry Firing Range, near Port Clinton and the Bass islands.
The reef and island complexes are Lake Erie's most productive spring locations for walleyes. There's also a good reef off the west side of Catawba Island called Clinton Reef, and then there's Marblehead Reef east of Port Clinton as well as the reefs that surround West Sister Island, which lies northwest of the firing range and about 10 miles west of the Bass islands.
Though there are several boat ramps throughout this area, one good place for anglers to launch from -- due to its central location -- is Catawba Island State Park. Spring walleye anglers can find Catawba State Park by turning north off state Route 2 onto state Route 53 and continuing into West Harbor before turning west onto West Catawba Road.
Follow West Catawba Road to Northwest Catawba Road and turn north.
Continue on Northwest Catawba Road to East Moores Dock Road, which leads directly to the park.
Jigs are also used to great effect along the shallow reef areas of Lake Erie. Again, lure sizes and colors are determined by existing conditions. But to be prepared, anglers should carry weights from 1/4 to 1 ounce.
Also popular is trolling, using spoons or plugs that dive from eight to 15 feet. Planer boards are almost a must because boats and props will spook fish in the shallow water. Twilight is the best time for spring walleye fishing. Many anglers limit their efforts to the couple of hours before sunrise and after sunset.
Jerkbaits, plugs and jigs are used most often during these periods and are great shoreline tactics when fishing from the piers in the surrounding areas.
Throughout the season, there is a 15-inch minimum-size limit on walleyes. A four-fish limit per day (up from three in 2005) is in effect from March 1 through April 30, when the creel limit is raised to six fish per day during the rest of the season.
For more information about the great walleye fishing opportunities on Lake Erie, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Sandusky Fish Research Unit ODNR, Division of Wildlife, 305 East Shoreline Drive, Sandusky, OH 44870. Or call (419) 625-8062, or e-mail email@example.com
Visiting anglers may also visit the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Internet address at www.ohiodnr.com
For information on local accommodations and amenities, contact Discover Ohio at 1-800-BUCKEYE (282-5383), or visit them online at www.discoverohio.com