The Big Pond – Lake Erie, Ohio

It is Ohio’s Great Lake, Lake Erie.  But to those like me, it is the Big Pond.  But the lake is more than a large body of water. It is Ohio’s northern boundary, the border between the United States and Canada, and a lake where world-class fish of three species can be caught.

Lake Erie is expansive to say the least.  Just within Ohio’s borders, the lake measures an astonishing 2 and a quarter million acres.  That surface area stretches from Toledo in the West to Conneaut in the East.  Its waters are the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and only Lake Ontario has a smaller surface area than Lake Erie amongst the Great Lakes.  Within its waters, however, swim fish of three species that are considered world-class: smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch.

Lake Erie’s smallmouth fishing is a trial in patience, endurance, and skill.  The fishing can be feast or famine for the professional and amateur alike.  Storms regularly roll across the western basin of the lake, causing fishing to become difficult due to high winds and waves.  Many anglers opt for presentations such as drifting, where a tube is rigged to a lead head jig and pulled across the rocky bottom.  The drop shot rig has become ever so popular as well.  Traditional fishing lures such as crankbaits, jerkbaits, and spinnerbaits still manage to land smallmouth bass.  The state record smallmouth bass was caught by Randy Van Dam on June 16th, 1993.  The fish weighed 9 and half pounds and measured 23 and half inches.  The best fishing for smallmouth occurs from March until October.  Anglers should remember that there is a closed season until late June, and that before then they should practice catch and release technique.

Walleye and perch are Lake Erie’s most valuable commercial asset.  Walleye continue to be the major game fish in Lake Erie.  Anglers targeting this species often troll large crankbaits and spoons, as well as cast jigs and crawler harnesses.  The state record walleye for Ohio is a 33-inch, 16 and a quarter pound fish caught by Tom Haberman in 1999.  Yellow perch, though smaller in stature than both the smallmouth bass and walleye, are targeted by fishermen in large flotillas of boats on Lake Erie’s rock-lined bottoms.  This game fish often falls for a perch spreader tipped with minnows.  The state record yellow perch was caught by Charles Thomas of Lorain, Ohio in 1984.  The fish weighed 2 and three-quarters-pound, and measured 14 and half inches.  Both of these species are caught year round by shore, boat, and ice fishermen.

The lake is accessible by many launch ramps along the south shore.  The most popular of these is the Sandusky City Ramp located off of State Route 6.  These ramps regularly accommodate larger tournament trails such as the FLW and BASS Tours.  A smaller but more casual launch is located at Cranberry Creek Marina.  This ramp is located east of Huron, Ohio near the intersections of Route 6 and 61.  This ramp gives immediate access to Ruggles Reef, a prime smallmouth and walleye fishing area.  Further east, ramps are present at Lorain (Black River access) and Vermilion.  The central basin of the lake can be accessed in Cleveland, Euclid, Eastlake, Mentor, and Geneva-on-the-Lake.

Accommodations for fishermen and sightseers are numerous, especially near Cedar Point.  The amusement park offers many hotels along Routes 6, 2, and 250.  For larger outings, try Bayshore Estates for camping and trailer rentals.  It is located along Route 6 in Sandusky, Ohio.  Another option is to stay at a bed and breakfast, including some like the House on Huntington Lane.  This bed and breakfast is located on Kelly’s Island and is a short ferry ride from Sandusky.

The biggest threat to our valuable resource is invasive exotic species such as the round goby and the zebra mussel.  The introduction of these species is blamed on ocean-going vessels expelling ballast into the Great Lakes during their passage.  Anglers and boaters alike are asked to empty their livewells and bilge areas before leaving a body of water.  Doing so, and cleaning your boat before launching into another lake or river, should curb the spread of these invasive species to new waters. 

{Sources for information: Ohio Department of Resources and the Great Lakes Foundation}

Eric Huber

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