Maumee Madness

By Ted Peck - April 1, 2011
Twenty-three anglers stood waist deep in the chilly Maumee River waiting for the sun to peak over the horizon east of Toledo, signaling the start of another day of fishing. There probably would have been more eager walleye chasers along this hundred yard run of riffles, but it was a Tuesday morning and the ambient temperature was only 22 degrees.

On weekends when the annual spring run out of Lake Erie peaks about mid-April the fishers will be standing literally elbow to elbow. Why would anybody want to subject themselves to this extreme level of combat fishing?

Nine million big walleyes, tasked with running this gauntlet of floating jigheads and Carolina rig weights to carry on the family name.

The Maumee is a medium sized river. By wading out to a choke point like a run of rapids it is easy to wing a plastic fliptail baited floating jighead almost out to midstream.

Three inch fliptails in combinations of chartreuse, yellow, pink, white and red on a big Northland Tackle floating jighead are the most effective baits.

This riverine dimension is well suited for minimizing angler angst and anger. Another line of fishers stand in a line out from the opposite shore pitching their offerings as well.

The Maumee was exceptionally low when I joined the horde there the last week in March. Only a few walleyes, mostly smaller males called "jacks" were around to stumble into hooks.

Most of these fish were 18-20 inches. A few bigger female fish were present. Fishing buddy Ricky Peil lost the biggest walleye of his life. It made the 26-incher on his stringer look like a minnow. He made need some psychological support in weeks to come.

Although the run hadn't started yet, there were many walleyes in this river by most folks' standard. At least three out of every four fish I hooked were inadvertently snagged and were immediately released.

Ohio DNR wardens have a zero tolerance policy on snagged fish. A hook on the outside of the upper lip will likely net you a ticket. Fish must have the hook inside their mouth and be at least 15 inches long to be legal.

Anglers are limited to a single hook with a gap not greater than a half-inch. A four fish daily bag limit is in place. These harvest guidelines are necessary to protect the walleye resource. When the run is in full swing it is hard NOT to catch a limit of legally hooked fish.

Folks flying over the mouth of Maumee Bay at the southwest corner of Lake Erie report an oil slick coming out of the Maumee River every April. The darkness in the water isn't oil. It is migrating walleyes. The school can be seven miles long and a quarter mile wide-all fish headed up the Maumee to spawn.

The lower Maumee is a playground of slippery, lure grabbing rocks. You can count on losing 30-50 rigs per day. The experience is akin to playing the nickel slots at a casino-about every twentieth snag comes back with a snarled tangle of line and a half-dozen jigs lost by others.

Weight is a major key in presentation. You need enough weight to maintain frequent contact with the bottom, but no so much that you'll find a crevice in an unyielding rock first. A three-eighths ounce weight with an 18-30 inch leader worked well under low water conditions. Half ounce weights provided an opportunity to return to the Maumee Tackle store on Wayne Street in Maumee.

Business is so brisk here on weekends that owner Gary Lowry has an express line for cash customers and a clerk for fishing license sales. Lowry is a good source of information for a fishing report on the Maumee. His email address is maumeetackle@sbcglobal.net.

Non-resident anglers are wise to purchase a fishing license on-line at the Ohio DNR's website www.wildohio.com. Those not familiar with toll road travel should consider one of those I-Pass devices. This technology will cut considerable time off of your flight down I-90.

Multiple lodging options are available in Maumee at an average nightly cost of $45 for a single. There are plenty of places to eat. A good pair of waders and patient attitude is essential.

Angler etiquette in the neoprene and rubber chorus line calls for casting straight out from your station, keeping the rod tip down and completing the retrieve before it invades the space of the next fisher downstream.

Timing your cast to complement the angler on your upstream side reduces a lot of downtime from tangling up.

When all goes well it's like watching a drill team at work. Then somebody's hook finds a hard charging walleye and all bets are off.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.