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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.

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