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February 2004

Walleye Runs Peak in March
By Tony Pollack

If your freezer is empty and you’re hungry for golden brown walleye fillets, don’t fret. According to local experts, annual walleye runs up the Sandusky and Maumee rivers should peak in March. And if weather patterns hold, river anglers should have excellent to fair fishing through April.

Experienced anglers know the fishing can be fantastic. But bear-in-mind, droves of ‘eye chasers converge on the Fremont, Maumee and Perrysburg communities. Some end the day with big smiles and limits of fish while others don’t. What’s more, from March 1 through April 30, walleye anglers fishing Lake Erie and its tributaries may take only take three walleyes per day, with a minimum size limit of fifteen inches.

As always, the secret to success is to duplicate what works. Spend a little time watching a guy or gal who is pulling them in. Pay particular attention to the type and color bait he or she is using. It’s just as important to duplicate the direction and technique used for each cast and retrieve. The time will be well spent. Before you know it, you’ll be stringing some nice fish with the best. Fishery biologists estimate that approximately 16 percent of Lake Erie’s walleye population spawn in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers.

Mobile tackle dealers and vendors, encamped along the banks, are prevalent, as are early birds who don’t want to miss the action that begins at sunrise and ends at sunset. Nighttime fishing and snagging are illegal.

Hot spots along the Maumee River can be found from the Conant Street Bridge, at Maumee, upstream to the end of Jerome Road in Lucas County. Metroparks has extended park hours for fishing at Side Cut in March and April, making this river access area of the Metropark open from sunrise to sunset, as are popular stretches along the Sandusky in Fremont.

Most spring run walleye anglers wade into the river and cast lead-head jigs dressed with brightly colored twister tails upstream. Some cast their lures from shore and still others fish from boats launched from the foot of Maple Street and at Orleans Park in Perrysburg.

When river conditions are favorable, the walleye fishing is nothing short of a phenomenon that attracts anglers from across the country. Many of the ‘eyes caught by these visitors will measure 14- to 20-inches with good numbers of 22- to 24-inch fish. What’s more, some will be 6- to 10-pound wall hangers.

Although annual walleye movements have clock-like predictability, it’s no secret that warming trends bring a number of fish into the river earlier than most expect. Temperatures approaching the 40-degree mark trigger walleye runs.

Proven baits for river-run walleyes include one-eighth to one-quarter ounce lead-headed jigs tipped with bright-colored twister tails. Jigs with fuzzy bodies can also be productive, as can those dressed with marabou. Some ‘eye chases opt for spinners or nugget type baits.. If you choose either the latter, replace the treble hooks with a single hook. That’s all the law allows.

In any case, remember the river is loaded with rocks, ranging from pebbles to boulders. Bring lots of jigs or spinners, and take time every ten casts, or so, to check your line for nicks and abrasions. You’ll be glad you did, when you tie into a lunker or two and your line doesn’t break.

Techniques for taking river-run walleye, be it a large female or a smaller, hungry male, vary. Slow, methodical retrieves; jerks and darts; bounces and dips can all be productive at any given time. The key is to match your retrieve to what works, given varying water, weather and light conditions. If you can’t seem to find the right combination, look around. You can bet that someone has figured it out. Then all you have to do is copy what’s working for your mentor.

It’s common knowledge that the annual walleye runs up the Maumee and Sandusky rivers have become popular events. Each year, more and more anglers are coming to try their luck. The thing to remember is that fishing is supposed to be a fun! So don’t let a overcrowding — and a tangle or two — spoil the time you have to spend in or along your favorite river.

To help narrow the timing down, call the Metroparks Walleye Fishing Line at (419)
893-9740. The line is updated daily with the latest data which includes depth, temperature, turbidity of the Maumee River and the status of the walleye run at Side Cut Metropark in Maumee.

As a last point, keep in mind that the rivers have strong currents and are mighty cold this time of year. What would amount to a harmless dunking in July or August could be life threatening in March or April. Fish with a buddy and be extra careful.

Good fishing.

