Juls WFA Blog
Left the house at 5:55am and got to the White Caps Motel a little early...15 minutes early, so I waited on my crew who showed up right on time at 6:15. We made our introductions and loaded into the old excursion to head into town. I needed to stop and top off the gas in the Ranger, and then hit Rickard's Bait for some ice and a couple dozen crawlers.
My crew was meeting me at my house at 6:30 this morning, and as usual, I was dressed and ready to go WAY before I needed to be, so I took that hour to go into town and gas up the Ranger and stop off at Rickard's Bait to buy a few more Bandits. The Buck Fever color, which is a purple back and a chrome belly, has been hot for me all spring, so of course, I needed more. lol
I left the house at 5:45 and swung by the White Caps Motel to pick up my crew at 6am for breakfast, before heading back to the Portage River Fishing Access ramp next to their motel, to launch.
Vito, and his buddy, Saunders, came down from Wisconisn to fish with me today, and then he'll use the Ranger he bought from me last fall to fish the rest of the weekend with his Dad and Saunders. His dad drove in this afternoon.
Today was day one of a two day trip with my crew from South Dakota. Kent bought this trip for his Father in Law Doug as a belated Christmas present, and also brought his brother in law, Kevin, along for some of the spring walleye fun.
This is just a short report, due to having started late and fished late, and not having enough time after fishing to get everything done!
"Today is going to be a great day", I said as I walked down the hallway to the kitchen to make some coffee. The forecast was calling for mid to high 50's by early afternoon, which is always something to look forward to this time of year.
Woke up and took my coffee out on the back deck to check the wind and temp, early this morning. I was pleasantly surprised to find just a very light SW wind and temps in the high 30's. The forecast was for light SW winds, less than 10 mph, all day and a high of 50. I was looking forward to spending a fun day with my Father and Son crew from Wisconsin.
I wanted to go out of Turtle Creek, so I had Steve and Jeremy meet me at my house and we rode over there together. We launched at 8:45 and found a foggy lake waiting for us. It was gloomy and misty on shore, but it wasn't that foggy, so it was a little surprising to see thick fog on the lake itself.
I didn't have a guide trip today....well, I kind of did...let me explain.
On Saturday, March 9th, 2019 there was ice on the lake, but not safe ice...which was the reason 46 of 146 ice fishermen had to be rescued off Catawba after a crack in the ice opened up and left some stranded.
After the big winds, warm temps, and rain we had over last weekend, I was hoping it was the end of the ice on the Western Basin, but the cold came back and so did the ice.
While I was out walking the Dexter Meister this afternoon, I received a message asking if I would Blog about how I use my Minn-Kota and my baby E-TEC together, to control my speed, direction, and the life of the batteries.
Here are the available Spring dates I still have open as of this morning, if you're interested in booking a trip for a chance at a trophy walleye. :)
The Columbus Fishing Expo was this weekend, but due to a cold snap I was unable to leave the dog door open for the dogs, so I had to stay home.
Let’s set the stage: It’s a beautiful morning, the wind is light, there’s a beautiful sunrise happening, and there’s a small chop on the water, and I have great expectations for a good bite here on Lake Erie. I have new customers in the boat that have never fished with Off Shore inline planer boards before and are excited to learn.
My Off Shore Boards: I use the Tattle Flag system on mine. The front arm has the OR-18 black “Snapper” release on it, and on the back, I like to use the red OR-16 release. The Snapper has a toggling closure that allows me to use it two different ways, but I only use it one way, with the closure pushed down, to put the pin in the front of the line, keeping it from releasing until I take the board off. The OR-16 has a pin in the center of it, so when the line is put behind that pin it will not release from the line until I take it off.
There are many different set ups used by many different people, and what works best for one person might not be the best for another person. The way that works best for you is the way to use them. That’s why Off Shore Tackle has a plethora of release options to choose from.
I have used mine this way for 18 years, and it hasn’t let me down. Is it the best way? I don’t know, probably not. But, it works best for me. Will this work for you too? It most certainly will!
The first question from a novice board user is, “How do you bring in the outside board when a fish is on?” “I’ll show you”, I say. This is something that I’ve started doing, and it seems to work out pretty well. Will it tangle with the other lines inside? Sometimes, but for the most part it’s tangle-free.
I’m usually running three boards per side and will try to run leads as short as I can. That means, if I have to run the baits deeper, I’ll use a “Guppie Snap Weight” on a crankbait, or a “Tadpole” on a crawler harness. By doing this, the outside board has less chance of tangling in the other lines when a fish is coming in.
