October 05, 2010
Here's a sampling of some Buckeye State's walleye lakes, all highly recommended by the biologists who manage them.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt.
To say that warm weather can make finding Ohio's walleyes "difficult" is an understatement.
During hot weather, walleyes are not always willing to bite, and July's searing heat can be a real challenge for walleye anglers.
One of the most important keys to beating the summer doldrums is knowing where the concentrations of fish are and focusing your angling efforts there.
Here's a look at the best Buckeye State walleye hotspots, according to Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologists:
You can't talk about walleye fishing in Ohio without Lake Erie coming up. Big fish in big numbers is why. Of all the public fishing waters in Ohio, Lake Erie is the most intensely monitored and accordingly, has the most detailed information about its species of fish.
Every year, ODOW biologists use a variety of methods to determine walleye hatch rates. Armed with this information, they can calculate amazingly accurate estimates of how many walleyes enter the fishery each year.
Rates vary from year to year, of course. But here's how it has all fallen together for Ohio anglers.
The 2003 hatch was pivotal for today's walleye fishery. Most of the keeper walleyes out there will come from this hatch because they're now averaging 21 inches plus.
Since that year, the only decent hatch took place in 2005. This year, these fish will be barely legal, and their numbers comparatively low.
Aside from the 2003 hatch, most of the walleyes left in the fishery will be from the better hatches in '93, '94, '96 and '99. These fish will be bruisers and most will easily pass the Fish Ohio minimum.
In a nutshell, walleye anglers can expect the average walleye caught this year to measure in the 25- to 29-inch range. Anglers should also catch many more than the usual numbers of really big walleyes. Last year, in fact, many local anglers reported catching more 30-inch-plus walleyes than they had in the previous several years combined.
If Lake Erie's walleyes are your fish of choice, it's important that you know where to go. This Great Lake is a pretty big one, after all!
Good fishing depends on the weather. If the July temperatures stay moderate, the eyes' traditional hangouts around the western reefs and islands will continue to hold fish in good numbers. These proven haunts will always hold some walleyes. However, if the weather heats up and lake temperatures start rising, then get ready to move.
In July, anglers will find many schools of walleyes around the sandbar off Beaver Creek or Lorain, which lies a bit offshore. Other schools of fish will be scattered all along the coast from Huron to Avon, usually one to three miles offshore.
If you're not finding fish, then do as the fish do and move east toward deeper, cooler waters. During really hot years when lake temperatures are high, anglers will need to travel even farther east, toward Fairport or even the Pennsylvania border.
Travis Hartman is a fisheries biologist for the ODOW's Sandusky fish research unit. He illustrated how far and fast walleyes will migrate to the eastern basin in hot years: A female walleye caught and tagged in Fremont during spring 2006 was caught in New York State just one month later!
To entice walleyes, Lake Erie's anglers use a variety of lures including plugs, spoons, spinners and jigs. July anglers will have their best success drift-fishing while using a weight-forward spinner like the Erie Dearie tipped with a night crawler.
Under most wind conditions, 5/8- to 3/4-ounce lures work best. But in case of a strong wind, most veterans take along a few 1-ounce spinners and for calmer days, a few 1/4-ounce lures. Gold, silver, chartreuse and green are the most popular colors.
Windless days with very little boat drift may force anglers to troll using another popular July method: Dipsy Divers and spoons.
Regardless of what lures you choose, keep your presentations deep to find the biggest walleyes.
Anglers eager to fish Lake Erie this July would do well to phone the Sandusky Fish Research Unit at (419) 625-8062. Biologists there should be able to tell you where the fish are most likely to be at any point in their migration.
Bait stores near the launch sites are also good sources of information. And while you're buying bait, many will even give you GPS coordinates for the most productive spots. These can be invaluable if current, but even if they are a few days old, they'll give you a starting point from which you can begin working eastward.
In July, migrating schools of walleyes can usually be found in great numbers from Huron to Avon Lake.
This puts Lorain at dead center in their usual July migration route and makes it a good place to start searching for fish.
From Lorain, it's a fairly short trip east or west to find concentrations of walleyes.
Some good bait stores in or near Lorain that often have fishing information include:
€¢ George's Bait and Carryout, at (440) 282-2660,
€¢ Hot Waters Marina (which also has a free launch ramp), at (440) 244-6301, and
€¢ Lakeside Bait and Tackle at (440) 288-2002.
Farther east toward Avon in Sheffield Lake is Erie Outfitters, at (440) 949-8934. A few miles to the east, there is a public launch.
In Avon, try Eyepopper Fishing Business, at (440) 937-5013.
MOSQUITO CREEK LAKE
Anglers wanting to avoid Lake Erie's sometimes-turbulent waters can hardly do better than Mosquito Creek Lake. At 7,241 acres, this lake offers ample room and good numbers of fish.
Phil Hillman, an ODOW district supervisor, said that for inland walleyes, it's his first pick.
"There is a good mix of walleyes here," Travis Hartman said, "with good numbers of fish and some good-sized ones in t
Though fairly large, Mosquito Creek Lake has a maximum depth of only 24 feet at its southernmost end, near the dam. Despite that shallow depth, the lake has plenty of underwater bumps and structure.
For July anglers, the most common fishing lures are jigs and harnesses. They also use spoons dropped deep and trolled, and some anglers troll using deep-diving Shad Raps.
Mosquito Creek Lake is part of Mosquito Lake State Park and as such, offers all the usual amenities including camping areas, boat ramps, restrooms and a marina.
It's also an active recreational area and may have large crowds on the water, especially during weekends.
There are no motor restrictions on the lake, but no-wake restrictions extend 300 feet from all shorelines and speed zones.