Myrtle Beach Offers Winter Boating, Fishing and Fun for the Whole Family
By Richard Martin

Life can get a little tough in Ohio come winter. Already there have been storms, fairly heavy snow, sleet, chill winds, cold, sullen days with temperatures little above freezing, and there are many more to come. Some Mid-America Boating readers head for Florida, and that's a great choice, especially if they travel into the southern part of the state, including Key West. But Florida is amazingly expensive, and worse, it swarms with both Americans and Canadians, so expect traffic jams daily in the more popular places, and high prices even for lunch.

For a few, their new winter mecca is a good deal further north. They go to Myrtle Beach each winter and stay a couple of weeks, a month, sometimes all winter, because the Beach has a lot going for it in the off-season. Lots of folk visit this South Carolina coastal city in spring, summer, and fall. They go to play golf at one or more of dozens of premier golf courses, and enjoy the nightlife after 18 holes or so. It's a lot like Florida then, busy, crowded, and expensive. But, go in the winter and Myrtle Beach is almost a ghost town.

If you're looking for warmer temperatures, this city will have them. Not Florida-type, but lots warmer most times than here. Some days might be cold, others shirtsleeve, and while it might snow once or twice, the snow disappears very shortly. Far better than the bitter, blustery weather found in Ohio. And prices can be great!

Many of the high rise, seaside motels will offer two rooms, an efficiency kitchen, two TVs, and a nice balcony overlooking the ocean for about $35 - 38, and you can negotiate a monthly rate that's substantially less. Get a room or efficiency apartment across Ocean Boulevard from the ocean and rates can fall to $20 - 25 a night, and even less for longer stays. Which is why some spend part of the winter here. And there's a lot to do, and very little traffic to interfere with the doing.

A favorite occupation of this writer is saltwater pier and surf fishing. Action can be a little slack in January and February if it's a cold winter and ocean temperatures plummet, but most times those who frequent such places as the Springmaid Pier in southern Myrtle Beach can catch whiting, sometimes sea trout and croaker, drum, blues, and small sharks. My usual battle plan is to have my wife drop me off at the pier a couple of hours before high tide, then she goes shopping and I fish, being picked up again about two hours after high tide. That makes us both happy.

Because fishing can be good, and shopping is ALWAYS good. She'll visit Barefoot At The Beach and browse through dozens of shops from The Endangered Species to Perfumania and California Leather to the Caddy Shack, and do it almost alone. So few shoppers are here during the day that clerks rush to welcome you and the same holds true at Barefoot Landing and the Wakomaw Pottery complex. Real bargains often enough, some good sales, and plenty of shops for browsing.

Barefoot At The Beach, incidentally, also has 14 restaurants, including the excellent Hard Rock Cafe with its unusual decor and fine steaks and The Key West Grill, which has its own first class menu, a nice multi-room cinema, and a minature golf course complete with fire breathing dragon. Among other things to see and do at Myrtle Beach in winter are the Ripley Aquarium, which just might be the very best in America with thousands of fish, some of them truly unusual, and a walk through lagoon where sharks and rays swim over your head and are sometimes so close that you can literally watch them eyeball to eyeball.

For outdoor folk there are long walks on the beach and seashell collecting while sea gulls wheel above and brown pelicans pass in stately lines just above the water, Brookgreen Gardens is just south of town with its beautiful statuary and spacious gardens, and right across the highway from Brookgreen lies Huntington Beach State Park with its miles of marsh and estuary, tall reeds waving in a sea breeze, and dozens of birds from great blue herons to egrets and sanderlings.

Food needn't even be mentioned to those who have visited here, but some of the Calabash restaurants are still open with their 120 item seafood menus, great places to OD on crab legs and fried oysters. And there are excellent Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, little homey spots with meatloaf and mashed potatoes, fast food places, just anything that might interest your taste buds.

It's a place worth investigating this winter. Low prices, good food, lots to do, and at least better temperatures than here. Check out the city on the web, get lists of what you'd like to see, then fly down or drive down, and spend some time. It sure beats what's waiting here over the next few months.

FishFinder "Must Have" Features
By Lary George

Fishfinders are more powerful than depth sounders, and go a step further by utilizing a CPU (computer processor unit) and display screen with visual depiction of located targets beneath the boat. Displaying targets such as fish, thermoclines, bottom structure and composition are the purposes of a fishfinder. The new fishfinders can be interfaced with other navigational functions such as GPS, charting and event marking for future reference. A fishfinder when used and understood by the boater can be one of the most effective pieces of electronics you can have if you are serious about catching your limit.