For the sake of my story, picture the outside Off Shore board going back with the tell-tale sign of a big Lake Erie Walleye on the line. The board wiggles and falls back violently. I say, “Fish on! Let’s go…who’s up?” The next angler takes the rod from me, and I give these instructions:
“Point the rod tip to the other side of the boat…let that rod bend in half if it needs to, but just keep reeling nice and steady. Not too fast and not too slow.”
At this point, I move the middle board rod, and the inside board rod, forward to the next rod holder. This allows those two boards to move forward in the water a couple feet. It’s usually enough to allow the outside board to come in behind them. When the outside board has cleared the inside board, I have the angler straighten the rod up, and keep it at a 45-degree angle. At the same time, I tell him/her, “Now, move back between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, and keep the rod tip over my outside shoulder” … (meaning the shoulder on the side of the boat that the fish is coming in on). When the Off Shore board is a few feet from the boat, I grab the line and start bringing the board up to me and undo the releases from the line in one smooth action, as the angler keeps reeling.
Once the board is off, I have him/her move to the back corner and keep the rod tip pointed out to the side of the boat. This allows the fish to come up off the corner, where I can net it easily, instead of behind the boat where it can, and most often will, get in the motors.
More often than not, this procedure works well, but there are times when a fish just has evil intentions and decides to take a run at the other lines too, and it might bring in one or both with it. However, it doesn’t take long to untangle and reset the Off Shore boards in “Marching Soldier” fashion again.
Give this a try next time you’re out and see if it works for you too. One tip though, if you don’t keep that rod pointed on the opposite side of the boat and bent in half until you clear those other two boards, it will never work. That is the key!
I wish you all the best of luck fishing and hope you find this helpful!
If you're looking to learn how to run inline planer boards, a guided trip is a great way to shorten the learning curve. I pride myself in being able to teach anglers how to run them, so that when they go home they will be able to take what I've taught them and use them confidently on their own outings.
I still have open dates from ice out to ice up, so if you want to book a trip, just give me a call or email me for open dates, and let's get you on the calendar now! The fishing will be fantastic this year...don't miss out! :)
Spring is on its way...woot! woot!
All the talk right now is the Arctic Blast that's happening across the midwest. Here in Ohio today, it's no different. We're experiencing the below zero temps with gusty winds along with everyone else. So, what is there to do when you're stuck in the house?
I run the Ranger 621 FS, which is a 21’ 10” beauty, and is rated for up to 350Hp motors. My 621 is powered by a Evinrude 300 G2, which is more than enough HP to reach speeds up to the mid to high 50’s. I am not as concerned with top end speed as I am with the mid-range torque, since there are few days where I can open it up, due to lake conditions, and powering up a wave with ease, is what I’m most concerned with.
Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and the Western Basin is the shallowest of the entire lake. With shallower water, comes the dangers of boat handling when the wind blows. Unlike deeper waters, shallow water creates waves that are closer together, and peak higher with lesser winds.
It’s important to have a boat that can handle the conditions that the lake can throw at you, and for this reason, I run a Ranger. There is one thing that Ranger does better than any other boat manufacturer, and that is, they fill the hull cavity with spray foam to completely cover every nook and cranny, which would keep the boat horizontal in the water in the event that it was to ever to fill with water. Most boats will not do that.
Good boat handling in rough conditions will prevent you from ever having to find out if your boat will float or sink, if you’re unfortunate enough to find out.
When I first learned to run big water, it was out of a Ranger 620. My mentor told me something that I have never forgotten…”If you can feel it in your ass, the boat can too”. Which, basically means, if you’re beating yourself up, then you’re beating the boat up too. No one wants to get back to shore and then have to spend hours fixing loose screws, getting the windshield fixed, or listening to your fishing partner swear at you for hurting their back!
Here are some tips I learned for running big water, that might help you too.
1. Do not hide behind the windshield, if you have one. Get up above it where you can “read the waves”. If you can see what’s coming, you can adjust your speed to accommodate it. I change out the original driver’s seat pedestal with one that is a little higher. On the days where I need a little more height, I fold the seat down and sit on the back of the seat.
2. Keep your hand on the throttle at all times. Unless you run a “hotfoot”, one hand should be on the steering wheel, and the other on the throttle.
The best reason for keeping your hand on the throttle is for “driving”.
While you’re reading the waves, you will be on and off the throttle continuously driving through the waves.
If you simply pick a speed, you’re going to get into trouble, because not all waves are going to be the same. Now, throw in a few boat wakes from other boats, that turns the wave action into a “washing machine”. If you are not reading the waves, and using the throttle for what it was designed to do, then you will find yourself in trouble.
