The walleye runs on the Sandusky and Maumee rivers are going strong, according to reports, although they don’t seem to have peaked just yet. Maumee Bait and Tackle is reporting that few anglers are coming away with six-fish limits, but there are walleyes being caught. Trolling anglers on Lake Erie are managing quick limits, however, sometimes in just a couple of hours of fishing. Pressure has been particularly heavy around Kelleys Island when weather conditions permit. The saugeye bite on inland waters continues to be a bit sluggish in this early spring. But, anglers are finding that crappies, and in some cases yellow perch, have been more cooperative. Bluegills, too, have been willing biters at many of Ohio’s lakes and reservoirs. Ohio’s state park boat ramps for now remain open, according to the DNR. Good luck and practice social distancing.
Alum Creek Lake (Delaware County) – Anglers fishing the south pool of Alum Creek have had some decent luck in recent days. The good bite is coming for anglers jigging deep stumps and brush piles. Smallmouth bass have been the highlight of the catch, a couple reaching more than 4 pounds on the scale. This method is also producing channel catfish and crappies. Saugeye reports have been few, but water temperatures are warming into the 50s, which should trigger a better bite on these hybrids.
Buckeye Lake (Fairfield, Licking, Perry counties) – Fishermen are hitting Buckeye for crappies and saugeyes right now, but only one of the species is cooperating, according to local reports. Crappies are biting jigs under a float, fished in 10 to 15 feet of water. Crappies are ranging up to 12 inches, and one angler reports catching 10 fish in five hours of fishing. The saugeye action, as it has been all winter, has been slow.
Indian Lake (Logan County) – Finally, anglers are reporting some saugeyes at Indian Lake. The popular bait has been a Smithwick Rogue or similar type of bait. Interestingly, one angler reports that the best bite is coming about an hour after sunset. He reports catching two big females working the Smithwick, one going 23 inches and the other measuring 21 inches. Crappies, too, are biting on jig and minnow combinations, but the saugeyes are turning down the jigs, according to angler reports.
Sandusky River (Sandusky County) – Anglers are catching walleyes here and there as the run seems to be happening right now. Water temperatures in the 50s have brought these fish to the river for spawning. Fishermen are using Carolina rigs and lead head jigs with twister tails in bright colors. The bag limit on the Sandusky is four walleyes from March 1 through April 30 to protect spawning fish.
Maumee River (Lucas County) – According to Maumee Bait and Tackle, as of March 30 water temperatures on the Maumee were right around 44 degrees. That’s just a couple of degrees warmer than our last report. Anglers are catching fish, though walleye limits have been hard to come by. The bait shop is reporting doubles and triples, however. On overcast days like we’ve had over the past couple of weeks, use brighter colors such as orange heads and black tails, pink head and dark orange tails. Warmer days and nights, which are expected in the forecast, should trigger them to bite. Starting on March 1, legal fishing times on the Maumee are from sunrise to sunset. Anglers may use only one rod with one hook. Fish cannot be snagged. They must be hooked in the mouth to be a legal catch. The spring bag limit is six walleyes this year with a minimum keeper length of 15 inches.
Maumee Bait and Tackle, www.maumeetackle.net
Willard Reservoir (Huron County) – Anglers continue to catch crappies and bluegills in decent numbers and some yellow perch have also been in the mix. The successful setup has been a jig and maggot combination or simply a ball of maggots or wax worms under a float. Some of the crappies being reported have been decent 10- to 11-inch varieties and anglers are catching a bunch of keepers.
Berlin Lake (Portage, Mahoning, Stark counties) – Anglers are doing well at the Berlin Lake spillway catching walleyes. The best bite is coming late into the night, however. According to reports, the better walleye bite is coming between 1 a.m. and daylight. Fishing during light hours has been hit and miss. The popular setup has been a jig and 4-inch twister tail in a variety of patterns. Crappies, too, are reportedly being caught.
Mahoning River (Mahoning County) – Walleye Assassins have been the hot bait for walleyes in the river right now, according to local reports. Anglers are catching them throughout the day on these baits with the largest specimen being reported a 19-inch fish. Anglers are catching walleyes anytime the water is receding.
West Branch Lake (Portage County) – Water clarity has been reportedly poor in recent days, but a few lucky anglers are catching walleyes. Fish must be 15 inches to be kept, and one angler this week reports catching two walleyes that just made it to that mark. Anglers are throwing crankbaits at these walleyes.
Mosquito Creek Lake (Trumbull County) – Fishermen are fishing hard for crappies and walleyes, but the catching isn’t equal to the effort, according to local reports. Anglers are throwing Rapalas or similar type baits for the walleyes with little success to show for it. Others report using Vib-Es or other types of blade baits, which is picking up a few fish. Crappies have been a little easier to come by with anglers tossing out jig and minnow combos or simply a minnow under a float. For more on this lake, see Page 24.
Pymatuning Lake (Ashtabula County) – Anglers are fishing for a mixed bag at Pymatuning, and walleyes are among them. The best setup has been a jig and float or jig and minnow combo for walleyes and crappies. Some walleyes up to 20 inches are being reported. On the crappie side of things, jigs are working as are straight minnows or wax worms. Crappies are up shallow right now, biting in 5 feet of water or less.
