Lake Erie is historic. Let me explain my opening statement. Since the beginning of time, Lake Erie has been important. Local Indian tribes used the lake as a travel route.
Recently RJ and I took a trip to Westfield. Along the way, she noticed several road signs pointing to Portage Trail.
She asked, “Hey, what’s the Portage Trail?” I went on to give a very brief history of how Lake Erie, at one time, was an important travel route. If people needed to get something from the Midwest to the East Coast, they would ship their items across Lake Erie.
A portage is a piece of land — it can be a few meters or several miles — between two waterways. The Portage Trail in our part of the country basically went from Lake Erie to what we now know as Lake Chautauqua.
People would have their items/goods transported from Lake Erie ports – for example, Westfield/Barcelona to Lake Chautauqua – to be sent down the river to various other ports, such as Pittsburgh or beyond.
Lake Erie saw a lot of action for the wars that were fought on US soil/waterways. The most notable was the War of 1812 (thanks, American Commodore Oliver Perry. It was then that people in England realized how much they needed America and how to revisit the War of Well, as everyone knows, it didn’t go so well for the British.
Ports along the Lake Erie shoreline are still used for sending and receiving. Cities like Erie, Cleveland, and Buffalo have grown from small tent cities to big markets, largely due to their beginnings as Lake Erie ports.
Although they are not used as much as the main shipping lanes and more, there are still designated shipping lanes on Lake Erie with cargo ships making their trips from port to port.
The history of fishing on Lake Erie is as old as the lake itself. The fishing history of the lake can be separated into three general periods, beginning with the use of the lakes by native tribes for subsistence.
This was followed by large-scale commercial fish harvesting, and then by the current state of the lake’s fisheries: modest commercial use combined with intensive recreational angling.
During these three periods, Lake Erie underwent many changes. Fishing itself has therefore evolved. Depending on the section of the lake where one fishes, the lake offers a different structure. One thing has always been consistent with Lake Erie – the weather dictates fishing or any other activity on the water, for that matter.
Although I am no expert at fishing Lake Erie – I have fished it hundreds of times over the years – I learned long ago that caution should not be stressed enough when we fish there.
Lake Erie fishing is best when the wind blows from the west. I know it’s a old wives’ tale, but when it comes to Lake Erie, it’s a hard and fast rule. Another absolute rule is to always keep one eye on your rod and the other on the wind. The wind on Lake Erie can blow quickly.
For this reason and many more, I highly recommend fishing with an experienced Lake Erie captain. These people know the lake, understand the wind, know where the fish are, and will protect their customers from fishing at all costs.
Unfortunately things happen and just last week we learned of the loss of one of Lake Erie’s owners – Captain Fred Forsythe Jr. Captain Fred was an experienced charter boat captain with years of experience on the lake and he will be sadly missed by all who knew him. Take a moment and say a prayer for Fred’s family and loved ones.
The loss of Captain Fred highlights that all the experience in the world means nothing when things go wrong on this mighty lake. Respect is key to any body of water, but a vast fishery like Lake Erie needs your respect every time you go.
Lake Erie offers such diverse fishing, and it’s just one of the reasons why anglers travel from across the country and around the world to take advantage of the excellent fishing it has to offer. From jack/monster perch and trophy walleye to smallmouth bass, salmon and a few less desirable species, Erie has it all.
Sharing its coastline with four states and two countries allows anglers to test their skills in a highly diverse fishery.
This summer has been good for walleye anglers. A recent survey of the creel has shown it to be excellent for many anglers. The survey showed a June walleye catch rate of 0.39 fish per hour, which is the third highest June catch rate recorded in the past 20 years.
The sting will continue until the end of July. Anglers catch walleye in all ports, although the most effort and best action has been in Barcelona and Buffalo. That being said, Dunkirk Harbour, the Walleye Capital of the North East, has seen a huge uptick in success.
As long as Mother Nature permits, anglers have found large schools of 70-80 foot walleye, with some schools suspended. Currently the bite has been with spoons on riggers and a dipsey set to 180 with a lead core with stick baits.
“Most of the boats are boxing, from Dunkirk at the moment”, said Captain Joel Ruggiero of Baitmaster Charters. “The season started a bit late for some but currently the walleye bite is on.”
Barcelona trollers report a regular bite in 50 to 70 feet of water. From Buffalo to Sturgeon Point, anglers see good action in 45 to 65 feet of water. In both ports, bottom bouncing with worm harnesses was the most productive. Harnesses and stickbaits that run within 20 feet of the bottom also take hanging walleye. Also expect to catch a bunch of drums if you run worms near the bottom.
Last week reports from Dunkirk were also around 80ft. Some fish were grouped in the first 40 feet of these columns. Of course, once anglers find a good shoal of baitfish, the walleye will also be hanging around.
It’s been a few years since the walleye capital of the northeast/port of Dunkirk landed a national fishing tournament with all the national exposure, but from August 24-26 that will change. Cabela’s national walleye tour will see how Lake Erie performs for its season championship. The annual Con Clubs tournament begins on August 5 and the Innovative Outdoors Walleye Challenge will take place on August 20.
According to longtime Lake Erie charter boat captain Terry Jones, “The key success of summer on Lake Erie is the current. The head of the river where the bottom of the lake descends to follow into the river is ideal during the summer months. Downsizing your artificial offerings to 2.75-inch Strike Kings tubes is always a good bet. Keeping your line invisible is important. That’s why the 6-pound test fluorocarbon made by Seaguar’s Abrazx Fluorocarbon has produced great results for us this season.
While other parts of the lake have been a little slow, successful smallmouth anglers still find a fish rock structure in 30-45 feet of water. A drop-shot rig with live minnows and crayfish are good deals. Also expect to catch plenty of drums regardless of live bait fishing.
Summer is the perfect time for angling and there’s no better time than to stock your freezer with some Lake Erie walleye fillets. Remember, if you’re new to Lake Erie fishing, it’s always best to hire an experienced charter boat captain. They will show you more in a day than most of us can learn in a lifetime.