Cold weather puts anglers on ice

By Mike


Put-In-Bay, Ohio – Bucking a warm weather trend over the past
couple of years, winter is shaping up to be what it’s supposed to
look like in Ohio.

For the Buckeye State’s cold weather anglers, that means there’s
fair opportunity out there for some ice-fishing.

Ice guides around South Bass and Catawba islands in the western
basin of Lake Erie began taking clients out the weekend of Feb. 9
and the results didn’t disappoint.

‘I’ve never seen fishing like this before,’ said John Hageman,
who’s made ice-fishing off South Bass Island his winter pastime and
part-time vocation for the past 20 years.

For the weekend of Feb. 9, Hageman said the anglers he guided
caught between 20 to 30 walleyes each, keeping the legal six and
throwing back the rest.

‘I’ve got guys out there from Wisconsin this morning (Feb. 17)
and some of them had their limits by 8:15 (a.m.),’ said Hageman.
The group started fishing about 7:45 a.m. the same day, he said.
‘They had their limit in a half-hour. So, they’re out there fun
fishing now, throwing them back.’

Hageman said his clients have been fishing between Green,
Rattlesnake, and South Bass islands in holes cut through 14 inches
of ice on average. And, Hageman expects the good conditions to hold
up for a while.

‘Barring any catastrophes like 50 mile per hour winds or
anything crazy, this should last for a while, even with the warm up
we’re expecting,’ Hageman said. ‘ I expect to still be fishing
mid-March, based on what I know about the weather forecast.’

Most of the fish coming through the ice are around 19 to 20
inches, indicating they are brood from the 2003 hatch, Hageman
said. The largest walleye caught in the past couple of weeks in
Hageman’s houses was a 30-incher that went about 81/2 pounds. Fish
in the 4- to 6-pound range have also been coming through the holes,
he said, indicating that other fish are mixing nicely with the 2003
class of fish, all of which should be above the legal 15

‘There is a fair number of 1999s and 2001s out there, also,’
Hageman said.

Hageman’s cousin, Eric Herzel of Northwood, caught 51 walleyes
on Feb. 12 before a winter storm blew through the region. Herzel
kept the legal six fish, Hageman reported.

A few local anglers are fishing for yellow perch inside the
harbor at Put-In-Bay and are catching fish anywhere from six to 13
inches, according to Hageman. The perch bite has been spotty,

Hageman said his weekends are all booked up through the second
week of March and there are a limited number of weekdays

‘Normally, we have January fishing, too, but this year I didn’t
start until Feb. 9,’ Hageman said. ‘That means everybody has to be
squeezed into a smaller space.’

Hageman said his clients are coming from as far away as
Nashville, Tenn., to take a shot at the Lake Erie hard-water
walleyes this winter. Others are coming in from Indiana, Michigan,
and Wisconsin.

The DNR Division of Wildlife’s weekly fishing report said
anglers are catching walleyes off Crane Creek a bit further west of
the islands.

Robert North of Troy was planning a trip the weekend of Feb. 17
to fish the points off Catawba Island. He’s been concentrating on
open-water steelhead and saugeye for most of the winter, but said
he wanted to take advantage of the favorable conditions to get in
some ice time.

‘It’s looking like prime conditions right now,’ North said just
prior to getting on the lake Feb. 17.

North’s fishing partner, Darryl Smith of Toledo, said the duo’s
first day on the ice proved to be as productive as any he can
remember. North and Smith fished about four miles off Catawba State
Park. Both had limits in a couple of hours and ended up catching 25
fish in all.

‘The fish were very aggressive today,’ Smith said. ‘They were
just wild.’

Rattling spoons in red, chartreuse, orange, and silver, as well
as No. 5 silver Swedish Pimples were the productive baits for the
pair. Smith said he and North tipped each treble with a shiner
before offering it through the ice, which he said was between a
foot and 15 inches thick.

Smith said he and North weren’t alone, either. He estimated that
150 to 200 anglers were fishing off Catawba Feb. 17. Anglers were
getting there on ATVs, snowmobiles, and a few airboats, Smith

Smith said he was fishing in 30 feet of water, but many of the
walleyes hit about halfway up the water column. A few were picked
up off the bottom as well, he said.

‘Once we drilled our holes, we were on fish right away,’ Smith
said. ‘The biggest fish we caught was about 8 pounds. We released
all the bigger fish and we kept the eaters, the 3 to 5 pounders.
Normally, the bigger fish are the females so we try to get them
back in the water because they’re spawners. There were enough males
to go around.’

Farther east on Lake Erie near Geneva, Bill Potts of Painesville
said he and some friends have been trying their hand at smelt and
steelhead through the ice.

‘We haven’t had much luck so far, but I expect that will change
at some point,’ Potts said. ‘We’ll keep trying.’

Larry Goedde, the DNR Division of Wildlife’s fisheries
supervisor in northwest Ohio, said his region was starting to make
good ice on most lakes before a winter storm blew in on Feb. 13,
dropping up 14 inches of snow in some areas. Snow cover serves as
an insulator, but continued cold temperatures well below freezing
should make many inland lakes fishable again in short order.

Before the storm, anglers were ice-fishing on most up-ground
reservoirs in the region, according to Goedde.

For specifics, Goedde suggests giving Willard Reservoir a try
for walleyes and perch through the ice. Shelby Lake near Mansfield
would also be a decent choice for hard-water fishing.

For jumbo perch, Goedde said he’d try Lima Lake or Metzger
Reservoir, both of which are near the city of Lima.

‘It’s not uncommon to catch perch from 12 to 14 inches but the
numbers are going to be lower where you have those larger sizes,’
he said.

For panfish, a good place to try would be the Lake La Su An
chain of lakes in Williams County, which can be fished by
reservation on Thursday and Sundays. Call Mondays and Thursday, 9
a.m. to noon, for conditions and reservations. Or call District 2
of the Division of Wildlife at 419-424-5000.

In southeast Ohio, ice-fishing is also in full swing on area
farm ponds, according to reports from Salt Fork Outdoors in
Cambridge. Reports are showing anywhere from six to seven inches of
hard water on ponds.

In northeast Ohio, various reports had anglers out on Mosquito
Lake fishing through 10 to 12 inches of ice, but catch reports were
not all that good. A few were picking up walleyes and yellow perch
but the action was reported slow. Many were having decent luck for
crappies and bluegills.

In southwest Ohio, anglers were hitting C.J. Brown Reservoir
near Springfield for big bluegills through the ice and a few

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