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Mayflies and high water, oh my!
The writer came out of her hotel room to see her car and many others covered with mayflies. They are totally harmless and live only about 24 hours after hatching. Best of all, they are a delicacy for the walleyes to savor.

By Jane Beathard

Port Clinton, Ohio — An abundance of mayflies and record-high water made the recent Fish Ohio Day at Port Clinton a bit unusual.

While most folks welcomed the mayflies at the July 2 event, the high Lake Erie waters were a definite “downer.”

It’s been an unusually late and heavy mayfly hatch – an indicator that the lake’s water (at least in the Western Basin) is getting cleaner.

I came out of my hotel room at about 6 a.m. to see my car and many others covered with the winsome little bugs. They are totally harmless and live only about 24 hours after hatching. Best of all, they are a delicacy for the walleyes to savor.

It was nice to see so many dead mayflies floating on the water since biologists say there are millions of big and small walleyes out there to eat them.


A fellow Fish Ohio Day angler on my charter boat – a person who lives in Cleveland – said the mayfly hatch in the Central Basin is no where near as abundant this year. I wonder what that means?

While I personally love to see the mayflies, they are a bit of a cleaning nuisance. We were forced to find a car wash and clean the vehicle both inside (how did they get there?) and out before heading home to central Ohio.

But that is a small price to pay for a healthier Lake Erie.

Then there was the matter of the high water – not such a welcomed sight. Excessive rain this spring and summer sent lake levels to historic records.

Water was sloshing over the Fisherman’s Wharf cul-de-sac in downtown Port Clinton, making some businesses like my favorite popcorn shop unreachable. Rumor had it that workers at Port Clinton Fish Co. were standing in knee-high water.

Many private and public docks were not usable and the situation promised to get worse as the localized downpours only continue.

It has been only about 15 years since lake levels were at all-time lows. That had everyone worried back then. Many docks and launch ramps were left “high and dry” and some lakeside businesses were forced to close altogether.

Hydrologists blamed that situation on drought around the Upper Lakes (Superior, Michigan and Huron). Water flows downhill from those into the Lower Lakes (Erie and Ontario) through a series of rivers and canals. Less water in the Upper Lakes means lower water levels in the lower ones and vice-versa.

Snowpack around the Upper Lakes was heavier last winter. That, coupled with a rainy spring, sent water levels skyrocketing in the Lower Lakes.

We’ve had a rain-soaked spring and summer in the Lake Erie watershed, too. Tributary streams like the Maumee and Sandusky rivers poured even more water into the lake.

As a result, the lake is higher than most anyone has ever seen.

Decided to do this report quick as I am off the water today by two o'clock with limits for four of real nice fish. Actually we had 15 nice walleye in the boat and had thrown back around ten  by lunch time at noon. The Denny Cruz family from around St. Edward Nebraska were reeling them in. They are long time repeat customers of mine and I was glad to get that kind of action for them. It was also nice to beat the heat. We caught the walleye in around 14 fow the deepest I have fished so far this year on Oahe. Most of the days I have been in 5 fow to 12 fow pulling spinner/crawler rigs. Many boats are catching the fish deeper so they are kind of scattered but I have found the only reason they are in the shallow water is to feed and that makes them easier to catch. I learned a long time ago that my customers like to catch the easy ones. Before the Cruzes I guided the Hansen group to possession limits then took another of my favorite groups the Robinson bunch from mostly around south west Iowa to full possession limits for 8 people along with walleyes for supper every night. They also got some catfish smallmouth as bonus fish. Jim Lawhon helped me guide this group and we all had a great time. I also took Rick Shumaker from Des Moines out for limits of walleye. Spent one day down on Sharpe in 35 mph wind and we put two boat 20 fish limits (40) in by noon. These fish were eater size around 14 to 15 inchers but on Sharpe because of the 15 inch minimum being off until Sept 1 it is very easy to catch a lot of the smaller fish. I spent all of the rest of the trips on Oahe with limits every day of fish that avg. around 17 inches with plenty of 18 and 19 inchers in the bag every day. I really think the combination of high water and tons of bait has brought Oahe back to a level of fishing that is getting close to the late 90's. Not as good yet but an amazing fishery for sure. I also am seeing as much boat traffic as we have had for maybe ever but with the high water you can find lots of places to fish without fishing around other boats if you want to. Boat ramps are crowed though so be prepared for possible waits at the ramps and the cleaning stations. For the most part I think everyone is catching fish. Oahe fish are biting on crawlers, leeches, minnow and plugs so pick your favorite presentation. Depths range from 5 fow out to 30 fow so  depending on where you are at finding them can be tougher some days. I  will repeat my tip about Bermuda shorts. Just great for cool comfort and a little sun but bring a pair of sweat pants or long pants along. If you end up  in an area of biting fly's you will be glad you can quit slapping even if you are a little uncomfortable. Lots of Gatorade water also as 100 degree days can bring on real problems (heat stroke) IF YOU GET DEHYDRATED. A real no no. I always mention every other report or so that catching the walleye and eating them is great but to experienced angler's finding the fish is an equal if not the most important part of the sport. Walleye can be hard to find but what separates the average angler from the great ones is the ability to hunt and find the fish. If you learn to hunt fish and find them you are on the road to enjoying the whole sport. You will also catch a lot more and bigger fish if you find your own spots away from other boats and community spots. It is not hard to find another boat with a net out but it is hard sometimes to find and catch your own fish. If you do find them the rewards of knowing that you did  for many is worth it. We have a great fishery this year and in closing a big thank you to our Game Fish and Parks department for their part in helping make it so.


On the south end...  Walleye fishing is excellent.  Healthy mix of eaters (under 19.5"), slots (19.5 - 28") and overs (28"+).  Jigging with frozen shiners or leeches super effective.  Drifting spinners with crawlers also producing nice walleyes.  Main depths are still 29-32'.  Gold mixed with orange, pink or chartreuse strong color choices.  Some walleyes coming on crankbaits.

On the Rainy River...  Sturgeon keep season July 1st - Sep 30.  1 per calendar year 45-50" or over 75".  Positive reports from sturgeon anglers.  Walleyes relating to holes in river, current seams.  Smallies in rocky areas, weed beds and bridges.  Pike on edge of weed beds.  42 miles of navigable river.

Up at the NW Angle...  Walleye fishing remains excellent.  Mayfly hatch nearing end.  Drifting spinners west of Little Oak producing combo of eaters and slots.  Jigging and pulling spinners on and around reefs in 13-20' and around islands producing walleyes in Ontario.  Smallmouth bass being taken on cranks and spinnerbaits over rocks.  Big muskies caught and released this week.
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