The 4-1-1 on Lake Erie

Lake Erie

I’m back for another exciting year reporting on the fishing in Lake Erie! It’s hard to believe that after last year, and some great fishing in the 1980s, that this year will be the greatest fishing ever. Seven-plus great years of hatches will do that. Here is the 4-1-1 on Lake Erie.

The winter on Lake Erie was mild, and if you were able to get out fishing, limits of were the norm and not the exception. To prove the fishery is strong, new regulations are being put into place this year. In 2020, anglers will be allowed three rods per person instead of two. And as always there’s no closed season on walleye. Ohio regulations allow six walleye per person per day, with the sole exception being Sandusky Bay and Sandusky River, which will remain at four during the spring spawn. It used to be only four walleye per person in spring on the lake. Wow! To top that all off, the 2019 hatch is projected to be the second-best hatch ever. Those hatches should be close to legal size of 15 inches by 2021.

Other great news: Walleye are growing in size at an all-time rate. Walleyes feed on many things including shad, emerald shiners, gobies, perch and mayflies. Mayflies are a great source of protein for the walleyes and are in great abundance. In order for mayflies to flourish, you have to have a clean and healthy lake. Now, lets go fishing!

April is the month where trolling and jigs and spoon methods are best. First, we’ll start with trolling.

 

Trolling

Your first winning tip of the year is: speed. With so much fishing this winter, going right into spring, everybody is trolling as slowly as they can. Usually typical speeds this time of year are 1.2 to 1.4 miles per hour, which isn’t too slow. Keep track and adjust until you find the “bite.” Also don’t be afraid to use trolling bags. This enables you to keep higher RPMs on your motor, which is good for oil pressure—especially true on inboard and inboard-outboard motors. The bottom line is speed, however you have to get there.

I’m a big believer in color. Custom baits have come a long way and do make a difference. When you get a couple “hot” colors, put more out. The really good news for April is, more fish in the lake means more areas they’re at. Usually, the guys with smaller boats had to hang around the islands because of weather smaller numbers of fish. Now you don’t have to. There are more areas to fish off the mainland when it’s windy.

A good example is, when there’s a strong northwest wind, if you fish off Catawba to Port Clinton along the shore, you’ll get a bigger number of fish. Strong southwest winds, you’ll want to fish between Marblehead and Kelleys Island, right off the shore. Stay high in the water column as you troll. As April goes on and the water temps warm up, the fish will be shallower. Troll Perfect 10’s for high fish, while Reef Runners and Bandits for deeper fish are a few of the many baits to use.

Before I get into jigging, I want to go over one myth. Some people think that when someone catches 11- to 13-pound female full of eggs, that it’s a bad thing. They say, look at all of those potential fish they are killing. They are wrong when they say that. Number one, the mortality rate of those eggs is low, and two, we don’t have a spawning problem. If a person is worried about female fish, then they should throw the 22- to 26-inch females back. Those are the prime females with higher mortality rates. That is why a lake that has to conserve uses “slot limits,” so you can throw the prime breeders back. Come to Lake Erie and feel good about catching that 10-pound walleye.

 

Jigging

Fishing tip number two is jigging. This is done “on the rocks.” The biggest concentration of fish is on the reefs in front of Davis-Besse power plant. Fish will be found in shallower waters in the morning and in deeper waters as the sun and boat pressure increase. Captain Mark’s winning tip number two is, with the tremendous increase in walleyes, the rock piles that are smaller are holding limits of fish. Gull Reef north of Kelleys, American Eagle and th southeast of Kelleys are a few places to go.

And lastly my favorite things to use while fishing: spoons. I’m talking the same spoons you used for ice fishing in deeper water, especially for pre-spawn fish. Look in 30 feet of water north of the reefs off Port Clinton, all the way to the islands. Mark your fish, anchor and make sure to tip you spoons with minnows.

Captain Mark’s winning tip number three is that most people go to the bottom, tighten their line and then jig—but you’ll want to watch your fish finder for suspended fish. Sometimes, the best fish are three to four cranks off the bottom. There’s nothing better than when you let the spoon stop and the rod bends. Lots of 10-pound-plus fish are possible.

 

Become a MidWest Outdoors Insider here!