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It won’t be long now until walleye bonanza begins

As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, winter will defrost and great fishing days will soon be upon us.

Just when we get to the point where winter seems like it will never break, the thaw begins. Sure, we’ll get another blast, but most ice fishers are stowing their sleds and augers and prepping their open-water gear for another spring of fun on early season favorites like Mosquito and Pymatuning lakes.

Walleyes grab the lion’s share of fishing attention in March. Our region truly is walleye country. The popular gamefish is pursued by most of the anglers who buy fishing licenses in Trumbull, Mahoning and other Northeast Ohio counties.

One of the surefire signs of spring is when the Ohio Division of Wildlife crews start setting the walleye nets at Mosquito. It won’t be long before we spy the buoys marking the nets, which corral mature walleyes from which wildlife employees strip roe and milt to add a needed boost to the natural reproduction.

The fertilized eggs are transported to the division’s fish hatchery. A few weeks later, the crews return with millions of newly hatched walleyes for Mosquito, Berlin and other Ohio reservoirs.

The weeks immediately after ice-out provide the best opportunity for shore-bound anglers to catch walleyes.

The walleyes thrive in our local waters and are among the first species to get active in late winter and early spring. The fish move in to the warming shallow water in search of yellow perch and other small fish.

Many anglers work the rocky areas where walleyes tend to congregate. The hard bottoms around breakwater walls, marinas, causeways and dams not only harbor lots of food species, but also are potential nesting sites.

Experienced anglers also wade the sand and gravel flats during late afternoon and evening, casting jigs and twitching stickbaits.

Moving water also is a likely spot to find spring walleyes. The tailraces below reservoir dams attract lots of walleyes in March as the fish search for clean gravel bottoms that might be suitable for spawning.

Jigs are great for spring-run walleyes. The conventional one-eighth-ounce ball-head jig with a two-inch white or chartreuse twister tail probably accounts for more spring walleye than any other lure.

Anglers working the tailraces must be aware of the local regulations. Some waters are not open to lures with treble hooks during the spawning runs. Snagged fish, even those hooked accidentally, must be returned to the water immediately.

Anglers also are advised to respect areas that are posted “no fishing.”

The good news is anglers have free access to a lot of good walleye water. And as sure as the sun will rise in the sky tomorrow, the walleyes soon will be well within reach of anglers throughout our region.

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