CLEVELAND, Ohio — It matters very little where you launch a boat on Lake Erie right now. The walleye are biting with a vengeance from West Sister Island in the Western Basin to Fairport Harbor in the Eastern Basin. While trophy walleye are a bit more difficult to catch because of the hordes of smaller, hungry walleye that are eager to bite, limit catches are common.
With fair weather in the Lake Erie forecast for Friday and into the weekend, expect to see crowds of boaters at the launch ramps just about everywhere.
Expect to catch lots of smaller walleye, as well, that might be shorter than the 15-inch legal size limit. When you do, handle those fish with care when releasing them back into Lake Erie. Always remember that once a walleye is tossed into the cooler, it can’t be released.
Anglers from everywhere: Cruising the launch ramps along the Ohio shoreline, is easy to see that we have fishing friends from around the country taking advantage of the fantastic Lake Erie walleye fishing.
“There are fishermen coming in from Missouri, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota … from just about everywhere,” said Craig Lewis at Erie Outfitters in Sheffield Lake. “I’ve been told by local shop owners that they are seeing a lot of new business, and it is due to the influx of fishermen from out of town.”
High fuel costs a challenge for charters: Fishing guides are a bit stressed this summer because of high fuel prices. Most charter boats have to fill their fuel tanks at the marina gas pumps, where gas and diesel fuel can be more than $6 to $8 per gallon. Charter operations have begun to put a surcharge on the cost of a charter because of the higher fuel prices.
Small spoons a big hit for walleye: Susie Smith at Lake Shore Bait & Tackle in Ashtabula said the big blow on Lake Erie last weekend may have chased anglers from the big, open waters, but it has turned on this week’s walleye fishing.
“We’ve seen some really good catches this week, with lots of limits,” said Smith on Thursday morning. She has operated the tackle shop for the last 14 years. “We’re getting reports from fishermen who have done well casting in 20 feet of water, and fishermen trolling out in 63 feet. The schools of walleye are all over the place, but the 25- to 42-foot depths have been the absolute best waters to fish.”
Small spoons, led by the 2 1/4-inch Stinger Scorpion, have been best for rounding up big walleye, with larger trolling spoons also coming into play right now. Smith said that a lot of anglers like to add a hunk of nightcrawler to the hook on their spoons to trigger more strikes.
To take the small spoons to the best depths, anglers are using Tru-Trip Diving Planers, Dipsy Divers and Jet Divers. While spoons are dominating right now, minnow-style plugs like the Bandit and Flicker Minnow are still popular. Some anglers are also catching bigger walleye trolling the large profile double-bladed spinner rigs and nightcrawler.
Drift-and-cast anglers doing well: The traditional method of drift-and-cast fishing for walleye is back, especially in the shallower waters of the Western Basin. The West Sister Island waters all the way to the Ontario line have been especially productive at times. With the big schools of walleye and lots of hungry 18- to 21-inch fish around, anglers are casting the old-fashioned weight-forward spinners, including the venerable Erie Dearie, tipped with a bunched-up nightcrawler on the long wire hook.
Also working well are the Weapon spinner rigs, usually with a gold blade, and a smaller piece of nightcrawler. The Weapons are weighted with a 3/8- to 5/8-ounce barrel sinker and have a foot-long leader and spinner. The standard tactic is to cast out the rig, let it sink to the lake bottom, then begin a slow herky-jerky retrieve back to the boat.