PERRYSBURG - When the springtime waters flow swiftly on the Maumee, you can see them: anglers, stretching in long lines on the river in hip-waders, patiently casting out into the deep, hoping for a bite.
|Scott Rodriguez of Toledo, Ohio, emerges from the Maumee River with his catch of walleye near Orleans Park in Perrysburg, Ohio. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
That's the signal that the walleye run has returned again to Northwest Ohio.
"It's the way we've been doing this for years and years," said Mike Radzimoski, a Toledo native now living in Cincinnati. "I've grown up in this place. The tradition."
The walleye run is a busy time on the Maumee and Sandusky rivers, bringing throngs of fisherfolk to the area. Last year, anglers logged approximately 109,000 hours fishing those streams during March and April, according to Mike Wilkerson of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
He said that 26,000 fish were caught in 2012 just on the Maumee River during the run. The first two weeks of April are usually the run's prime period.
The area near Orleans Park, just to the east of the Maumee-Perrysburg bridge, is noted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife as having some of the best fishing on the river, and it was there that Radzimoski was suiting up Tuesday for his first day out, despite temperatures in the 30s and some chilly breezes. The firefighter returns to fish the Maumee each year, usually making three or four trips up from Cincinnati during the run.
"It's my hometown, number one," he said, adding later that "we don't have walleye in Cincinnati."
The walleye run is the product of walleye swimming upstream from Lake Erie into the river to spawn in the warming spring waters - the fish at this time can number in the hundreds of thousands in the Maumee. Their optimum spawning temperature is between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. During the mating season, female walleye can lay as many as 400,000 eggs.
Anglers are limited to a catch of four walleye per day during the run, and all must be larger than 15 inches. The state record walleye, caught on Lake Erie in 1999, was 16.19 pounds, measuring 33 inches in length. Some fishermen Tuesday said they'd heard of other anglers who'd already "limited out" that morning.
|Scott Rodriguez of Toledo, Ohio is seen with his catch of walleye near Orleans Park in Perrysburg, Ohio.
However, luck hadn't been too kind so far to Joel Douglas, Dayton, who's been fishing the run for nine years. Tuesday was his second day out.
"Everybody else caught fish," he said. "I didn't. That's usually the way it goes. It's about getting out."
More seasonal temperatures last week contributed to good fishing, according to Heather Shramko of Schroeder Farm Campground, located along the river two miles west of Fort Meigs.
"This weekend was pretty good," she said, noting that a number of anglers limited out on Easter Sunday, when temperatures climbed into the 50s. Some walleye caught this year measured more than two feet in length, she said.
"Water temperatures, runoff and the snow brought the river up about a foot. That definitely helps."
"Last year was an anomaly. Fishing is pretty good, I think, compared to last year. Last year I think it started way too early and by this time it was hard to get a limit."
Northwood resident Paul Kubica, accompanied by his wife, Den, braved the cold at Orleans Park in hopes of getting a bite. He tested the waters earlier near Blue Grass Island at Side Cut Metropark, and decided to try his luck across the river. Kubica said he'd had a few fish on the line, but not reeled any in yet.
A walleye run fisherman since 1999, he said it's "just the challenge of getting a few walleye" that drives his interest.
"As long as my husband has fun, that's all I care," said Den.
2012 Walleye Season Stats
Hours spent fishing: 109,000
Number of fish caught: 26,000
Best fishing: Orleans Park
Prime time: First 2 weeks of April