Caesar Creek Lake (Warren, Clinton, Greene counties) – With a lot of rain in the near forecast, anglers would be wise to focus their saugeye efforts here on the spillway. Elevated water levels should serve to push some fish through the spillway, including saugeyes and crappies. The best bet for bait at this time of year is to jig for them, tipping the rig with some live bait. Or, just fish a minnow or wax worm under a float.
Cowan Lake (Clinton County) – Water levels aren’t bad on Cowan right now, but on most days the lake has looked like chocolate milk. A few fishermen are trying for crappies with brightly colored jigs, but they don’t have much to show for it. Anglers might try using a spinnerbait right now to add a little flash to the offering. Anything that will get a fish’s attention in turbid water could be an advantage.
Rocky Fork Lake (Highland County) – As is the case with most lakes in southwest Ohio right now, turbidity is a problem for anglers at Rocky Fork. Some anglers are fishing the spillway when conditions allow, but there’s not much being reported in the way of catching. They’re fishing for crappies, catfish, and saugeyes.
Tappan Lake (Harrison County) – Fishing pressure has been light, but anglers are managing to catch some channel catfish. One angler recently caught a 24-inch catfish by using a creek chub fished on the bottom. Others are trying for crappies and saugeyes, but they are not having much luck, according to reports. Water is pretty turbid, which might be causing the tough panfish and saugeye bite and helping the catfish bite.
Salt Fork Lake (Guernsey County) – Just like most waters around southeast Ohio, a lot of rain recently has Salt Fork high and muddy. Anglers are still fishing in small numbers, however, according to local reports. One angler reports catching a dozen crappies on one outing recently, the biggest being about 10 inches. He was using a jig and tail combo, fished in shallow – about 7 feet – of water.
Leesville Lake (Carroll County) – The muskie bite has been on in recent days on this lake that is known for its esox population. One angler reports catching three muskies in one outing, the largest being a 41-incher. They’re throwing big spinnerbaits and swimbaits to get the muskie bite. If you catch a muskie on Leesville – or anywhere in Ohio – be sure to report it on the DNR Division of Wildlife’s Muskie Angler Log. You can find the log at www.wildohio.gov.
Lake Erie Region
• The daily bag limit for walleye in Ohio waters of Lake Erie is six fish per angler. The minimum size limit for walleye is 15 inches.
• The daily bag limit for yellow perch is 30 fish per angler in all Ohio waters of Lake Erie.
• The trout and salmon daily bag limit is two fish (singly or in combination) per angler. The minimum size limit is 12 inches.
• Black bass (largemouth and smallmouth bass): The daily bag limit is five fish (singly or in combination) per angler with a 14-inch minimum size limit.
• Effective Jan. 1, 2020, it is legal to use three rods per angler in the Lake Erie Sportfishing District.
• A Lake Erie fishing permit is required for nonresidents from Jan. 1 to April 30, 2020, when fishing Lake Erie and areas immediately upstream in creeks, rivers, and tributaries.
Where: Fishing has been good as weather permits. Limits have been reported in as little as two to three hours. Most reports are coming from the islands area, with the northwest of Kelleys Island being the most commonly reported, though some reports near the Camp Perry firing range have been coming in. Anglers are advised to use extreme caution with cold water temperatures, and to use life jackets or float coats at all times.
How: Trolling deep diving crankbaits and stickbaits has been the most popular technique at speeds 1.4 to 1.6 mph. Anglers have been experimenting with lures 50-150 feet back without any additional weight, or 15-30 feet back from a planer board to a 2-ounce weight, and another 15-30 feet back to the lure. Bright lure colors have been good, as well as those with contrasting colors. Anglers have also reported have success jigging blade baits, jigging raps, and spoons in 25-30 feet of water near the islands.
As of March 18, the Lake Erie water temperature off Toledo was 42 degrees, off Cleveland 37 degrees, and off Erie 37 degrees.
Area streams to Cleveland Metroparks are offering very good steelhead fishing conditions and opportunities. Streams are offering a good mix of chrome bright fresh run steelhead and more colored, darker fish that have been in the streams for awhile. Steelhead are well distributed throughout Cleveland area watersheds, although it seems like the bulk of the fish are currently farther upstream. Metroparks has had reports recently of some spawning steelhead in the East Branch Rocky River between Cedar Point Road and Berea Falls. Steelhead in stained water have been biting best on dime to nickel size spawn sacs in bright colors (hot pink and chartreuse are favorites), and as the water clears small marabou jigs tipped with maggots, live or salted minnows, 3-inch rubber worms (pink and white have been good), and salmon egg mimicking beads drifted near the river bottom under a float will take a greater share of the fish. The quality (size) of better steelhead has been excellent lately. Lake-run white suckers are intermixed with steelhead in area streams, as well.
Metroparks recently stocked 1,200 pounds of rainbow trout in the East Branch Rocky River in Millstream Run Reservation. Metroparks stocks the river near the intersection of the Metroparks Parkway and Royalton Road (Route 82), off the bridges to the Strongsville Wildlife Area and The Chalet, at Bonnie Park on the upstream and downstream side of the dam, and conclude at the Whitney Road covered bridge. As the spring progresses, trout will be well-distributed throughout that entire section of the river. Throughout winter, Metroparks stocked trout at Wallace (2,800 pounds), Shadow (1,500 pounds), Ledge (1,200 pounds), Judge’s (300 pounds), and Ranger (200 pounds) lakes and a fair number of these fish remain.
Cleveland Metroparks, www.clevelandmetroparks.com