It's a magic time of year for Huron County anglers who love their Lake Erie smallmouth fishing. Water temperatures usually reach 55 degrees sometime in May, and that temperature sends these bronze colored, red-eyed, hard-fighting, high-leaping gamesters into shallow water for their yearly spawning ritual.
Fishing this spring will be just for fun, since the Division of Wildlife has a closed season on smallies from May 1 through June 29. That's no problem for most anglers since these bass aren't that great on the table anyway. But they are indeed fun to catch, and then release. See one doing a hula dance against a Lake Erie sunrise, and it's easy to become an addict.
Smallmouths are caught the length and breadth of Lake Erie, and they can be had as easily off Toledo as Conneaut, but there's no question that the western basin with its multiple islands, reefs, rocky shoals, and riprap shorelines are the peak spot for a day of pure pleasure. And there are several ways to enjoy that day, again depending heavily on water temperature. If bass are still pre-spawn with water temperatures hovering around 50, a classic tactic is to drift and cast. Find yourself a good section of rocky shoreline, move out into 20-foot depths and start casting anything from chartreuse tube jigs to twistertail jigs in black or brown, bumping them slowly along the bottom.
If nothing turns up, move into 15 feet, and drift some more, then 10 feet. You should find them eventually, then it's just a matter of holding to that depth and having great fun fighting it out with fish that might reach 4 pounds plus. When temperatures reach that vital 55 degrees, bass move in close to shore, some into just 3 to 4 feet of water, more into depths of 5 to 8 feet, and fan out nests in rocky areas, gravel, on reefs, riprap shorelines, and other areas holding a good mix of rock and silt.