Power up a wave, let off on the throttle a little bit, and let that wave go under you, so that you don’t drop off the top of it, and fill the boat up with water at the bow, then power up the next one.
Even on the calmer days, I still drive with one hand on the throttle, because that one or two seconds it takes to take your hand from the wheel to the throttle could be the difference between safety and tragedy…ie: submerged log you spot at the last second.
A following sea is the most dangerous, but can be the easiest to run if you have a lot of patience. This is what I call “surfing”. Keep the motor trimmed down when running a following sea. This keeps the prop from blowing out, and keeps a grip on the waves.
Power up the backside of the wave, reduce speed on the top, so you can surf it, and then let the wave set you down on the wave in front of you. If you run a following sea too fast, you run into the danger of putting the bow of the boat into the backside of a big wave. Not only will it basically stop the boat in its tracks, but it will fill the boat with water from the bow. Now, all those waves that were following you will be filling your boat from the back end too. This is why it is imperative that the operator have a lot of patience and just enjoy the “surf” until he or she is safely back to port.
The smoothest ride you’ll find, when it’s rough, is “running the trough”, or between the waves. The boat will roll back and forth with the waves, but it won’t get pounded.
Becoming a great boat operator takes a lot of practice. And, with practice come confidence. Having confidence to know what to do when the conditions change for the worse, will get you back home safely.
When I run my charter business, I usually don’t take customers out when the wave forecast is calling for anything over 3-4 footers. Reason being, most customers do not have the big water experience and will usually have trouble getting out of their seats. This is not fun for them, and it’s not fun for them, it’s not fun for me either. Fishing and boating is all about having fun!
The worst conditions I ever ran my Ranger in was during a tournament back in 2003 out of Dunkirk, NY on Lake Erie. Luckily, the lake is the deepest at that end, so the 7-10 foot waves were spaced much further apart than on the western end, and the 10-mile run back in was safely done. I seriously doubt any small boat could safely handle the same conditions on the Western end of the lake.
It’s important to check the weather forecasts, and wave forecasts, before heading out, so you know what is coming in for the rest of the day, and prepare accordingly.
With today’s advances in technology, there’s no excuse to not be prepared. And, always keep a plan in your mind throughout the day, as to what you will do if conditions change unexpectedly, and you need to find shelter from a storm. Always, have a plan, and keep safety your number one priority when playing on the big water.
Live to fish, and have fun, another day!
Lake Erie Spring Walleye Tactics
My first trip to Lake Erie was in the fall of 1999, when I was invited by one of the areas greatest walleye anglers, Rick LaCourse, to do a little night fishing out of Huron, OH. It was a balmy December night, with a light 5mph South wind, and the temperature outside was 60 degrees. There was a full moon lighting up a clear sky, that shimmered on the calm water, making it look like it was made up of diamonds.
The fishing was incredible, and the size of the fish astounded me at the time. I’m originally from Wisconsin, where the walleye fishing is also very good, but it was nothing like what I experienced here for the first time at Lake Erie.
That night, we trolled with crankbaits behind Off Shore Tackle inline planer boards at slow speeds. The boards were lit up with glow sticks attached to the flags, so when a fish hit, it looked like a shooting star going back in the water. Seeing a large walleye, with a mouth large enough to stuff a grapefruit in it, coming up behind the boat elevated my excitement to the next level. I was hooked! I knew then that Lake Erie was the place I wanted to fish forever.
A couple years later, I had had enough dreaming and made the move from Wisconsin to Ohio. I had quit my job as a color correction specialist in the pre-press dept of Reiman Publications, sold my house, and moved to Ohio to pursuit of a career in the fishing industry. With much work and dedication, I have achieved that dream by first fishing for many years on the Pro/Am walleye circuits across the country, as a journalist covering the tournaments for Walleye Central, and for the past 8 years as a guide on the Lake I love. Many of my sponsors have been with me through this entire adventure and are the ones responsible for making all my dreams possible.
The first spring that I fished Lake Erie with Rick, he told me that they start by “ice fishing” out of the boat and then, by jigging with ice fishing baits. Then, as the water warms, they would start jigging with regular jigs, and then on to trolling with crankbaits. This made me scratch my head, because it confused me that we could troll in the fall when the water was almost the same temperature, but we couldn’t troll in the spring when the ice went out. It didn’t make sense to me, so I asked him if we could try trolling instead of ice fishing out of the boat. Being the kind of guy, he was, he indulged me, and we put the crankbaits out.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m the first one to try this, because I’m probably not. I’m just saying that in the circle I was in at the time, it wasn’t done that way. As it turned out, it was successful, and we never had to ice fish out of the boat again, which is something that made me very happy!
