There is vertical jigging, which is always fun, but there is something about hitting Lake Erie in the spring and snap jigging blade baits and hair jigs that just makes you want to do it all the time. Its a shame the season only lasts a month or so, because once you snap the rod tip, and feel the weight of the fish at the other end, its hard not to fall for this method of catching walleye. Why bring this up now, because yesterday was a very good day on the lake!
My partner in crime, aka my neighbor Cliff and I left Bolles Harbor in the morning and made a bee line for the section of water between Turtle Island and the Toledo Light in Ohio water. First off, let me say how disappointed I have been lately with my Windfinder app on the phone, west wind all day…not even close. Try east, southeast all day long, but on a good note, there was hardly any wind until later in the day.
The water itself was about as brown as I have ever seen the lake. No shocker, coming back from Bass Pro in Rossford, you could see that the Maumee River was pumping it out Saturday! Hair jigs were not going to be an option. Luckily I had gone to Domka Outdoors new shop at the outlet mall on La Plaisance Road, near the I-75 exit and picked up a few goodies for the trip yesterday, mainly Captain Jay’s blade bait, in the Sexy Shad pattern. It went against all accepted rules about fishing dark baits in dirty water, but I have found over the years that whites and lighter colors seem to work really well in the stained water when Erie muddies up. We called it quits after only getting five eater sized males in three plus hours.
Funny thing, think before you speak is always a good general rule to follow, specially when you are trying to be cocky. I pulled a classic “me” yesterday, when I said, “The first one to four (the Ohio limit) has to buy lunch.” Sounds good in theory, but not when I meant to say, the last one to four has to buy. The classic fail comes into play when you realize that I was up three fish to one. Needless to say, I bought lunch at the Harbor Inn!
We packed up the drift bags after the fifth fish and went looking for some cleaner water. At the northeast end of the Dumping Grounds, east of Toledo Beach Marina, we found a transition area. The between zone, not in the soup, and not in the blue water we saw towards Brest Bay. Back at Turtle, you could only see the top of the drift bag, and at the new spot, the whole bag could be seen down in the water. I grabbed my 6’8″ Legend Tournament Walleye MXF rod from St. Croix, with a white, 3/4 ounce hair jig, tipped with a four inch Fin-S Fish in Mackerel and Northland Tackle Sting’r tied on. Why this particular color pattern, because the Fin-S was still on from last year …. and I like white in the spring!
It was game on from there, first I felt the nibbles, then I felt the weight. The fish loved the presentation and the way I was presenting it. Instead of the classic, exaggerated snap action with the rod, I was just bouncing it off the bottom with 6-10 inch lift and fall action. During the second pass, I tied on the exact presentation for Cliff so he could get in on the action. Even then, all the action was coming in the bow of the boat until I mentioned how I was just popping it slightly off the bottom and then he got in on the catching too.
To set the scene, NE corner of the grounds and the east winds had picked up a bit. Not huge waves, but some small whitecaps. With two bags out, we were drifting about a mile per hour, and our jigs were at a 45-50 degree angle from the rod tip to where the line entered the water. While going over the peaks and valleys, the depths ranged from 16 to 19 foot of water, and we were constantly stretching out some more braid or taking up the slack as the bottom called for it. Most of the fish were either stacked in front or behind the peaks. You just knew there was going to be a bite as soon as you hit the backside of one.
We were stuck at 11 walleye on what we thought was our last drift when he asked if we should pick up and do it again, and I said lets give it a bit more time. Sure enough, I hooked into a monster shortly after saying that and as I reached for the net, it came unbuttoned. Guessing it would have gone in the 8 lb range by just the glimpse I had of it’s back in the water. Lesson to be learned, on a really big fish, ask for help and let your buddy land it for you!
We caught a bit of everything yesterday, except for Silver Bass. The white perch we caught were plump full of eggs, and even snagged a sheepshead down in the mud zone. What really surprised us when I hooked into what I believed was another eater walleye, and up came a 12 inch perch, which had inhaled my Lunker City bait and squarely, just in front of the eyes, the hook had been driven home. There was little doubt that perch was hungry. Stands to reason, some of the best perch fishing on the Michigan side of the boundary is in those dumping grounds.
Jigging in the spring is always fun, and when you have a day like yesterday, even better. Try on a number of baits until you get everything dialed in, maybe adjust your presentation or methods, and days like Monday happen a little more often than not. All in all, great day on the water…and lunch wasn’t too bad either!