Try walleye and steelhead at Presque Isle Bay

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Water temperatures around the area are right about where we want them to be now. We dropped through the 50s so fast in the river that I did not even get out. Now the river is running very high, though, so it may be best to look elsewhere for good fishing. One place high on the list of area waterways is Presque Isle Bay, where steelhead fishing usually is fine even if the creeks are blown-out, and this has been the best year in distant memory for walleye in the bay.

As a bonus, pike fishing is good now, as is perch fishing. Burbot even has started hitting.

Emerald shiners have been moving into the bay in large numbers. This is great news since the emerald shiner population is now depressed in Lake Erie. These shiners and other forage fish are the reason the bay draws in so many game fish. It is a pretty solid rule of fishing that the flesh eaters will be where the flesh is.

The majority of anglers who fish in Presque Isle Bay during fall will be in boats less than 20 feet in length. It is simple to fish for either walleye or steelhead in the bay in the 14-foot and 16-foot boats that will be hauled to the bay from Warren County. It can be done by either drifting or by trolling. If your focus is on steelhead, troll. If your focus is on walleye, drift.

Catching steelhead in the bay can be more fun than catching them from the creeks simply because the steelhead has more room to run in the bay. The first thing to remember is that steelhead might be just about anywhere in the bay from bottom to the surface in the deeper water to shallow water in the lagoons. Marina Lake has been productive lately. When you troll in Misery Bay or Marina Lake it is quite likely that you will encounter pike.

No matter how many rods you are allowed and no matter how many anglers are in the boat, save yourself a lot of tangles by using no more than four rods. Steelhead has a habit of tangling every line behind a boat. Just one such tangle wastes a lot of time, and it can be costly just in ruined line. Since steelhead uses the entire water column, run each lure at a different depth. Two spoons and two stick baits can accomplish this without any additional weight.

For either walleye or steelhead, 6 pound-test line is strong enough, and you will get more hits on 6 pound-test line than on 8 pound-test line. Use at least one ball bearing swivel when spoons are trolled. Adding a second ball bearing swivel about 30 inches up the line will reduce tangles even more.

Smaller boats have been getting a shot at walleye in the bay all summer. If that happens again next summer, this is a great place for walleye anglers in smaller boats to fish when the lake is too rough. But you might as well get started now. Walleye tend to be in the deeper parts of the bay.

Minnows generally are the best walleye bait during fall and winter, or more specifically emerald shiners. These can be fished on jigs, or on a plain hook behind a bottom bouncing sinker. Keep the rod in your hands while drift fishing. It is more effective since you can set the hook quicker, and it is more fun when you can feel the hit. The plain hook rig might be more effective when a Colorado spinner blade is added above the hook using a few small beads to separate blade and hook.

Drift speed should be quite slow, no more than 1-1/2 mph, and as the water gets colder keep it less than 1 mph.

Adding a second rod in a rod holder for each angler likely will add a walleye or two to the catch.

Use a sinker that is heavy enough to keep the bait on the bottom when it is not too far behind the boat. The shorter the line, the better the hook setting.

If you would like to try to catch a pike, spend most of your time in Marina Lake, Misery Bay and Thompson Bay. You should recognize these areas immediately as good pike habitat. They are weedy, but with areas of open water. Weeds have receded enough in most places to cast lures over the weeds.