JACK WOLLITZ Water's perfect for catching fish in Ohio creeks
Deep dark green continues to wash the tree tops and daytime highs remain in the 80s throughout Northeast Ohio, but autumn is beginning to make its presence felt.
Although fall's official beginning is still two weeks away, cool nights and recent rains have combined to lower local water temperatures. And that means the fish are kicking up their feeding activities.
In the region's reservoirs, the shad populations are large again this year, and they are starting to move in big numbers toward the feeder streams.
Falling water levels, on the other hand, are pulling out the game species that summered in the creek arms.
The combination of those two factors should dictate where you begin hunting for your favorite species -- bass, walleyes or crappies.
Using Berlin Reservoir as an example, my choice this time of the year would be to motor into Mill or Willow creeks and watch the depth finder and the surface for evidence of shad schools.
Once the baitfish are located, I begin casting topwater lures and crankbaits to see whether any bass are present. If you are after walleyes, crankbaits and bottom-bouncing jigs will let you know quickly if the fish are in the vicinity.
Though bass instinctively move out of shallow spots to avoid being trapped when the water starts dropping, they typically stop on good cover like stumps and structure like road beds -- even if they are shallow -- as long as they offer an escape route to deeper water.
Consequently, anglers who pitch plastic worms and jigs to shallow targets around the reservoirs' feeder stream beds can enjoy great bass action.
Lake Erie also is beginning to cool, and the walleyes, perch, smallmouth bass and steelhead are changing their behavior. The water temperature off Cleveland last week was 73 degrees.
Big walleyes are hitting in 65 to 74 feet of water off Ashtabula and Conneaut, as well as around the reefs in the Bass Island area.
Steelhead are still cruising the cooler depths, but they've begun their move toward the rivers that drain into Erie in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In the Central Basin, trollers are picking up some nice walleyes and steelhead ranging from 22 to 29 inches on spoons running behind Dipsy Divers.
Yellow perch are hitting two to five miles off the Central Basin shoreline, and anglers are sorting through fish ranging between 8 and 13 inches to bag their 30-fish limits.
Smallmouth bass also are active on Lake Erie, with the majority of the fish hitting tube baits worked on reefs in the Bass Island area and on breaks and humps in 20 to 25 feet of water back east all along Erie's shore.
Anglers are reminded that the Ohio limit for smallies is five fish, with the minimum size 14 inches, and in Pennsylvania's Lake Erie water, the limit is four 15-inchers.
Down on the Ohio River's New Cumberland Pool, smallmouth bass and hybrid stripers are following the shad and picking them off around ambush points.
Such places include the numerous little points that jut off the bank where the current is deflected into eddies.
Anglers can catch smallies up to four pounds on the Ohio River and the hybrid stripers average four to five pounds, with occasional fish in the 8-pound class.
Topwater poppers and Zara Spooks are good early-morning choices for both species, and buzzbaits also trick a fair share of Ohio River smallmouths.
As the sun gets higher, chartreuse and blue-chrome crankbaits work well.
It pays to key on prime spots like points where the current is evident, work them quickly with reaction baits and then move on to other locations to find actively feeding fish.