Our Finest July Walleye Lakes
October 05, 2010
These proven summertime walleye hotspots are the places to be for exciting angling action this month. Troll slow
and deep...and hang on! (July 2007)
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
Most folks think that midsummer means the end of walleye fishing in the Keystone State and that the only summertime walleye option is Lake Erie.
A host of inland lakes will still produce, though anglers must adapt their approach to a new set of conditions. Don't think you have to wait until next spring to enjoy good walleye action. There are plenty of fish to catch right now, with very little competition.
Over the years, many of Ohio's reservoirs have shown to be better suited to saugeyes (walleye-sauger hybrids) than to pure walleyes. The saugeye program has proved to be a successful one, and the Ohio Division of Wildlife continues to tweak things as biologists work to determine which habitats are better suited for walleyes or saugeyes.
Most of the state's walleye-managed lakes are to be found in the eastern part of the state. Western Ohio anglers are not left out of the mix, however, and some good options exist for them as well.
Here's a look at the better July walleye options.
This 7,241-acre Trumbull County lake continues to pump out excellent numbers of eating-sized walleyes. The lake is intensively managed for walleyes. Despite heavy fishing pressure during spring, it remains the most consistent inland walleye lake in the state.
In 2005, the ODOW stocked well over 8 million fry in Mosquito Lake. The latest population estimates on the lake put the numbers of adult walleyes (13 inches and larger) in excess of 40,000 fish. Young-of-the-year surveys conducted during fall 2005 revealed an excellent survival rate of fish from that spring's stocking efforts. This indicates that an excellent level of walleyes will be entering the fishery to replace those creeled.
The average-sized walleye taken from Mosquito is 15.2 inches long.
And though it is managed as a put-and-take walleye lake, it has decent numbers of fish in the 20-inch range. Last year, I made several trips to the lake, taking good numbers of fish in the 18- to 22-inch range.
Mosquito Lake is bean-shaped, long and narrow. The lake is split by the Route 88 causeway, which divides it into northern and southern basins. The northern portion is shallower and more heavily stained. The southern basin attains depths in the 30-foot range near the dam. By mid- summer, the water in the lower end clears significantly, particularly near the dam.
Most years see a fair amount of submergent weed growth in Mosquito, primarily milfoil. A portion of summertime walleyes will make good use of the weeds. Stumpfields are the other primary walleye attractors, and are found at a variety of depths.
During spring, when Mosquito Lake sees its heaviest use as a walleye lake, the fish are in shallow water to feed and spawn. Now that summer's here, the situation is different. The fish have a variety of niches to fill, from shallow-water cover to deep structure.
The presence of baitfish also plays heavily into the equation. Successful walleye anglers must be versatile, especially during the summer months.
Mosquito's weeds grow out to depths of from five to seven feet, depending on spring weather and where you are on the lake. Stable weather in spring with lots of sunny weather equals heavier weed growth. Expect scattered weeds following a particularly rainy, cloudy spring.
Weeds produce oxygen, attract baitfish and provide ambush cover for predators like walleyes.
Several tactics can be used to work the weeds. An approach that covers water faster is to slow-troll spinner harnesses along the outside zone of the weeds. Use heavy bottom-bouncer sinkers -- as heavy as 3 ounces -- to keep your presentation as vertical as possible.
Spinners should be dressed with night crawlers, ribbon leeches or a soft bait. If sunfish and perch are picking the back of your crawler to pieces, switch to a fake worm.
Ribbon leeches are good because they are tougher than crawlers and stand up better to panfish and weeds. Best of all, walleyes love 'em!
Picking the weeds apart like a bass fisherman is another weedy-cover approach. Pitch jigs tipped with leeches to open pockets in the weeds. Weedless swimming jigs are outstanding jigs for pulling a leech or soft bait through and around the weeds.
Mosquito Lake's walleyes will also be found in deeper water. Stump flats, on flats that range from 10 to 20 feet deep, hold plenty of fish. The trick to fishing the stump flats is to troll baits at a level that just occasionally bump the top of a stump. Otherwise, you'll spend the whole day backing up to pop snagged lures free.
