Lake Erie Walleye fishing Videos
MARBLEHEAD, Ohio - Fisheries Biologist Chris Vandergoot of the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit had good news for a packed conference room at the recent Lake Erie Waterkeeper Conference in Perrysburg, Ohio. The Lake Erie walleye population is very solid and the numbers of catchable fish will be on the upswing this summer after a very good hatch in 2015.
A vibrant walleye population is certainly needed in the Walleye Capital of the World. Sport fishermen keep expanding the walleye season and continuously developing new and different ways to catch the delectable fish.
"It's really amazing to see some of the new techniques, especially when you're chasing cold-water walleye as they are right now on Western Lake Erie, " said Tommy Harris, the Kenosha, Wisconsin maker of Tommy Harris Blades. The colorful spinner blades are popular with fishermen who troll to connect with their walleye, a major reversal after a generation of drift-and-cast fishing.
Trophy walleye have been splashed all over social media this month as double-digit females feed voraciously before spawning on Lake Erie's limestone reefs. It wasn't long ago local anglers believed walleye wouldn't chase a lure in cold water, much like the old Minnesota myth that walleye lose their teeth in summer and won't bite.
Harris had to laugh when told of six kayakers paddling along the cliffs of Catawba Island a couple of weeks ago, slowly trolling diving plugs. Each took home a four-fish limit of walleye on a calm, sunny day. The parking lot at Catawba State Park launch was packed to the gills that day by 7 a.m. Boat anglers launching at dawn were returning well before noon with impressive coolers of walleye.
Harris has watched the Lake Erie walleye phenomenon blossom. Feeding it has been smaller, more sophisticated fishing boats; space-age marine fish-finding electronics; GPS navigational gear; and cell phones and computers.
"Everyone's connected now, " he said. "I fished with a top pro walleye angler a few years ago who was scouting for big walleye before a tournament. He spent more time on his cell phone than fishing."
Harris wondered about his fishing skill set. After asking Harris if he wanted to catch a couple of walleye to take home, the pro stopped at one of his hot spots. In a few minutes there were two chunky walleye in the cooler.
Catching Lake Erie walleye is never going to be a slam dunk, thanks to the vagaries of wind, weather and walleye. Watching the full coolers being unloaded the last couple of weeks, it has been obvious this year's fishing is going to be pretty darned good.
In the 1970s and 1980s the walleye season was far shorter and tactics were quite different. Local fishermen didn't launch boats until early May. They relied on drifting the waves and casting lures tipped with nightcrawlers.
Pro anglers Gary Roach, Al Lindner, Mike McClelland and others changed everyone's minds. Using jigging techniques honed in the western states, they caught Lake Erie walleye around the spawning reefs in early spring.
What really turned heads was a 1992 victory by Minnesota angler Steve Bissett in an In-Fishermen Pro Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie held in mid-April. Bissett ignored the cold water and trolled for walleye. With 90 feet of lead core line to get his offering deep enough, Bissett added 50 feet of 10-pound monofilament test line and tied on black-and-silver Smithwick Rattling Rogue lures.
Locals were shaking their heads when Bissett checked a three-day limit of 18 walleye weighing a record-setting 132.56 pounds. A couple of Aprils later, and despite big winds and waves, South Dakota's Mike McClellan slowly trolled spinner rigs and nightcrawlers in 1994 to win the PWT even on Lake Erie with 117.42 pounds.
Marblehead, Ohio lure maker Scott Stecher was paying attention. He created the Reef Runner line of lures. Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa trolled with Reef Runner 800 Series lures in 2002 in the PWT action to catch a winning 15-walleye limit weighing 138.22 pounds.
"Cold water?" asked Skarlis. "If I could create a long slice in the ice, there's no doubt I could troll up some walleye in the middle of winter on Lake Erie. The biggest change in recent years has been the arrival of the Off Shore on-line planer boards that take lures and line far away from the sight and sound of the boat, which is critical in spring. I also rely Off Shore Tadpole diving weights, which are more precise in taking lures to a desire depth than snap-on weights or sinkers."
The tournaments seemed to lose a little steam after the PWT years, but they're popular again on Lake Erie. The Lake Erie Walleye Trail kicks off four events on April 2 at Magee Marina East in Oak Harbor. Cabela's National Walleye Trail visits Sandusky on April 21-22. The Battle of Lake Erie, a new circuit, sends out four tournaments starting May 22 in Lorain. The Lake Erie Fish Crazy Walleye Derby runs from May 1 through June 25.
Trolling tactics will determine the winners. Harris has an idea which colors of diving plugs and spinner rigs will be the most successful.
"Pink and purple are the top walleye colors on Lake Erie, " he said. "Maybe a little chartreuse, too. And stick baits always sparkle best when they have a splash of orange paint on the belly."