A spelling bee contestant would probably spell Ashtabula with a capital A but it might make more sense to start the name of Lake Erie’s top summer walleye fishing spot with a capital H, maybe even three capital H’s as in Hot, Hot, Hot.
Indeed, walleye fishing success in the deep central basin water due north of the Port of Ashtabula is well ahead of the usual late summer action.
Right now, the catches are fast and furious most days, especially for those anglers who venture out at first light or before. And too, the walleyes are big, real big.
Deepwater trollers plying Ashtabula area waters are hooking remaining walleyes from the record spawn of 2003, fish that often weigh in excess of 10 pounds. A few of those monsters mixed with younger but still hefty walleyes can put a strain on an ice-filled cooler.
In the past three or four years, Ashtabula has outpaced the rest of Lake Erie ports by a sizable margin, gaining a reputation that it well deserves.
Sure, ports from Cleveland to Conneaut have their own successes to brag on, but it’s Ashtabula by a TKO.
Normally, Ashtabula eases into full stride by mid-July, but the walleyes have been stacked up offshore now since late June and it appears that they are perfectly happy to stick around, lunching on plentiful baitfish and fishermen’s lures.
It was 2012 when I published the above hoopla about the fantastic walleye fishing at the intersection of Route 11 and Lake Erie. Indeed most of it still goes with only a few edits. In 2012, the big news was all about big numbers and big fish.
It’s still about remarkable numbers but not much is said about big fish.
And too, Ashtabula is not the only central basin fishery that is setting records. To put it mildly, most of us have never seen, heard about, or experienced a wholesale-club walleye fishery like the present one.
Limits are not only common but an expectation simply because the last few spring hatches of Lake Erie walleyes have been at least average or slightly above and in some cases far above average.
So far above that Ohio’s central basin, the section of waters from Lorain to Conneaut, is literally stuffed with walleyes. I don’t remember ever hearing about charters making three trips a day, but I am now.
But back to Ashtabula. Yes, it is still the place to go for lots of bites and lots walleye fillets. But then so are Cleveland, Fairport, Conneaut, and well, you name it.
If there is a launch ramp or docks that hold charters or head boats, it’s a good place to go. But one has to wonder if this is truly a good thing? Must be if we hold to the old axiom that if one is good, two must be better.
But maybe two isn’t always so good.
Some question if the balance of species and predator to prey ratio becomes so lopsided that some sort of crash is next.
Hopefully not, but one thing about the Lake Erie fishery is obvious, it is going to do what it is going to do and there’s not much humans can do about it. Nature is in control.
The record-setting abundance of walleye may have something to do with the current absence of yellow perch in their traditional deep water haunts. Perhaps there are so many young walleyes that their meal of choice may have become small perch.
I’m sure state fisheries biologists will soon know what the dynamics are. It may be very interesting.