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Lake Erie walleye fishing, Jig fishing

Capt. Tom Chambers
December 28, 2008
Lake Erie - Freshwater Fishing Report

The jig-and-minnow fishing action for walleye on western Lake Erie in recent years has been so hot you might scald yourself if you put your hand in the water. Just ask Lake Erie walleye guide Rick Millette of Erie Quest Charters

Pardon the exaggeration, but it makes the point. Lake Erie walleye are taken just about anywhere from Maumee Bay to the reef complex off Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station between Toledo and Port Clinton, and action should remain excellent into mid-May.

Walleye stage around western basin reefs and move onto them to spawn from late March into April. They also congregate in Maumee Bay, some to spawn and others to run up the Maumee River to spawn. The periods before and after spawning can be times of feeding frenzy, and some of the largest walleye of the year are taken.

Limits of four fish per person can take as little as 30 minutes during March and April, and anglers spend the rest of their trip catching and releasing Lake Erie walleye, which is legal. As for "sorting," that is, trading a fish in possession for a bigger fish you just caught, it's OK. Just be sure the fish you release from the livewell is alive and well, or you could face a ticket for wanton waste.

For the most part the rig of choice has been a heavy jig - 5/8- to 3/4-ounce - with a hair tail jig and dressed with a minnow, preferably an emerald shiner. Best colors for walleye fishing, include jigs with blue,blue/chartreuse, blue/white or purple hair. Some anglers were even taking fish just on the jigs, with no minnow, or with jigs and plastic wiggling tails. A few anglers also are using any of the various blade baits, which can be jigged or "snapped."

Note that blade baits, equipped with treble hooks, or the popular "stinger" treble hooks that frequently are piggybacked onto jigs, are illegal in Maumee and Sandusky bays until May 1, as they are on the Maumee and Sandusky rivers.

Many familiar sites in Maumee Bay - from around Turtle Island and the Toledo Harbor Light to shallow water off Little Cedar Point, Toledo Water Intake and the chart site marked "Gravel Pit" - may produce fish in the Toledo area, as may most of the inshore reefs off Davis-Besse, including Toussaint, Turtle, Crib and Locust Point.

"Anywhere up close," said Capt. Rick Millette of Erie Quest Charters, a charter guide from Curtice, who fishes out of Meinke Marina West, on the Cooley Canal. Jig and minnow fishing for Lake Erie walleye in early spring was a quietly kept secret for years among knowledgeable old-timers, but it has become very popular in the last 10 to 15 years, said Millette.

"Our guys use the real heavy jigs so they can thump the bottom," he added, explaining that Indiana and Illinois jig-fishermen use lightweight jigs, as small as a 64th or 32nd of an ounce. "A quarter ounce is heavy to them."

It is only during the post-spawn period, say in early May as the lake waters warm somewhat, that walleye seem to switch preferences to weight-forward spinners and nightcrawlers.

While jigging minnows near the Toledo Harbor Light, Capt Rick offered some jig-and-minnow angling pointers. "It's the angle game. The angle of fishing line to the water is the thing with jig and minnow."

In other words, sometimes it is not a matter of vertical jigging, as the wind speed dictates the speed an angler's boat is pushed along. "Some days the walleye are aggressive and want a high lift, some days a gentle lift," said Millette. "I'd say 70 to 80 percent of the time vertical is better, or at least as vertical as you can get." So experiment a little if the fish are not hopping on the jig. Pay out more line to change the angle with the water if a more vertical, or perpendicular, presentation is not working.

"Another thing," said Capt. Rick Millette, Erie Quest Charters, a valuable tool is a "drift sock", which is used to slow the boat's drift.

This is Capt. Rick's favorite time of year to catch walleye. "It's realistic to say you can catch 100 fish a day (for a six-person charter) this time of year."

Lake Erie April jig fishing for walleye is an Lake Erie anglers dream come true! Think of it, the potential to handle a lot of walleye in a trip is excellent in April or May, maybe the best of the year. You legally can sort to keep, say, three four-pound walleye, and those will provide as much "meat" - if you must measure your success by pounds of fillets taken home - as a limit of six two-pound walleye taken in June or July, when you may not be able to enjoy catching and handling as many fish in a day.

Capt. Rick Millette

Click to Enlarge Photo

Erie Quest Charters offers Lake Erie sport fishing for walleye,smallmouth bass, and perch.

Lake Erie Fishing Forecast:

The best time for Trophy Walleyes on Lake Erie is in April and May, during our spring season and again in the fall, in September and October. Some of these Lake Erie walleye lunkers are 10-14 pounds. If you are looking for numbers and want to have a lot of fun, then come see Erie Quest Charters in May, June or July and feel the excitement when a walleye crashes your lure!

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