Anglers may reach Mosquito Creek Lake from state Route 87 along its northern border, state Route 88 on the south, state Route 45 on the west and state Route 46 on the east.
Mosquito Creek Lake lies 45 miles west of Cleveland and 15 miles north of Warren. The lake's wildlife area headquarters is off state Route 87 and then south on county Road 263.
Some nearby stores and bait shops include:
€¢ Causeway Sporting Goods, at (330) 637-7076,
€¢ Pikie Bay Marina, at (330) 637-2512, and
€¢ The Mosquito Marina, at (330) 637-2075. All are often good sources of information as to what lures are working best during July.
A contrast to Mosquito Creek Lake is Hartman's second choice of walleye spots. Berlin Lake is deeper, with a mean depth of 23 feet and a maximum of 55 feet. It lies in northeastern Ohio at the junction of Stark, Portage, and Mahoning counties. Anglers can access the lake from U. S. Route 224 and state routes 14 and 225.
Berlin Lake covers 3,321 acres and has several small creeks flowing into it and forming long cove-like creek channels. The lake has a variety of fishing options, with some steep shorelines dropping off into deeper water. Other shorelines feature long, gently sloping flats.
"Berlin Lake is kind of funny sometimes," Hartman said. "Often the fishing heats up later than other lakes, and anglers can sometimes catch walleyes shallow into July." Anglers interested in trying for shallow water walleyes should try fishing around the shoreline willows.
On Berlin Lake, the most productive techniques are casting jigs and bait, though many anglers troll using spoons or small diving plugs.
Berlin Lake has most of the same amenities as Mosquito Creek Lake. There are launch ramps, camping areas, a marina and also boat rentals. The lake's boat launch is on Bonner Road.
Though there are no motor restrictions on the lake, there are many well-marked no-wake zones that anglers should be aware of.
Also, Berlin Lake gets a large recreational crowd, especially during weekends and holidays.
Nearby bait shops include Les's Bait at (330) 584-6741, and Dutch Harbor Marina at (330) 584-4174.
LA DUE RESERVOIR
Biologist Hillman's third choice he considers a sleeper. La Due Reservoir offers 1,475 acres of fishing water 30 miles east of Cleveland in southern Geauga County. The lake lies near the intersection of U.S. Route 422 and state Route 44, with U.S. 422 crossing the reservoir and state Route 44 following the western shoreline.
"La Due Reservoir is quiet and peaceful," says Hillman. "The lake has an electric motor-only restriction, which reduces recreational use."
There's also a maximum-length restriction of 18 feet for boats on La Due. Along with to its lack of pressure, the lake is also home to some good walleyes.
Hillman suggests that anglers use the most common method used on the lake and try jigs and/or crawler harnesses.
La Due Reservoir is relatively shallow, with most of the depths averaging 12 to 15 feet. The deepest part of the lake is dead center in the northern end of the lake between the dam and the U.S. 422 causeway and bridge. There, the water may be as deep as 24 or 25 feet.
July anglers should concentrate their fishing efforts near the deeper underwater humps by jigging the slopes or deeper dropoffs along the sides for suspended walleyes, or trolling with diving lures.
If water temperatures are high, anglers should hit the deeper weedbeds with jigs and bait.
Bait and tackle can be purchased nearby at One Stop Fishing Shop, at (440) 834-2248.
To obtain additional information for Mosquito Creek Lake, Berlin Lake or La Due Reservoir, you can call the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office at (330) 644-2293, or write them at 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319.
For more information and maps, go online to www.ohiodnr.com.
A female walleye caught and tagged in Fremont during spring 2006 was caught in New York state just one month later!
C. J. BROWN RESERVOIR
Debbie Walters, an ODOW fisheries biologist, picked C. J. Brown Reservoir as a good western-region hotspot for Ohio's inland walleyes.
Located in Clark County, C.J. Brown Reservoir covers some 2,019 acres. The reservoir is part of Buck Creek State Park and features all the associated amenities. Anglers will find camping facilities, cottages, ramps, a marina and a variety of recreational opportunities.
With the recreational crowd and no motor limitations, the lake traffic can be heavy, although the northern end is a no-wake zone.
The entire northern end of the lake is a very gently southward-sloping flat that goes from inches in depth to 15 feet of water.
The lake's deeper waters are in the southern half, with a maximum depth of about 50 feet at the dam. Though there's not an abundance of structure to concentrate walleyes, there are some deep potholes and humps.
Walters pointed out that local anglers usually concentrate their efforts along submerged old roadbeds and bridge abutments. She also noted that there is an extremely long riprap dam wall that harbors some good fish.
"C. J. Brown Reservoir is a stocked walleye lake as are nearly all such waters in Ohio," said Walters. "There is very little, if any, natural reproduction of walleyes in Ohio's inland lakes, so we stock the reservoir annually. Our yearly spring netting for spawning st
ock reveals some walleyes in the 10- to 11-pound range."
Though big fish are present, C.J. Brown hosts a good mix of fish. Reservoirs and lakes that have annual stockings often do not go through the ups and downs that plague other lakes with only natural reproduction.
On C.J. Brown, popular techniques include casting jigs with night crawlers or minnows, bottom bouncers with plugs, or bait and trolling.
Bait may be purchased at the marina near the tailwaters. Information about the marina may be obtained through the Buck Creek State Park's office at (937) 322-5284.
Boat rentals are also available.
Additional information about C.J. Brown Reservoir may be obtained from the ODOW's Wildlife District Five office at (937) 372-9261, or write them at 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45387.
More information and maps are available at www.ohiodnr.com.
For more information about fishing throughout Ohio, call the Ohio Division of Wildlife's headquarters at (614) 265-6300, or write them at 2045 Morse Road, Building G, Columbus, OH 43229-6693.