For deeper stumps, I like to use lead-core line to pull high-action baits. Not that you necessarily need lead-core line to reach 15- to 20-foot depths. Thin-diameter braided line can do the same, but lead core provides much more precision.
Pay out enough line to where the lure is bumping bottom, and then bring in just enough line so that it occasionally taps the top of a stump. Line-counter reels make duplicating the setup easy, provided the boat speed remains the same.
Hot, sunny days on Mosquito Lake bring out plenty of summer pleasure-boaters. But this is a big lake. If such activity gets too bothersome, stick to the north end of the lake, which has a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit. I've caught a lot of summertime 'eyes on the north end at the 9- to 12-foot stump flat off Rattlesnake Island.
There is no horsepower limit on Mosquito Lake, but there are speed limits and established ski zones. Good access areas are located near the causeway. A large public access lies just south of the causeway on the eastern shore. On the north side of the causeway is a commercial landing where boat rentals, bait and ice are available.
Access on the southern end of the lake is near Mosquito State Park, where there is a multi-lane ramp and a marina.
The ODOW actually rates the walleye fishing prospect for 14,650-acre Pymatuning Lake as "poor." In terms of overall fish numbers, I'd have to agree. Walleye recruitment has indeed been poor t
he past few years. Still, some younger year-classes are present. These, coupled with the remnants of older age-class fish, make it worth being on the lake this summer.
Physically, Pymatuning is quite similar to Mosquito. In fact, if someone were to blindfold you and drop you off south of the lake's causeway, you might have a tough time figuring out which is which.
But when you take into account the walleye population, the similarity ends there. Whereas Mosquito is a good lake for numbers, Pymatuning boasts far fewer, but larger fish.
The Espyville-Andover causeway bisects Pymatuning into two halves. The northern portion of the lake is the shallower of the two. Depths there average 12 feet or so. Several islands may be found there, as well as sunken humps and stumpfields. Depths in the southern end average 16 to 18 feet or so, with the maximum depths near the dam, where the lake bottoms out a bit over 30 feet.
I've found three patterns to be productive on summertime 'eyes on Pymatuning. Aggressive baits like the Hot-n-Tot are productive when trolled on lead-core line. With about three colors of lead-core line (90 feet) out, a Hot-n-Tot will run at 16 feet or so when the boat is moving about 2.5 mph, which is a good speed for warmwater walleyes.
Chrome-black is my most consistent color. Some days, the fish respond well to chartreuse-silver back Hot-n-Tots. Other baits worth trying include Wally Divers, Reef Runners and Shad Raps.
If you don't wish to dedicate trolling outfits to lead-core line, another good option is to use snap weights on standard trolling rigs spooled with monofilament or braided line. With a 2-ounce snap weight, Hot-n-Tots get down to the 18-foot depth when I'm using 30-pound-test braided line. The snap weight is placed 50 feet from the lure, and then an additional 30 to 35 feet of line is put behind the boat.
For those unfamiliar with them, snap weights employ a lead weight (one-half ounce, up to several ounces) and a pinch-pad release. The weight is "snapped" on the line about midway between the rod and the bait.
Though both lead-core line and snap weights provide a precise way of presenting trolled lures, lures with snap weights react a bit differently. Lead-core line is the more stable system, because it runs the length of the line. Lures run off lead core don't react as quickly when the boat speeds or slows. Since snap weights are affixed at one distinct point, a pendulum action occurs. This can be a good thing in warm water, as the bait will run up and down as the boat surges in waves. This creates a more vertically active bait, which can trigger a strike when the fish are active.
It's not a good thing, though, if you are trying to hold the lure just off the bottom, or over the tops of deep stumps. There, lead core works better.
During past summers, I've found that Pymatuning's walleyes hit well early in the day, often before other anglers even show up. The crankbait bite often dies around mid- to late morning. I can then usually pick up a few more fish by working the same areas with bottom-bouncing crawler harnesses.
