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Fall fishing brings bigger catches during October

Plenty of options remain for anglers who are not ready to hang up their tackle for the season.

From Lake Erie to the Ohio River, a variety of species are active this month. October, many people believe, is the best time for big fish and lots of them.

Steelhead trout, walleyes, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and crappies are the fish that garner the most attention as autumn advances. All of them are well within reach of Youngstown- and Warren-area anglers.

Walleye are the marquee fish in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania, particularly for those who fish Lake Erie. The big walleyes are congregating around the giant schools of baitfish and following their seasonal movement toward the cooling shallow water.

Numerous walleye anglers continue working the popular spots at Mosquito Lake. Berlin Reservoir also is getting increasing attention as the walleyes stalk schools of shad around main lake points and sand bars.

Steelhead trout have moved up out of the Lake Erie depths and are congregating around the harbors and river mouths within reach of anglers casting and trolling around the breakwalls and beaches.

Girard angler John Breedlove is one of our region’s most knowledgeable steelhead specialists. He reports his recent visits to Conneaut have resulted in an increasing number of hook-ups while trolling flashy spoons and wobbling minnow plugs.

The steelies gather around the areas where rivers and creeks flow into Lake Erie and will hold out in the lake proper while awaiting an influx of fresh runoff. Fall rains that dump lots of cool water trigger waves of steelhead to migrate up into the streams where they will spend the winter in the pools and riffles.

The rivers often are too murky for good fishing the day after a hard rain. Anglers who time their fishing trips to the days when the rivers are at maximum flow of clear water will have better chances of hooking up with the acrobatic steelhead.

The majority of Ohio’s steelhead run consists of fish in the five- to 10-pound class. Anglers also can expect to encounter a big lake trout on occasion, particularly as we head into November.

Smallmouth bass are a special treat for anglers in our region and October is a great time to fish for them. Big smallies are active now around the Erie harbors, the shoals of the Ohio River and the hard-bottom structure of Berlin, Lake Milton and Shenango Reservoir.

Jigs and crankbaits worked parallel to rip-rap will produce jarring strikes and spectacular jumps. When the conditions are right, topwater lures also are productive in October.

Autumn anglers often find a few largemouth bass around the same cover they are working for smallmouths. Lures that imitate baitfish and crawfish will trick both species into biting.

The crappie bite also is heating up this month. Anglers in boats are drifting and slow-trolling with jigs and minnows at Mosquito, Shenango and other local reservoirs. Big crappies also are starting to move in around boat docks and breakwalls where they are within reach of shore anglers.

Cooler days, colorful foliage and cooperative fish make October one of the best months for those who will get off their couches and head to the water to broaden their angling horizons.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who fishes all of the waters in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He also appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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