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Area fisherman sees bright future for northeast Ohio lakes

National champion walleye fisherman Sammy Cappelli of Poland sees a bright future for Lake Erie and Ohio’s inland lakes.

Cappelli knows walleyes. He’s won dozens of tournaments on Pymatuning, Mosquito, Berlin, Milton, Lake Erie and elsewhere in the U.S. and shared the 2017 Cabela’s National Championship with teammate Erick Williams of Hubbard.

“I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to fish all the legendary walleye lakes, like Devil’s, Mille Lacs, Oahe, but Lake Erie really is the walleye capital of the world,” said Cappelli, who eats, sleeps and breathes walleyes.

News out of Columbus over the past few months has ballyhooed the prospects for excellent Lake Erie walleye fishing in the future, based on the recent hatches.

“The Division of Wildlife is doing a heck of a job managing Erie’s walleye population. It was on fire this year with 22-inch fish and it looks like it will be great fun over the next five to 10 years,” he said. “And next year, I think we’ll be catching 4- to 6-pound walleyes all day long up there.”

The fishing may have been great this year, but it wasn’t easy for Cappelli. He suffered a nasty slip and fall on a wet dock as he jumped from his boat to dodge a fast-approaching thunderstorm near Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., in May. He and Williams were preparing for the 2019 Cabela’s National Championship, but Cappelli fished in pain, as the fall resulted in broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and ruptured tendons.

Despite the painful injuries, he fished a rigorous schedule in June and July and then underwent surgery in August to repair the damage. He’s on the mend now and looking forward to a full schedule on his favorite waters in 2020.

Pymatuning is high on Cappelli’s list of favorite walleye waters.

“Pymatuning is a heck of a lake. I know of a 9.92-pound walleye weighed there in a tournament. I’d say it is the number one inland walleye lake.”

Cappelli said anglers can catch Pymatuning walleyes any way they wish.

“Jigging, trolling — it all works there. We won an Ohio Walleye Federation tournament there with a five-fish record for inland lakes. We weighed 28.82 pounds and it was cool because we had practiced on fish in the weeds with jigs, but won the tournament out in 22 feet of water trolling spinners close to the boat just three feet from the surface.”

He’s also high on Mosquito.

“The weed bite there was super, super good this year and there also was a good lead-core trolling bite,” he said.

“Milton has a strong walleye bite around the numerous boat docks as well as good fishing for trolling anglers. And Berlin is one of my favorite lakes. It’s normally very good for big fish and the fall Vib-E bite is outstanding.”

Even with all the great walleye water close to home, Erie is the big lure for anglers.

“You can catch them up there so many ways. We get them trolling spoons and casting jigs and spinner rigs. We got them last year fishing in 15 feet of water all the way out to 72 feet at the Canadian border,” Cappelli said.

“It’s just an awesome place.”

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who counts among his all-time favorite fishing trips the one during which he, his wife and two friends boated more than 50 walleyes one weekend at Berlin Reservoir. He likes emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.