I've found the best areas to be the deeper basins off long, gently sloping flats that connect the shoreline with the basin. The deep edges of large offshore humps can also be good.
Baitfish will be present on the screen along with larger fish. If I don't see bait, I keep fishing until I do. I prefer the southern end of the lake, between Snodgrass and the dam, though I also hear good reports from the northern end during the summer.
One other tactic to keep in mind, especially on days when little bait is showing up on the sonar, is to target suspended fish. (And this applies to other inland walleye lakes in the state.) When the weather is stable, plankton rises to the surface. Baitfish follow, and walleyes follow the bait.
Some anglers think it's necessary to go deeper when summer heats up, but often the opposite is true. Walleyes can be caught 10 feet or so from the surface over 18 to 20 feet of water.
A 10-horsepower motor limit remains in effect on Pymatuning, and there is a 15-inch minimum-length limit. The daily creel limit is six fish.
Several good access areas surround Pymatuning Lake. From the Andover side of the causeway, a good ramp may be found along North Lake Road, which places anglers on the north end of the lake near Harris Island.
Don't think you have to wait until next spring to enjoy good walleye action. There are plenty of fish to catch right now, with very little competition.
Three good ramps are to be found to the south off South Lake Road. In Pennsylvania, the best access areas are at Linesville (on the north end), and Snodgrass and Jamestown in the southern basin.
Fishermen are somewhat scarce this time of year, but expect to share the water with plenty of pontoons and sailboats.
CJ BROWN RESERVOIR
One of the best walleye lakes in the western portion of the state is CJ Brown Reservoir in Clark County, where an excellent walleye population is maintained through aggressive stocking of fingerling-stage walleyes. During recent years, fingerling stockings of 200,000 to 400,000 fish have been the norm.
The typical walleye caught by anglers ranges from 13 to 18 inches, though brutes up to 12 pounds are found in the 2,120-acre lake.
Creel surveys list the average creeled fish at 17 inches, which is a good size. A 15-inch length limit is in place on walleyes.
The upper end of CJ Brown is shallow. In the main basin of the lake, anglers will find faster-breaking shorelines along the western shore. Buck Creek State Park, on the lake's eastern side, provides a host of amenities, including boat rentals and camping.
The same presentation options and techniques for Mosquito and Pymatuning will work when fishing other inland walleye lakes. Most Ohio lakes have gizzard shad, and where you find shad, you'll be able to take walleyes by trolling aggressive-action crankbaits during the summer.
GRAND LAKE ST. MARYS
Broad, shallow, turbid Grand Lake St. Marys provides good fishing for a host of species, walleyes included. It furnishes a good summer option for walleye anglers from the western portion of the state.
Grand Lake St. Marys receives stockings of both fry and fingerling walleyes. Since 1999, over 50 million fry have been introduced into the 13,550-acre lake. Add to that fingerling stockings, many of which approaching 1 million, and it's not surprising that the lake contains a good supply of 'eyes.
Lying in an east-west direction, Grand Lake St. Marys can get churned up pretty well from west (or east) winds. Safety must be a concern -- keep in mind that some 25
boaters died in Pennsylvania in 2006 -- and wear your PFD!
One of the keys to finding walleyes on this heavily-silted lake is locating areas of solid bottom, which on this lake means hard clay and sand such as are found off the lake's north shore. The deeper water near the west boat ramp is another known walleye producer.
The Ohio DNR maintains seven boat access areas around the lake. There is no horsepower restriction.
Fishing Hot Spots, Inc., produces maps of Mosquito and Pymatuning lakes. The ODOW also has maps of those two, plus CJ Brown and Grand Lake St. Marys. Maps may be downloaded free from the ODOW's Web site at www.dnr.state.oh.us. Click on "Fish and Wildlife," "Fishing," and then "Lake Maps."
Sportsman's Connection produces two excellent fishing map guides, one that covers the southern portion of the state, and another for the north.
Contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife at 1-800-945-3543 for additional information on Ohio's inland walleye opportunities this summer.
Find more about Ohio fishing and hunting at: OhioGameandFish.com