The runs and Lake Erie fishing around spawning reefs are on and thousands of anglers are trying their luck now and for the next week or two. But not so many are familiar (or care) about the white bass runs that follow the walleyes. These usually begin about the last week of April and extend for several weeks into May. When the runs are on full bore, dedicated white bass fishermen can fill a bucket, cooler or stringer in a surprisingly short time.
If there’s a question, it’s why should Norwalk area anglers care about white bass, and the answer is simple – because they’re fun! Catching a few walleyes in the various rivers can take skill and patience, but when the white bass arrive in their thousands, fishing can be fast and furious. More important, these little half to two pound plus fish are fighters that will give rods and fishing line a good workout, and they’re fair eating. Not so much in the summertime unless they’re put on ice immediately, but coming out of chill waters and still kept on ice they’re good enough to see diners reaching for seconds.
If there’s a magic time to seek them, it’s when water temperatures reach 58 to 60 degrees, a temperature that starts them on their spawning runs. And while walleye can be picky when reproduction is on their minds, white bass strike with abandon, and will hit on almost anything. Some anglers in the various rivers fish them below a thin bobber with splitshot and a No. 6 hook baited with a minnow. They’ll cast slightly upstream, watch the bobber float past, and strike when a customer inhales the bait. If nothing does after a period of time, they should switch depths until they find where schools are holding.
Others will cast with a doll fly (jig) eighth ounce or less and twister tail, usually in white, pink, or chartreuse, and adjust the speed of retrieve to cover various depth until the strikes start coming. And on the Maumee, Sandusky, Portage, and Mahoning rivers many anglers use small spinners once April 30 has passed, with white Roostertails and Mepps being favorite choices. Some who cast doll flies will bait the hook with a small minnow if white bass are being choosy, but that seldom happens and many don’t bother.
Don’t forget throwing streamers with a fly rod, a sport that’s really fun. I once waded a section of the Portage River casting along the shore and into mid-stream with a white marabou spinner and caught over 50 fish, keeping a dozen for dinner. They fight well on a spinning rod, but on a light fly rod, the scrap can be downright exhausting after a couple of dozen fish that may pass two pounds each inhale your fly.
It’s important to note that while the Sandusky and Maumee are best known, other lake Erie tributaries like the Huron and Vermillion also have small, but significant runs, and I’ve made some good catches in the Huron particularly. But many of the larger lakes in Ohio also have white bass runs with 30 fish limits and no more than four over 15 inches and the Ohio River has a good supply of fish that stack up below the river dams and run up tributaries from this big river. So, no matter where you go, when streams reach 50 to 60 degrees, there should be fish waiting. Good food and good fun make white bass well worth a drive.
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HOOKS & BULLETS
• Readers who like to listen to music while quiet lake waters murmur in the background might enjoy a modest drive to Pleasant Hill Lake where the MWCD is holding a "Take a Break at the Lake" this summer. Bring your chairs and blankets to the Welcome Center Deck to enjoy live music while overlooking Pleasant Hill Lake. Concerts are open to the public, and all will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Gate fees are $5 per car and $8 per car on fireworks dates. The first concert will be Ricky Mitchell, a solo guitarist on May 19 and the second Beats At The Beach, a music contest on May 26. Call 419-545-4466 with any questions.
• The ODNR did a good thing recently when they held two special hunts for disabled hunters to enjoy the outdoors while hunting for wild turkeys. It was the second annual Thunder in the Hills hunt at Blue Rock State Forest and Pike State Forest. More than a dozen organizations assisted with donations and volunteers, and eleven disabled hunters bagged three turkeys. I'd like to see more of this!
• Don't forget the annual free fishing weekend on May 5 and 6 when readers who have never gone fishing or have kids who'd like to enjoy a lake or river adventure with hook and line can try their luck without a license. Ohio's free fishing days are open to all Ohio residents and extend to all of Ohio's public waters including Lake Erie and the Oho River. This is the only weekend all year that does not require anyone 16 years or older to obtain a fishing license.
• The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Watercraft, invites the public to attend an Ohio Boating Education Course from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 5 at the Maumee Bay State Park Nature Center, which is located at 1400 State Park Road in Oregon. Pre-registration is required, but admission is free. The course covers a variety of boating topics such as navigation rules, boating and personal safety equipment, navigational signage, Ohio boating laws and much more. Ohio Law requires any person, born on or after Jan. 1, 1982, to be able to show proof that they have successfully completed an approved boating safety education course if they are operating any watercraft powered by a motor greater than 10 horsepower. For more information or register, call 419-836-6003, or visit watercraft.ohiodnr.gov.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.