Late-summer fishing can be as vexing as trying to get a quick table at a popular restaurant during the dinner hour.
You know the fish are there, but coaxing them to bite is as difficult as getting a restaurant hostess to move your name to the top of the waiting list.
Like the hungry diners who change plans and head off to a less-popular spot, anglers can switch gears and try for the fish that are biting if their favorite species is not cooperating. Those who are not in a hurry, whether at the eatery or the fishery, will be rewarded for their patience.
Come August, the inland reservoirs' walleye fishing slows to a crawl. Limit-catch days at Mosquito and Pymatuning are rare this time of year. A few fish can be caught, but not in the same places or at the same pace as in April, May and June.
On Lake Erie, meanwhile, the walleyes have pulled out of the shallow water to suspend over the Central Basin depths 10 to 15 miles north of Ohio's coast. Anglers are catching a few big walleyes while trolling with downriggers and Dipsy Diver set-ups at various depths over 70 to 75 feet of water off Geneva, Conneaut and Ashtabula.
Erie anglers are sorting through lots of spike-size walleye and sheephead, which keep them busy while waiting for the big 'eyes to bite.
Plenty to fish for
The inland and Erie walleye action will quicken when fall arrives, so many fishermen have turned their attention to other species.
At Mosquito and Pymatuning, for example, the catfish action is pretty good right now. Those who are trolling and drifting for walleye are hooking more channel cats than walleyes. Nighttime bait fishermen are tossing out chicken livers, cut baits and stink baits and landing some pretty decent channels and flatheads, some of which are topping 30 inches.
The catfish bite also is decent at Berlin, Milton, West Branch and Shenango reservoirs. Anglers can find good fishing around the causeways and bridges, while those who work from boats can anchor over the shallow flats where the big cats prowl after sunset.
Lake Erie is producing another bumper crop of yellow perch. Big schools of perch are cruising the sandy bottoms in 40 to 45 feet of water, where anglers pick them up by dropping minnow-baited spreaders.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife says the 30-fish limit it imposed in 1995 has enabled the perch population to rebound and anglers are enjoying the benefits. Anglers are filling their coolers with 8- to 10-inchers along with more than a few of the legendary jumbos.
Sheephead, bluegills, sunfish
Those who aren't particularly fussy about what they catch on Erie are whacking giant sheephead around the rocky breaks in 15 to 30 feet of water, often the same places inhabited by smallmouth bass.
Sheephead readily hit bass lures such as tubes on π-ounce jigheads and flashy metal spoons and vibrating lures. Specimens topping 10 pounds can be expected. While not especially desirable table fare, they provide plenty of pulling power and are great sport on light tackle.
Bluegills and other sunfish continue to keep shore fishermen busy despite the summer heat. Those who stake out good spots along break walls and bridges enjoy hours of fun as they thin out the local lakes' panfish population.
The smallmouth bass in local reservoirs get particularly tough to catch during August's daylight hours. They still must eat, however, and they often get very active during the middle of the night.
A proven way to hook up with midnight smallies is casting big thumper spinnerbaits around rip-rap areas. The bass feed at night on crawfish and shad they herd against the rocks. The strikes often are jarring and the aerial battle is heard more than seen out in the murky darkness.
August need not be a lost month on your fishing calendar. Those who change tactics and adapt to what the eighth month offers will find enough action to satisfy their angling appetites until the autumn bite heats up.