Walleye are biting, but anglers battle the elements
Written by Tom Greenberg   
Friday, 14 May 2004 05:28
May 13, 2004


?Walleye catches haven't been limited primarily by the number of fish that are feeding. The chief culprit has been the storms and high winds that have raked Michigan on a timetable schedule for the past couple of weeks.

?"It's been ridiculous," said Jackie Goodheart of Plymouth after he and two friends each caught a limit of five walleyes Tuesday from the Trenton Channel in the Detroit River. "Today was the first day we could go out and actually enjoy fishing.

?"The last time we were out, it was blowing so hard I had to run the trolling motor wide open just to stay in one place. It rained, and it was cold and it was miserable.

?"But it looks like the weather is going to settle down over the next few days, and that's great, because there are plenty of fish to catch. Down off the old closed steel plant, there were so many walleyes on the fish-finder that you couldn't see the bottom in some places."

?Guide Jim Barta of Taylor also welcomed the relief from the unseasonably cold and windy weather that had caused him to cancel some charters this spring.

?"The fish are there, but the weather has been pretty awful lately," he said. "It's been as windy as any spring I can remember.

?"The fishing was a lot slower than usual through most of April. It really took off in the last week or 10 days. The water temperature is up to 57 degrees, and that's more like it should be at this time of year."

?Barta and some clients took a limit of six fish per angler Monday on the Canadian side of the river, where fishermen are allowed one more walleye than on the American side.

?"We had a couple of five-, 5 1/2-pounders, but most were in the two- to three-pound range," Barta said. "There are fish all over the river.

?"While we were over getting Ontario fishing licenses, I talked to some Canadians who said they just caught a limit in front of the Renaissance Center on the U.S. side.

?"The fish move around a lot. A few days ago, walleye were stacked up in 40 feet of water in front of Ft. Wayne. When I went back a couple of days later, they were gone.

?"That's one of the beauties of being on the river seven days a week, though. You kind of get a sense for where they might go next, and it usually doesn't take long to find them."

?Some walleyes live in the river year-round. Barta figures the spawning walleyes that swim up from Lake Erie will keep biting at least through the end of May, "but you may have to change your technique some," he said. "Right now, jigging is working best. But by the last week of May, you'll probably want to switch to bottom bouncers and crawler harnesses.

?"I've found that the best way to work the harnesses is to run the electric trolling motor or a small gas engine and move the boat just a little faster than the current. That gets the spinner blades on the harnesses turning."

?A couple of weeks ago, Saginaw Bay was enjoying some of the best walleye fishing in memory, but the stormy weather put a crimp in that action, as well.

?"It was unbelievable," said Saginaw fisherman Jerry Kowalski. "You could get a limit in an hour, hour-and-a-half. But what I really liked seeing was all of those undersized walleyes that we caught and threw back.

?"Next year, those little fish will be legal size (15 inches), and the fishing will be even better."

?The big walleye runs in the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers have tapered off to a trickle. And the recent storms that raked the area with high winds and heavy rains have raised the levels of the rivers and filled them with silt from the agricultural areas around Saginaw Bay.

?"The water in the bay is pretty muddy," Kowalski said. "We also need for the winds to settle down some. The high winds keep the mud that's in the water from settling, and it stirs up more in the shallows."

?Roger Hoyle, who runs Hoyle's Marina at Linwood, said Saginaw Bay anglers have been catching far more small perch than in recent years, in addition to seeing a lot of sub-legal walleyes mixed in with legal fish.

?"That's a real good sign for the future," Hoyle said. "Next year, those little walleyes and perch should be big enough to provide some tremendous fishing."

?Barta can be reached at 313-388-5847 or through his Internet site at www.truefishing.com. Hoyle's Marina can be reached at 989-697-4415.
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