BY MARK CAHLIK, FISHING EDITOR
Hello, fishermen! Hopefully you are having a good winter so far!
The Beacon wanted me to give you a report on the forecast for the 2022 fishing season, and we thought with a blizzard beating a path to our doorstep this week, now would be a good time to let everyone know that our local fishing was outstanding last year — and the forecast for 2022 is even better!
Maybe, just maybe, we will have a good dose of winter weather in the coming weeks to create a quality cover of thick, fishable ice on Lake Erie. If we do, then hopefully downtown Port Clinton will be as busy as it is in the summer months.
As far as the phenomena of great ice fishing for blue gills that has blossomed in recent years at East Harbor, it is already in full swing. For the last several years we have had a big surge in fishermen wanting to get on the ice for panfish.
Misty, who checks in the fish-filled coolers at Bay’s Edge Fish Cleaning, reports that a lot of good panfish catches are coming in right now. It’s not uncommon for a group of anglers to drop off coolers of panfish weighing 40 to 60 pounds!
Light Tungsten jigs have been the special ice fishing lures to use for the last couple years, whether you’re tempting blue gills, yellow perch or walleye. By the way, the bait store and the fish shop will remain open through the winter months. Check with them for hours of operation.
Now on to the forecast.
Walleye fishing, as we all know, just keeps getting better and better. The hatches keep happening with amazing regularity. And the fish keep coming. Casting for walleye is at its all-time high with huge success rates. And obviously, the trolling tactics that have dominated in recent years, is also just as good.
Anglers should have no problem catching limits throughout the year. This coming summer could go down as one of the easiest years to catch limits of walleye, and solid numbers of trophy fish.
As Lake Erie regulars know all too well, yellow perch fishing is another story. Party fishing boats, along with private boaters, had some success rounding up the staple for Friday fish fries late in the fall months. The Western Basin reefs and the Marblehead Lighthouse area had spurts of great fishing.
The perch fishing success overall, though, was a far cry from what we used to enjoy. The Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries experts report excellent hatches for the Western Basin of Lake Erie, so there is hope perch fishing success improves in 2022.
The traditional tactics we all used to rely on to bring home a bushel basket of “jumbo” perch — as well as the hot spots we regularly fished — have changed quite a bit, especially in Sandusky Bay waters. It’s a little hard to believe, but many anglers report that the perch, which are denizens of the deeper water in summer, have also been showing up in the marinas and the channels leading out to the lake.
Smallmouth bass fishing along the Lake Erie shoreline and the Bass Islands had gotten real good again in recent years, putting Lake Erie and its feisty smallmouth bass in the national spotlight once again. Bass tournaments are recording impressive weights, with the 2022 bass season expected to be a stellar one. Smallmouth bass fishing around Pelee Island in Canadian waters will be phenomenal — when we can get there!
Lake Erie largemouth bass fishing keeps growing in popularity as the population seems to grow each year, both in the traditional shallow harbors to the open waters of Lake Erie. The weed beds sprouting along the shoreline and around the islands have been the key.
And last, but certainly not least, catfishing!
It is amazing how many people are flocking to the Sandusky Bay to enjoy the surprisingly outstanding catfishing. This is one type of fishing — both during the day or long after dark — that has not disappointed the visiting fishermen who enjoy some catfish fillets with their hush puppies. The numbers of big channel catfish being caught from the muddy waters of Sandusky Bay is just amazing. There are now four or five guys that are operating charters that cater to just catfishing.
Port Clinton and Lake Erie are the focus of Vacationland in Ottawa County, and for sportsmen they’re great places to visit throughout the year for the great fishing. So get out there and fish. But as always, be careful. Be safe out on the ice this year if you are one of the many eager to drill a hole.
When you are done fishing, stop in the shop, stock up on supplies and get your fish cleaned. Keep a tight line, and tell them Capt. Mark sent you!