In the spring, the walleye spawn in the Western Basin of the lake, where there are plenty of reef complexes and rivers. This happens in late March and April as the water warms after a long winter. The opportunity to catch trophy sized pre-spawn and post-spawn fish is at its highest during this time, and several tactics to catch them can be used.
For those that like to jig the reefs, a 3/8oz to 1oz hair jigs (best used with stinger hooks) are often tipped with Emerald Shiners, or soft plastics, but can also be successfully used without bait or plastics. Color can matter, so having an assortment of colors available to you will better your chances of catching fish. Popular colors are Purple, Chartreuse, Orange, Pink, Blue, Green, and Black.
For those who like to troll, most anglers will start out with some popular proven crankbaits like the Smithwick Perfect 10 and Top 20’s (very similar to their earlier “Rogue” baits), Rapala Deep Husky Jerks (size 12 and 14), Bandits, Bomber Long A’s, Berkley Flicker Minnows (sizes 9 and 11) and both the shallow and deep diving Reef Runner baits. I know other baits get used, and the list could be extended, but these are the baits I have used over the years and are the ones that I put in my boat each season.
I was taught that when the water is in the high 30’s to low 40’s, the fish are sluggish, so trolling very slow is key. A speed of .8 to 1.0 has always been recommended. However, that’s not always the case. For instance, over the years, I would hear of someone trolling at much faster speeds, at the same time that I was trolling slow, and they were catching fish too. So, keeping an open mind and trying new things can make you a better angler and increase your catch rate.
If you’re marking fish, and not catching for some reason, it only takes a few minutes to try a different speed. Get radical and try a fast speed like 1.5 to 2.0mph, to see if it triggers any response from the finny critters below. Sometimes, I’ll use the “Rabbit” feature on my Minn-Kota trolling motor to speed up the baits, and then turn it off again, to slow it down. My thinking is, it gives the fish something to react to and can sometimes make the difference between a slow bite and a fast bite.
Changing colors often, until one stands out from the rest is another tactic I use while trolling. Sure, I have my favorites that I start out with, but if they are not in the mood for those colors, I have a plethora of other colors to try until I find the ones, they like best. It’s a lot more work, but it’s worth it when the bite becomes steadier.
Boat handling is another tactic I use to improve the catch rate. To help find the right speed, I will make turns during my trolling passes to determine if they want the baits faster or slower. When you make a turn using inline boards, the boards on the outside of the turn will be moving much faster through the water than the boards on the inside of the turn. If a fish hits on one side over the other, and it’s repeated so I know it wasn’t a fluke, I will slow down or speed up to give them what they desire.
The most actively feeding fish will be higher in the water, and not always seen on the sonar picture, so I always like to have at least one bait up in the top 10 foot of the water column, just in case. It’s not uncommon to end up having all the baits running that high during the spring.
The walleye I see on my Humminbird’s sonar screen, that sit close to the bottom out on the flats, are usually in a negative mood, and will not usually eat a bait that is trolled by them.
The walleye up on the reef complexes, that sit close to the bottom are fair game for the anglers who prefer to jig though. While I prefer the trolling game, I will take customers out to the reefs to do some jigging if they want to. Sometimes, it’s fun to feel that bite at the end of the line and feel the weight of the fish as soon as it hits. I must say though, that a jigging trip is much more fun for my customers than it is for me, because I don’t get to fish when we are jigging. I just man the net for them. It’s not that I don’t know how to jig, or that I’m not good at it… I just wouldn’t want to chance catching a big one right out from under them and steal that opportunity for one of them to catch it.
If the chance of catching a trophy walleye is on your bucket list, then I highly recommend a trip to Lake Erie’s Western Basin from March through the end of May. June and July have some tremendous fishing too, but as the water warms the bigger fish that migrated from the east end of the lake, have already headed back to their summer haunts by then. That’s not to say, that some bigger fish do not stay in this area, because it’s not uncommon to find a trophy walleye hanging around from time to time during the summer. But, if table fare is your desire, then June thru September is the time to come here. The catching can be very fast during these months, when conditions are right, and a ton of fun! Come fall, until ice up, the big fish move back from the east and we start the process all over again.
If Perch fishing is more to your liking, then I recommend looking at August thru ice up for limits of the green and gold treasures.
Now is the time to book your Spring Lake Erie fishing Charter for a chance at a trophy walleye, so don’t procrastinate, or you might be left wishing you had reserved your date(s) earlier!