We’ve never had it so good. There are so many big walleye swimming in Lake Erie right now, it’s hard to imagine fishing anywhere else. There are fish still showing up from spawns in the mid 1990’s as well as the enormous spawn from 2003. Fisheries Biologists all over are grinning from ear to ear. Lake Erie is so fertile and has such a large forage base that even 20 year old specimens are still swimming in the lake and doing quite well thank you.
While the fishing has remained decent on Saginaw Bay, the crash of the Alewife food source has limited the capacity of big predators there. Bigger fish are still present through the colder months while smelt and shiners are spawning, but when the water warms up the bigger fish have been moving out of the bay following the forage. Big walleyes down on Erie haven’t really had to move too much. A huge shad base, plenty of perch, smelt and shiners in bait balls so big the graph goes black have been the norm.
Trophies are taken in April in literally every port on Lake Erie. Obviously the western basin has more big fish than anywhere. But from Cleveland to Detroit there are more trophy walleye swimming than anywhere in the world and many believe the state record could be smashed very soon. The current state record for Ohio is 16.19 pound fish caught on a perch rig by angler Thomas Haberman of Brunswick. It’s amazing that has held up as long as it has. Michigan’s record is 17.3 and that could be a goner as well as many of these fish spawn in Michigan waters. The key will be fishable weather during the pre spawn and late fall months. Haberman’s Ohio state record was harvested in late November when many are in the deer woods.
Catching these big fish is not always as easy as it may seem. Lots of articles reference how anyone can catch these bruisers but believe me when I say there are more days than not that anglers graphs show plenty of big hooks but no takers. The fall of 2012 was horrible fishing by Lake Erie standards. Hurricane Sandy brought winds that curled around New England and swung right over Lake Erie, clouding the waters for weeks. It never did really clear up in time for a decent fall bite. We’ve always planned to be blown off Lake Erie at least one out of three days in the fall and spring fishing is almost as tough. I think the best way to fish it is short notice. Watch the weather closely and if the weatherman says 4 decent days in a row are on the way it’s time to load the boat and go.
The most productive big fish bite for me has always been big cranks. Spring or fall the big profile and rattle helps aggravate the big females into striking. I look for fish up high on the graph and try to target those first. A deep diving # 12 Husky Jerk running 6 to 8 feet down has been extremely productive for the past 4 to 5 years. Baits like Reef Runners and Thundersticks will always take their fair share of trophies. Be safe on Lake Erie and make sure the boat is up to the challenge. I’ll see you on the water.