Ashtabula fishing: Greatest show on Earth

Remember the three-ring circus, the nonstop whirl of colors, calliope music, acrobatics, clowns and feats of amazing proportions that dazzled the eyes and ears of young and old?

The circus was the high-water mark for entertainment for generations. When the circus came to town, everybody bought a ticket. It was must-see for one and all.

It’s been a long time since most of us saw a three-ring circus, but last Sunday, I witnessed a circus every bit as big as anything Ringling Brothers might have brought to town.

Ashtabula was the venue – or more accurately, the water in and offshore of Ashtabula. It was a three-ring extravaganza, with Lake Erie as the showplace of boats and boaters and fish and fishers.

I was fishing out of Ashtabula last weekend, enjoying a fine day of action with smallmouth bass. Lots of bites from other varieties of fish kept me busy in between hookups with my hard-fighting smallies.

The fishing was great, but so were the sights and sounds. Cool colors, the blur of activity and the cacophony of machines and people hit my senses like the circus that thrilled us in years gone by.

Every 30 minutes the drawbridge in downtown Ashtabula River lifted and discharged a dozen or more boats to race out the river mouth, across the harbor to the walleye grounds. Joining them were sailboats and powerboats of every size and description.

The deep blue sky reflected a Caribbean turquoise in the shallow water near shore. From my perspective on the foredeck of the BassCat, I spied a hundred boats or more from Ashtabula Harbor to the northern horizon.

The weather was awesome, and I envisioned the clear probability that everyone on every one of those boats was enjoying their own circus.

Turns out I was right. Capt. Tim Caruthers of T&V Charters says fishing this summer out of Ashtabula is the best he’s ever seen.

“Casting, trolling, it doesn’t matter,” Caruthers said. “If it has a hook on it, it will catch a fish.”

Caruthers said the walleyes are everywhere this summer from 10 feet of water where casters are connecting out to 40 feet and more where trolling gets lures in front of hungry fish. He’s been scoring quick limits daily right in front of Ashtabula Harbor.

The skipper said fishing is so hot that many charters are booking two parties daily. He noted his 299 Baja Sportfisher is a good size for a five-angler crew.

The amazing walleye fishing helps fuel the economy of Ashtabula County. A call to Ashtabula County Visitors Bureau put me in touch with Executive Director Stephanie Siegel, who noted the impact has been significant. Fishermen are having a circus this summer in her community.

Caruthers estimates more than 75 charter boats dock on Ashtabula River. Counting those based in Conneaut and Geneva, more than 100 charters operate out of Ashtabula County.

Lake Erie has been the greatest show on Earth for walleyes for many years, and this year’s schools are showing up big-time just a short drive up Ohio 11 from Youngstown.

With fishing so good this summer, visitors may want to extend their stay in Ashtabula. To learn about lodging, dining and other activities, go to

For more about a charter trip, call Caruthers at 440-474-2179.

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