By Aaron Stiger
Picture this image.
Hundreds upon hundreds of deep-V powerboats. Millions of dollars invested in watercraft, electronics, gear and tackle. The smell of exhaust fumes, tobacco and nightcrawlers fills the air. Sounds great, right? Wrong.
This was the scene I encountered this year in Port Clinton, Ohio. Port Clinton rests on the shores of Lake Erie, and has been dubbed the “Walleye Capital of the World.” Thousands of trophy walleye are hoisted each year by eager anglers in the very boats just described. Waiting in an hour-long line to launch is commonplace, as are limits of 30-plus-inch fish by 10:00 a.m.
Three years ago, I took my first crack at the walleye, although not from a glittery powerboat with the name of a long-lost lover. I took my rickety little sit-in kayak out to test the waters and my skills to trick one of the infamous marble-eyes into taking my offering.
I didn’t catch anything that first year, and quickly realized that I needed to upgrade my kayak and adjust my technique. Two years later, I have refined the methods used to put limits of walleye in the kayak. Here are a few tips and tricks that can help that first-time angler have a great time and make memories that won’t be forgotten.
Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to hit the lake in a kayak
So many of the power boaters looked perplexed as I bypassed the launch ramp and dragged my Kraken over to the beach, loaded my gear and paddled away. With half-grins on their faces, judgment was cast directly my way. I always check the forecast on the NOAA site for 0-2 foot waves. Any more and conditions are not safe for a kayak. However, if you have proper safety gear and equipment, the kayak is a great tool that is perfectly capable of landing that wall-hanger you’ve been looking for.
Tip #2: Forty- to 50-degree water is prime
Right after ice-off, huge car-sized icebergs are still floating around Lake Erie. When that first good wind pushes the ice out from the shore, it’s game on for walleye hunting. Until the water hits 50 degrees, you can find hungry and spawning 10-pound female giants very close to shore. The key is finding 20- to 25-foot-deep water and trolling deep-diving baits about 1-2 mph with your kayak.
Tip #3: Use your electronics
Having great down and side imaging is imperative for this type of fishing. Many times, you can physically see the walleye as they appear as crescent moons on your screen. The bigger the mark, the bigger the fish. The most rewarding hookup is when you see the fish, paddle past the mark, and then get the bite.
Next time you are around Lake Erie in the springtime, be sure to check the forecast, rig up your kayak and hit the water. You might just find what you are looking for.