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Game fish hungrier than ever this time of the year

Game fish species here in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania have kicked up their feeding as our days get shorter and water gets cooler.

Their appetites are impressive. Imagine if people could eat quantities that are the equivalent of the proportion of body weight that bass, walleye and northern pike are eating this month at Mosquito, Milton, Shenango, Berlin and West Branch.

I’ve been bass fishing two times a week since Labor Day and have been amazed at the bulging bellies of the largemouth bass and even a few smallmouths. I have kept a few fish in the livewell to weigh during bass tournaments and discovered regurgitated remains of previous meals in the well.

Much of the feedstock at our local lakes is yellow perch, based on what I see in the livewell. One three-pound bass upchucked a perch that measured more than 11 inches.

That’s a jumbo by any measure and the fact that the bass ate my jig after gulping the perch is indicative of the voracious behavior of the fish that are building reserves of fat to rely on during the lean winter months ahead.

It’s fair to estimate that an average two-pound largemouth bass is capable of chasing down and eating enough perch, shad, bluegills and crawfish daily to add up to a total of 10 or 12 ounces. That’s nearly half each fish’s body weight.

Consider what we’d think about a 150-pound person consuming 50 or 60 pounds of food each day. That is how hungry the game fish are as we roll toward October.

All of this means, of course, that it is a great time to get on the water. Whether you like fishing for crappies and bluegills, bass or walleyes, pike or catfish, they all are eating big right now. Add the horde of steelhead trout heading into the streams that drain into Lake Erie and you have a great variety of fishing options.

I visited Mosquito Lake Thursday and found that even though a stiff northwesterly wind chopped the lake, a number of boaters returned to the dock with nice catches of largemouth bass.

Weather permitting, the perch and walleye anglers are finding action on Lake Erie not far from the harbors where they launch.

Steelhead are migrating to the river mouths and a considerable number of big, acrobatic trout are already in the streams where they were stocked.

The walleye fishing on Mosquito, Milton and Berlin is starting to pick up again this month after four or five weeks of the summer doldrums.

One thing I have noticed is it’s not necessary to resort to spoonfeeding the local bass with dainty morsels. Instead of the noodling weightless worms and drop-shot rigs, anglers are scoring on hungry largemouth with larger baits matching the size of the maturing baitfish on which they are feeding daily.

Don’t be afraid to tie on the magnum-sized spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jigs. The fish won’t be shy about devouring them.

The same advice applies for walleyes and pike. Feed them a lure that convinces them it packs enough calories to warrant them chasing it down.

Look for them around the best cover and structure where the breeze is stirring the nearby food chain and you are likely to be impressed with the results.

Jack Wollitz is a lifelong angler who writes about things that impress him about fishing in our region around Warren and Youngstown. He appreciates emails from readers about their fishing experiences. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.