Published March 2005

“How did you do on walleye at Fremont yesterday?”  “I got one jack, that’s all.  A couple of guys snagging did better.  I think a game warden caught one of them.’  That’s a typical story for Sandusky River walleye fishermen.  One or two fish, rarely more, and a long day spent tossing doll flies with twister tails or maribou.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Walleye are just beginning to move into the Sandusky River, and a few jacks have reached the traditional fishing grounds at Fremont.  In coming weeks, the trickle will rise to a flood, and the smaller males will be joined by much larger females, fish reaching 10 pounds, even more.  These fish feed little on their spawning runs, but they do feed.  It’s just that you won’t fish them the same in a slightly murky river as you might on a Lake Erie reef.

Anglers in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have evolved a method of fishing for spawning river walleyes that isn’t sure fire (nothing is), but works fairly well if you have the gear to do it right.  The method demands a small boat that can be launched along the shore or from ramps at such places as The Tacklebox on East State Street in Fremont.  Plus an electric trolling motor and very small jigs that should range from 1/8 to 1/16 ounce.

It’s wise to bait the jigs with a tiny ball of Berkley Power Bait, or a small piece of worm, or half a minnow, or at least spray them with a good fish scented spray.  Then edge out into mid-stream and start drifting downriver, going just as fast as the current, no faster.  A bit of wood tossed over the side helps – just keep your craft even with that piece of wood.

Then lower the baited jig to bottom, reel up a turn, and drift along working it gently up and down.  Going with the current allows you to cover ground and such slow movement keeps the jig where it belongs.  Most spawning walleye aren’t interested in a big mouthfull, but they’ll sometimes take these minatures, sucking them in gently, rather than hitting hard.  So, strike at any touch of resistance.  After drifting downstream a distance, move back up, position 10 feet to one side or another of your initial drift, and drift down again.

Anglers who lack a boat and motor, should at least use the smallest jig that will reach bottom, and add some scent, bait, or Berkley Power Bait.  If other anglers are thin enough around you, try covering water close to shore as well as tossing it well out, again reeling slowly so that the doll fly bumps bottom occasionally.

Don’t forget live bait.  If action is poor on jigs, switch to bottom fishing with a slip sinker, a foot of line behind and a small hook baited with a nightcrawler or minnow.  It’s still wise to change baits occasionally, and maybe give them an occasional spray of fishy scent, but you can catch walleye this way.  They’ll come slow, but in the meantime it’s fun to watch the other fishermen, enjoy the sight of a wildlife officer hauling away some snagger, breathe fresh air, and note the occasional Canada geese flying by.  After a few hours of tossing jigs, that can be a blessed relief.

Make sure the river is fairly clean before you plan a trip to the downtown Fremont area by calling first such places as The Tacklebox at (419) 334-4643 and ask for river conditions.  Don’t be afraid to switch lure colors occasionally either, and make sure you read the Fishing Regulations, which has a section devoted to the Sandusky, Maumee, and Portage Rivers with special regulations for the spring run.  Then make your offering taste and smell good, keep it on the bottom and moving slowly, and as small as possible.  You should at least do better than “I got one jack, that’s all.”

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