Fishfinders work on the principal of sonar readings that are interpreted by software to graphically display data on a screen. This allows the boater to find and identify objects in the water and display the representative data in a format that can be interpreted into understandable terms. The terms can be seen as vegetation, fish, and bottom structures to help locate fish and navigate safely.

Features to look for in a fishfinder:

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) screens were all that was available for many years. That technology has been replaced. TFT (Thin Film Transistor) is helping advance screen viewing through a combination of technologies. The newer high resolution TFT LCD combination incorporates anti-glare coatings and has very high display brightness found in the newest fishfinders.

Consider a fishfinder that has the ability to adjust contrast for viewing under any lighting conditions. A fishfinder must have multiple contrast levels of adjustment for proper viewing.

This feature provides a clear view of the water column when the frequency, gain and range are set in "automatic mode". As you get more familiar with the manual settings, over time, you can make fine tune adjustments later that will affect performance.

Data widow options should allow different kinds of information to be displayed at the same time. An example would be on one side of the screen you can display the entire array under the boat, and on the other side, see a window of detailed bottom and contour display.

Look at a fishfinder that allows you to interface GPS, and radar data windows can display speed, position, water temperature, for navigation as well as fish spotting. Integration also is a big space saver on a boat’s console due to multiple roles. Consider what data you have available on your current system such as NMEA, High Speed bus, Ethernet, etc.. Here is an area to beware - - manufacturers will advertise the ability to just "plug in" for interfacing. This does not take into account having to cut / splice special cable, striping special plugs, special tools for putting the plugs back on, and re-routing of wire to accommodate your application.

With zoom you can focus on specific depths for detail. Standard ranges generally go from 2X, 4X, 6X zoom.

Bottom lock lets you see features where fish are concentrated. Lock automatically changes as the fish concentration moves and is followed even when depth changes.

Scroll of the display screen speed features allow for different trolling speeds in different conditions with changing bottom contour.

Fishfinders, generally, have a computer processing unit, display screen and a transducer. These items must be matched in impedance and frequency in order to work properly. The peak to peak watt rating of sonar is an overinflated way of measuring the power of a fishfinder. Peak watts are not the real measure of power, but the RMS or about 1/8th the peak rating is a more honest measure of the overall performance level.

Look at various transducers and their features, they are the key to viewing with accuracy. The frequency determines effectiveness at given depths. Frequencies range from 50kHz to 455kHz. Deepwater models (600 to 1500 feet) operate at the lower frequencies while higher frequencies work better in shallow water (3 to 500 feet). More expensive models offer dual frequencies as features. A dual frequency unit gives the boater the best of both worlds. You get a narrow cone angle and good resolution of high frequencies and the depth penetration of the low frequency when needed. This combined with a split screen capability gives the ability to search out small targets like local structure and suspended fish at various levels.

Your transducer selection can make all the difference in the fishfinder’s operation. The transom mount version is generally for shallow draft craft like a bass boat. The through hull versions are less susceptible to cavitation and will generally allow the boater to run at speeds higher than can be attained with transom mount transducers. If your boat drafts more than 2 feet, the through hull is the best choice.

Some manufacturers offer transducers that can provide a side scan, front (or forward) scan and even full 360 degree scan vision of what is beneath the boat. It all depends on how serious the boater is about fishfinder options and capabilities.

The less expensive versions of scanning sonar are just standard transducers with the crystals sliced and placed in such a fashion as to allow the sonar to fire each slice in sequence in a array covering a forward or side scan of an area. The sliced array principal works fairly well in most cases and is much less expensive than having a towed array or gimbal mounted crystal that actually turns and scans an area.

Some sources for fishfinder information are:

Working with a reputable marine electronics dealer / installer for purchase of a fishfinder will help you get the latest features. A good dealer will make the process of set up and installation much easier.
Knowledge is power, the more you know about the performance of your fishfinder, the greater fishing fun you can enjoy.

Lary George, Continental Sales, PO Box 15331, Ft Wayne IN, 46885, ljgeorge@juno.com is a Manufacturers Rep in the Great Lakes Region.

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