JACK WOLLITZ Aggressive fish prepare for winter
Anglers who tested the water last week found the fish are responding to the cooler temperatures with more aggressive feeding behavior.
That's good news for anglers looking for the action before stowing their tackle away for the season.
Walleyes, bass and crappies, along with a few muskies and northern pike, are on the move in local reservoirs and rivers as they seek food on which to feast before they settle in for the winter.
Water levels are low in most places around northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, and that serves to concentrate the game species in places that are fairly predictable. At Mosquito Creek Reservoir, for instance, bass anglers are finding good concentrations of largemouths around the remaining weed edges.
High and dry
Mosquito's shoreline cover has been high and dry for two months and the fishes' only options for cover now are the beds of vegetation.
Anglers also are picking up a few nice walleyes while trolling plugs and casting jigs tipped with bait. They are concentrating their efforts on the sand bars and points that lead out to deeper water.
The Mahoning River -- certainly not the region's most popular fishery -- is yielding smallmouth bass, walleyes and muskies.
I visited several spots on the river in downtown Warren last week and picked up fat walleyes, spunky smallmouth bass and watched in awe as a 40-inch muskie repeatedly followed my lure.
The muskie didn't smack the lure, which actually was somewhat of a relief because I'm certain the fish would have made mincemeat out of my light tackle.
The smallmouth hit a small spinnerbait I dragged through the runs between patches of river grass and the walleyes grabbed jigs tipped with chartreuse twister tails. At Shenango Reservoir near Sharpsville, smallmouth bass are cruising the gravel beds and rocks in shallow water as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues the annual fall drawdown.
Largemouths are hunkering around the stumps and hitting plastic worms and jigs pitched into the shadows.
Active at Shenango
Hybrid stripers also are active at Shenango. Anglers often spot gangs of 5- to 7-pound hybrids mixed in with smaller white bass up on the surface chomping through schools of shad. Topwater plugs and Rat-L-Traps are good choices to toss at the surface feeding frenzies.
Berlin Reservoir is extremely low right now and anglers are pretty much limited to launching at the Bonner Road ramp. Those who are venturing out, however, are finding walleyes, crappies and bass willing to hit. The crappies are biting minnows worked around the bluff banks where current washes natural food into their holding spots.
Perch fishermen, meanwhile, continue filling 30-fish limits on Lake Erie. Perch 8 to 12 inches are biting in 15 to 25 feet of water two to five miles out of Cleveland, Fairport Harbor, Ashtabula and Conneaut. Water temperature off Cleveland is reported at 68 degrees.
Smallmouth bass are feeding around Lake Erie breakwalls and on the rocky breaklines out in 15 to 25 feet of water.
Also on Erie, anglers are picking up walleyes drifting bait rigs and trolling deep-diving crankbaits and spoons around the reef complex in the Western Basin, where the water temperature is in the low 60s.
Steelhead action continues to be concentrated mostly out on the lake due to the lack of rain. The streams are low and crystal clear, making it difficult for anglers to pick up the few steelies that are in the tributaries. More fish will venture up the creeks when rain adds volume to the runoff.