Anglers enjoy early season Erie fishing

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Lake Erie
Lake Erie by Ken Lund (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenlund/7992964938)], via Flickr

Northeast Ohio anglers who are hunkered down in the TV room, fretting about snowflakes, rooftop ice dams, and slippery driveways ought to be thinking about fishing — not fishing three months down the road but fishing right now.

Why waste time counting days and weeks? And why care about a weather forecast given by some sleep-deprived, groundhog that sees its shadow, poses for pictures and then retreats to his den where the accuracy of his prediction doesn’t matter.

Nevertheless, the woodchuck turned meteorologist had hardly completed his once-a-year guess when the boat ramps along Lake Erie’s Ohio shoreline were ice-free and as busy as on an actual spring day.

February fishing

But really, fishing in early February? Yes, yes and yes said an anxious trio of anglers, including Kent resident Mel Dennis and friends Bruce and Chad Lindamood, as they prepped their boat for a turn at the ramp while packing on some warm enough coats and caps. After all, the bright mid-winter morning was seemingly welcome enough but the lake water, still wide open, was just a degree or so above freezing. Add a breeze to water that cold and it’ll chill the hardiest of souls.

“We’ve set a goal for 2020 that we will fish Lake Erie in each month of this year,” Dennis said. He added that they were able to get on the lake in January, and now they were ready to launch at the Huron City facility, a fine ramp and parking area for sure. From there it would be a short river ride to the unseasonably open water of Lake Erie.

Not alone

But to be sure, the trio was not to be alone on the lake because a good walleye bite is hardly a secret to keep; the crowd of boats already on the water and in the line-up at the ramp said it all. Indeed, the three-man team is so involved with Lake Erie walleye fishing that they might be found on the big lake on any given day whether dodging icebergs for a bite or two or enjoying the warm summer whack’em and stack’em kind of fishing.

And that ought to explain why a springish-like winter day, just one day after Buckeye Chuck did his thing, brought the trio to Huron for a shot at pre-spawn walleyes that were known to be bunched up just outside of the harbor.

New normal

In a normal winter, if there is such thing anymore, these guys would be staring down holes in the ice — not studying the screen of a dash-mounted sonar. But there’s nothing normal about current weather trends. Late season walleye fishing has become a Lake Erie staple as fish migrate west and often stack up close to shore where even smallish backyard boats can reach them.

And reach them they do — both day and night. In fact, it’s become a normal sight to see a city of lights well into late nights as walleye addicts troll the near shore water for that coveted super trophy.

A couple of weeks back, the fish were off Cranberry Creek. Now they are nearer Huron. Next week they may be even farther west. But their location won’t be a secret, as a raft of hardy anglers chase them. Unless, of course, the lake does indeed freeze over. For the most part, the game is trolling with a few jig fishermen thrown in. The famous Fall Brawl may be history, but the chase goes on.

Right now it’s a guess whether the current crowd-drawing fishery is late season or early spring action — better ask Buckeye Chuck or one of his cousins.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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