Fishing Erie's Central Basin
by Bud Riser


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If your nose is buried in this article, youíre probably thinking in the back of your mind, "How much is gas going to cost me to find fish"? Can I catch Ďem close in? Sure you can...it just depends on how many jet skiers you want to get buzzed off by.  My fishing day usually starts off like this. That chirping robin goes off at 4:15 AM next to the window.  45 minutes later, Iím creeping along the Lake Erie shoreline dropoffs in 17 to 27 foot depths anywhere from Huron to Conneaut.

Iím a die-hard lead chucker so I begin my morning a little shallower than I probably should...usually in 9 to 12 feet. just because I can. Bouncing bottom with jigs and minnows or crawling a weight forward spinner generally produces a couple early AM fish in skinny water.

If that doesnít do it, I set up my next drift from 10 to 14 feet and maybe switch to a slip sinker and worm harness combo. Bango!óone or two more fish, including the worldís largest sheephead.

This time of year, I still like silver, gold or chartreuse color combinations. No matter what your lure choice is, concentrate on using the lightest possible baits but still maintain contact with the bottom.

By this time, itís 9:00 and a boat or two has showed up. I usually slide into 17 to 27foot depths and try blade bait jigging or casting a worm harness in a sweeping arc pattern (casting the swing as charter captains call it).

One or two more fish, a couple of smallmouth bass and a perch or two...not bad for 3 or 4 drifts. 9:45 to 10:00AM and more boats show up along with the first jet skier, churning up the shallows. Now itís time to make the offshore run.

Many mornings may find that youíve already limited out on walleyes and you may want to play around with smallmouth bass in 18 to 30 foot depths or fish for perch in 45 to 55 feet instead.

I prefer to get out the heavy artillary and troll offshore for steelhead trout and walleyes. They are often found in the same area of the water column as June/July temps warm up and the summer thermocline sets up.

I generally turn the gain way up or to full on my fishfinder to show the thermocline. It usually looks like a fuzzy, wavy band on your depthfinder and is about 5 or 6 feet thick, with 67-68 degree water on top. Thatís where the walleye are, above the thermocline.

I target my trolling baits for walleye to run from 32 to 42 feet deep while my steelhead baits are set to run the deeper part of the thermocline. Colder temperatures hold more steelies as it cools from about 65 to 58 degrees. Itís easy to find with a temperature probe.

Right now, Iíll bet you're still thinking, "20 miles out??" Thereís that gasoline question again.

In June and early July, walleye and steelhead action takes place within a reasonable distance from shore. 3 to 6 miles out can be a good early summer starting point and you can work your way out from there.

Last year anglers found schools of walleye and steelies off Huron, Lorain, Bay Village, Cleveland and points east early last year. Walleyes were spread more widely but those darn trout were everywhere! It was a steelhead bonanza!

My best day produced 30 steelies on line by 12:30 in the afternoon. Captain Bob MacFarland on the "Naughty Buoys" had about 45 on and one chinook as well.

My trip was with two pals who had never been trolling before. Hereís how we chase open water walleyes and troutskiis. First, set up a communications hotline. I never hit the water without calling at least five friends to check action as well as internet fishing websites.

Charter Captain, Andy Emrisko, of "Wavewalker" charters uses his own unique formula. "If the TV weather .......

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