PERRYSBURG - It looks like nothing can keep a walleye fisherman down.
|Anglers line the Maumee River, Monday, April 21, 2014, trying to catch walleye. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
High water. Frigid temperatures. Late-season snow. They've all conspired to deter anglers from braving the Maumee River in hopes of hooking the fish.
It doesn't look like it's worked.
Fishermen could be seen in droves on the river late last week - on Thursday, they were in profusion on the western side of the Perrysburg/Maumee bridge, hip deep in the chilly water or casting their lines from the decks of outboard launches. A good number were also trying their luck east of the bridge at Orleans Park, said to have some of the best walleye fishing on the river.
For Anthony Sims, it wasn't all about the walleye. About to make his first foray of the day into the river Thursday morning, he said he likes "the serenity, the peacefulness, the harmony with the people." That's what brought him down from Ann Arbor to stay with family for the duration of the walleye run.
The walleye run typically begins March 1 and finishes April 30, with the first two weeks in April being the prime time to catch the fish. However, ice on the Maumee leftover from this winter's unusually harsh temperatures, as well as abundant precipitation, delayed the run. Additionally, while there were windows for good fishing earlier this month, subsequent high water worked to keep anglers away as the Maumee reached minor-to-moderate flood stages.
Fish moving out of Lake Erie into the Maumee and Sandusky rivers to spawn instigates the walleye run each year - the fish congregate in the rivers in the hundreds of thousands as the water warms up. A female walleye can lay more than 400,000 eggs during the period.
Anglers this year have a limit of four walleye per day - the same as in 2013 - with fish 15 inches and longer being eligible to keep.
The fortunes of anglers seemed to be variable Thursday.
|Paul Makar, of Perrysburg, leaves the Maumee River with an empty fishing net. Makar has been fishing for Walleye in the Maumee River since 1995.
For Sims, "they're really running slow this week," but that didn't mean he was coming out of the river empty-handed.
"So far, I got 12," he said, giving a running tally of his catch during the run. "This is all I do every day."
Mike Kaufman, of Muncie, Ind., who came up with his friend Jason Hangen, Greenville, had caught one fish so far. Hangen commented that a recent cold front that kept temperatures Thursday morning down into the high 40s "really hurt us. Last weekend was phenomenal."
Ron Doss, of Ashland, however, seemed to have the best fisherman's luck at Orleans Park - Thursday was his first day out on the river, and by 10:45 he'd already "limited out," displaying a stringer of four fat walleye. He said he'd also hooked several other fish but had to throw them back. He even had a "one that got away" story - a walleye he estimated at 7 to 8 pounds that just missed getting into his net.
"I fished in the same spread I did last year," Doss said, noting he planned to bring his wife up for fishing on Sunday.
"She does pretty good," he said, adding he would probably fish once a week until the end of the season.
The walleye run isn't simply a Northwest Ohio phenomenon - the event has made a splash on social media, with blogs and other online social networks catching fish fever. One local walleye run blogger posted that his site had garnered more than 21,000 page views from 1,400 unique visitors since February. Some anglers are sharing their catches via Twitter, or the photo micro-blogging site Instagram.
The Schroeder Farm Campground, located along the river two miles west of Fort Meigs, was also getting into the social networking spirit on its Facebook page, posting photos of anglers and their abundant fish, many of whom appeared to have "limited out."
Heather Shramko of Schroeder Farm said they had more than 100 fishermen at the site over the past week, with many of them reeling in good luck.
"It started off slow, but it's going very well right now," she said.
One commonality amongst the fisherman baiting hooks for walleye - they all have their favorite way to cook them.
For Sims, frying or flouring the fish wasn't the way to go.
"I like mine baked, or lightly sautéed," often with some lemon or tarragon, he said.
Kaufman and Hangen, on the other hand, prefer frying or grilling their catch.
Doss said he planned to take his walleye and fry up their cheeks - bite-sized morsels along the side of the head, considered a delicacy - Thursday night, and then save the rest of the fish until he had a good quantity of morel mushrooms.
"I'll invite friends over and have a big ol' fish fry," he said.