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               Summer 2007 Feature Article

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Hot Water Bronzebacks on Lake Erie

By Capt. Phil Cadez


The Western Basin of Lake Erie averages only about 23 feet in depth. Generally, August temperatures rise into the 90 degrees F.  This heat can bring Lake Erie’s water temperature in the high 70’s.  Walleye fishing should stay good to fair through the summer and fall months. Usually local anglers will switch to smallmouth fishing when the walleye fishing slows up.


More anglers are finding out that Lake Erie is one of the top ten smallmouth areas in North America. With its many islands, rocky reefs, and gravel bars, Lake Erie supports an unbelievable fish population. Both walleye and smallmouth bass have had super hatches the last few years. Zebra mussels have actually helped bring about a better fish population.


Smallmouth fishing is fairly easy at this time of year because they are generally schooled up in deeper water near drop-offs or irregular structure. Fish locators are needed when locating proper depths and structure. Active jumpers as we call them can range from 15 to over 30 feet in depth.


On days when there’s little or no wind, we usually drift with live bait. Spinning tackle with six- to ten pound test line and shorter, stiffer graphite poles are the most popular means to do battle with these active jumpers. Smallmouth is generally considered one of the strongest fighting fresh water sport fish. If the wind is too strong or you’ve found a honey hole, anchoring is the best way to fish for these brutes. A long anchor rope is an advantage because you can change your location without starting the motor.


Soft craws are crayfish that have recently shed their skins or hard shells. They are expensive, about $5.00 a dozen. Soft craws are the jumper’s favorite delicacy. July through September is the month’s soft craws are plentiful and remain the best bait. After the first frost, craws are impossible to get but smallmouth will hit small shad and minnows just as well as the water tends to cool.


When fishing 15 to 30 feet deep, use a half-ounce egg sinker. Place this slip sinker on the line, then attach #24 or 26 Mustad central draught bait hook to the end. Move the egg sinker up about 24 inches and secure a split shot on the line to keep the weight away from the bait hook. When fishing less than 15 feet you might use one-half to three-eights ounce egg  sinkers. Hook the craws in the tail about one half inch from the end. I fish with the bait open and always bump the bottom with the weight.  If I feel a pick up I’ll usually let my finger off the line and give slack to the fish. They’ll usually run with the craw, kill it, and then swallow it. Each day is different. One day they’ll slam the bait down, the next day they’ll play around with it. When you feel the fish has eaten the craw, take up the slack, set the hook and hold on. Even when bronzebacks are caught in deep water, they’ll usually clear the water, fighting mad. Keep your rod tip up and your drag set loose because these fish will test your tackle and your skill.


Fresh-water drum and other rough fish also like soft craws. Don’t be afraid to move quickly or you’ll run out of bait. If you do run out of craws bring some jigheads and power tubes. Bumping the bottom with this combination has proven that these fish will sometimes hit artificial baits.


The last few years have been super for smallies on Lake Erie. They can be caught all through April till November but are easiest to capture in August and September. If you enjoy catching some of these powerful sport fish try to make it this year. Jumpers can be caught near the Ohio islands but are especially abundant in Canadian waters near Pelee Island. Pelee Island is approximately 15 miles from the Ohio shoreline. Anglers go into Canadian waters because of less fishing pressure and bigger average catches. Average six man charter fishing over there might average two to four pounds and handle from 30 to 100 fish a day.


You can get daily fishing reports on my website There’s lots of great smallmouth and Walleye fishing left in 2007.  You otta be here!


Good Fishin