The midpoint of the fishing season here in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania is a good time to reflect back on our area water's performance so far in 2005.
Some lakes were hot and others were not. Some yielded bumper crops of one species, but were stingy with others.
A look back over the past several months offers a few clues about where anglers might focus their efforts for the balance of the year on the species they prefer to catch.
Where to find walleyes
Walleyes are this area's favorite fish. They are fairly predictable in terms of their favorite haunts and the tactics to which they will respond. Plus, they are great on the table.
Mosquito Creek Reservoir has been the best walleye water of the local lakes. The traditional honey holes at Mosquito produced early and anglers have been able to stay in touch with the walleyes on the edges of the weed beds that grow on the lake's massive flats.
Pymatuning Reservoir also has been a steady walleye producer. The stump flats were the places to go earlier this year, and now the fish are relating to the deeper points and weed lines.
A number of tactics have been productive at both Mosquito and Pymatuning. Jigs tipped with bait and crawler harnesses are popular with those who like to drift, while trolling anglers have scored with Shad Raps, Hot-N-Tots and other shad-imitating plugs.
While both lakes produce a lot of walleyes, anglers have had to sort through a lot of short fish to catch the 15- to 18-inchers that are preferred for eating.
Berlin gets my vote for third on the local walleye list. Nice fish were caught early in the season in and near the flooded willows on a variety of jig setups. The action continues this month in deeper water between the railroad trestle and the dam. Anglers are working the flats and points north and south of U.S. 224.
Lake Milton also has yielded a surprising number of good walleyes. The best action has been on jigs and trolled plugs worked in the main lake section from the Interstate 76 bridge to the dam.
Mosquito earns another top ranking for largemouth bass. The spring fishing was very productive for keeper-size bass as anglers flipped and pitched jigs and tubes into the flooded cover all around the perimeter of the reservoir. Fish topping three pounds were difficult to locate, but the numbers more than made up for the size of the bass anglers were catching.
Shenango Reservoir north of Sharon was another good solid producer. The bass tend to grow a bit larger on Shenango, which has a closed season from April through mid-June and a 15-inch size limit. Shoreline cover was the best place to contact bass early in the season.
The bass action has moved offshore at most local waters, including Mosquito and Shenango. Mosquito's best largemouth fishing right now is in the weeds, while Shenango's lunkers are hanging on the points and humps, where anglers can catch them on deep-running crankbaits and Carolina-rigged soft plastics.
Milton has been up and down this year for bass. Anglers have caught lots of bass -- largemouths and smallies -- but finding fish exceeding the 15-inch size limit is tough. Docks and main-lake structure are popular bass spots, along with the shoreline wood and vegetation up in the river section of Milton.
Berlin's bass fishing was disappointing this spring, but it warmed up a bit as the fish cleared the spawning period. Best bets for the balance of the summer include crankbaits around the rip-rap at the various bridges and tubes and jigs pitched to stumps and logs near the places where the flooded river channel swings toward shore.
Mosquito's crappie fishing again scored an A+. The Trumbull County reservoir is a rich system, with an abundant population of shad and other baitfish that form the food chain's foundation. Crappies flock to the shoreline cover early and stay there as long as baitfish stay in the vicinity.
Pymatuning's crappie fishing also has been excellent in 2005, while West Branch, Berlin, Shenango and Milton all have been good. Anglers worked the spots that traditionally produce and plucked nice stringers.
Lake Erie continues to be in a class of its own. The big lake again this year is great for walleyes, smallmouth bass and yellow perch. It's almost unfair to compare Erie to the other lakes within an hour of Youngstown.
We are blessed to have such a diversity of waters on which we can chase our favorite species. Anglers are proving that those who approach their fishing with a well-built game plan can capitalize on the abundance the lakes sustain.