It’s spring at last.  How do you tell?  Not by the calender or by the tulips and daffodils that are pushing up.  Spring arrives in most fishermen’s opinion when the first walleyes move into the Sandusky and Maumee rivers with spawning on their mind.  The smaller males arrive first, usually around the last of March or the first week or so of April, weather and water temperature deciding.  Then the big females, some to ten pounds and more, start nosing against the current and pushing upstream to the waiting males.  A great chance to catch some dandies, either using a small boat, wading in chest waders, or standing along the shoreline casting.

It’s important to remember that spawning walleye aren’t very hungry, and will rarely chase a fast moving bait, so the rule is “Keep it slow and low.”  And since special regulations require fishing with a single hook (not a treble), that fishing is usually done with a jig of some kind.  Most anglers at either river do their fishing by casting out slightly upstream, letting the lure sink, and bringing it back as slowly as possible.  They catch one once in a while.  But a better method, if you have a small boat or canoe, is to anchor out there in a likely spot and do your casting with a three-way rig straight downstream.

To make this rig, you’ll tie your fishing line to one swivel, then add a short length of monofilament and a sinker to the second swivel.  You’ll need to experiment with the sinker, choosing a weight just heavy enough to hold the rig lightly bumping bottom.  To the third swivel, tie another piece of monofilament maybe 18 – 24 inches long and a floating jig.  The jig should have a twister tail at the very least for eye appeal, or a small minnow on the hook.  Keep in mind that nearly every walleye down there will be facing upstream, so when you cast straight downstream and bring the rig back at a crawl, it’ll pass their milky eyes very slowly, and just a flip of the tail will let them catch it. 

That’s a basic problem shore casters with a single jig have to face – if there’s any even semi-serious current, the jig will whip past a waiting walleye at a fair rate of speed, usually before they can react, and they’ll rarely turn and chase it.  One refinement of this technique for boating anglers is to keep moving.  Stay here for ten minutes and cast downstream, then up anchor and move 50 feet or so before anchoring and trying again.  You’ll probably want to stay in mid-river, especially on weekends when the shore is clogged with casters who might tangle your line.  Or move far enough downstream to avoid shore casters. 

 Waders can do much the same as boating anglers.  They can either wade (very carefully) out a bit and cast a three way swivel rig downstream or, if they lack swivels, at least cast downstream with a jig and minnow heavy enough to stay near bottom.  Again, retrieve slowly and strike at any tiny change in the lure.  Most “strikes” will be just a bump or a change in tension, they’ll rarely hit hard.

Another technique for boat anglers that works very well is to fish with an electric motor and again, a small jig with or without minnow.  This tactic was developed in Michigan and is now spreading to Ohio.  Basically, you drift very slowly downstream using the motor pointing upriver to slow your drift.  Some toss a wood chip over the side and keep the boat moving exactly as fast as the wood chip, which means the jig below is floating along as normal current speed, not racing past as it would if being reeled in.  The jig will approach those upstream facing walleye just like any morsel giving them time to look it over and hopefully suck the jig into their mouths.  Another advantage of this downstream drift is that sooner or later you’re bound to pass a pod of walleye holding in a pocket or eddy below.

Finally, if you lack a boat or even waders, try tightlining a minnow or nightcrawler behind a slip sinker.  Cast here and let the bait sit for five minutes, then cast there and elsewhere, covering as much ground as possible.  It’s a restful business, totally non-tiring, and sooner or later, a hungry one should swim by.

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