Western Lake Erie spring Walley

Discussion in 'Outdoor Articles' started by stlcatman, May 1, 2008.

  1. stlcatman

    stlcatman New Member

    Imperial, MO
    I have made the trip now for several years to target Walleyes on western Lake Erie in the spring with my dad. The action typically starts to heat up in early to mid April and runs through mid May. This is a great time of year to target large fish.

    After the ice melts off of the lake the fish get that urge to spawn, they will congregate in large numbers just off of the islands adjacent to the reefs where they will spawn. These reefs are structures that protrude up from the bottom sometimes in 50 ft of water all the way up to as shallow as 3 feet. During this time of year it is very effective to fish on the reefs with jigs tipped with live minnows. This method will produce large numbers of fish which are typically males and are usually your smaller fish. Although for Lake Erie small is relevant. These fish will average around 3 to 4 lbs with the occasional large fish being caught.

    This tactic varies from day to day depending on fish activity and weather. Some days you will find that anchoring up and fishing will produce good numbers and other days will dictate that a controlled drift with either a wind sock or trolling motor is the ticket. Once you have established which method is working the best the next step is to figure out how they want the jig presented. This takes a good sensitive rod and I like to use a braided line for feel with a mono leader. Some days they want a fast and hard jerk and others only lift it off of the bottom about 2" and let it fall slowly. Once you have dialed in on what is working on the reefs it doesn't take long to run out of bait and room in the cooler.

    The other method for this time of year and my favorite is to troll outside of the reefs. This tactic will typically produce your bigger females either before they get on the reefs or after they leave them. The females will usually not eat once on the reef so trolling is a great way to target bigger fish that are on the feed at this time. These fish will usually be in deeper water from 50' to 25' and can be schooled up around the bait balls or scattered in a general area. Look for places around the reefs and islands that have a little bit deeper water with bait balls up off of the bottom.

    Marking fish is very important in this type of fishing. You want to look for fish that are up away from the bottom and related to bait. These will be your active fish and the ones that you want to target. Also remember what depth you are marking the fish in as it is critical in your presentation while trolling.

    Once you have found your area that you will be fishing there are a few tactics that you can use to produce fish. Yellow birds are a great tool to spread your presentations out and away from the back of the boat. Behind the birds you can troll lures or harnesses. A worm harness is a rig that has beads a spinner and two snelled hooks on mono line. You can pre-tie these yourself or buy them pre-made. They are typically about 4 to 5 ft long and there are times when the colors of the beads can be critical but typically the color of the spinner is the most important. I like to attach snap swivels on the ends of my harnesses and regular barrel swivels to the end of my main line. For the harnesses you will also need a weight that will attach to your main line and then to your harness. They have special weights for these and they look like little fish. We use 1 oz to 1 1/2 oz.


    The other choice that is a little easier to explain is a deep diving crank bait behind the boards. Deep Diving Reef Runners are typically the lure of choice. They will dive down to 30 feet depending on how much line you let out before you put the yellow bird on. A good line counter reel makes this task much easier. Each time you catch a fish take note on how much line was let out from the lure to the board because that dictates how deep it was running.

    Speed is another vital factor when trolling either plugs or harnesses. Usually the harnesses will need to be trolled a little faster than the plugs. Temperature will also dictate what speed you should be running. The cooler the water the slower you troll. With water temps in the mid to upper 50's which are common in late April speeds of 1.2 to 1.7 mph work best for the harnesses. For the plugs speeds of .80 to 1.3 mph seem to be the ticket. Color is a very important aspect when fishing for these Erie fish so remember to have a wide selection.

    There are several aspects to fishing the big water for these fish that can seem down right intimidating. A trip with a local guide on the first day might be a good way to get your feet wet and to learn the area. There are also several bait shops around all of the towns that surround the lake. Each one will be more than happy to tell you what is working and what baits and lures to buy.

    Although there are several ways to catch these fish these two types of fishing are sure to put fish in the boat during this time of year on western Lake Erie.