The days are getting longer and the sun is shining brighter, which means spring is coming to northeast Ohio.
OK, the lakes remain locked in thick ice and plenty of bad weather remains ahead. But I'm an optimist and I prefer to look at the positive side of things.
In fact, I think the long, tough winter will result in good things this season for local anglers. Here's a look ahead to what could add up to an outstanding fishing season:
After rough winters in past years, the Ohio River has rebounded to yield bumper crops of bass, saugers and walleyes. I expect the same this year.
Cold winters tend to thin the fish populations, leaving the stronger specimens to survive and thrive. The Ohio showed signs of improving again in 2002, with plenty of fat smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass, along with good saugers and walleyes and excellent numbers of big crappies.
Walleyes will rule
Walleyes will rule again at Mosquito Creek Reservoir. The populations should continue to support good fishing once the ice melts and the boaters get out to their favorite spots.
Mosquito has gained a great reputation for slab crappies and there's no reason to doubt that upbeat trend will continue.
At Pymatuning Reservoir, walleyes and crappies also should be readily available. The long months under the ice seem to actually enhance the spring fishing at Pymatuning and other nearby reservoirs.
Bass anglers can expect the snowmelt and spring rains to flood Berlin Reservoir up into the willows again this year, and that means prime shallow-water fishing for bass and crappies.
Two more popular waterways - West Branch and Shenango - were productive last season and most definitely are candidates for continued good fishing. They support large shad populations, essential for the long-term health of the predator species.
For the time being, however, we must remain content to just think about the upcoming open-water season. But it's just a matter of time now.
Local anglers shine
Two western Pennsylvanians, Dave Lefebre of Erie and Jack Bell of Kane, were in the top 10 after the second round in the four-day FLW Tour professional bass tournament last week on Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin.
Lefebre, who cut his fishing teeth on Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie, led the field as it was cut to the top 10 for the final two rounds Friday and Saturday. During the first two days, his combined catch weighed 31 pounds. He caught his fish on jigs in grass beds in four to six feet of water.
Final results were not available as this was written.
Considered one of the rising stars in pro bass fishing, Lefebre gained much of his tournament experience in events in northeast Ohio and Pennsylvania. He moved up to the pro ranks last season and earned a qualifying berth in the world championship Citgo BASS Masters Classic this summer in New Orleans.
Bell is a long-time pro angler with numerous top 10 finishes on the BASSMASTER and FLW tours.
Pro angler Gary Klein of Texas joined the B.A.S.S. Millionaires Club with his recent victory at Lake Seminole in Georgia. He earned $100,000 for his four-day catch weighing an ounce shy of 70 pounds.
Denny Brauer of Missouri leads the money list with earnings of $1.6 million. Rick Clunn is second with $1.5 million. Klein is seventh with earnings totaling $1,067,644.