JACK WOLLITZ Ohio River angling peaks in cycles
With its on-and-off fishing, the Ohio River can safely be described as cyclical when it comes to its productivity for anglers.
Evidence this year suggests the cycle is peaking for walleyes and saugers.
After 10 trips in 2003 to the Ohio River, my tally for these perch family members is just about equal to the smallmouth bass I've caught.
What makes this interesting is that I target smallies on my Ohio River forays. Regular readers of this column know about my infatuation with smallmouth bass, so I'm tempted to be disappointed when the fish on the end of my line turns out to be a walleye or sauger. But there's good news in this year's Ohio River bumper crop, particularly for those who prefer to fish for walleyes and their sauger cousins. If bass anglers are catching them by accident, imagine how many a serious walleye angler might find.
I had the opportunity last weekend to fish both days on the Ohio River's New Cumberland Pool. I fished mostly around East Liverpool and upriver from Chester, W.Va., into Pennsylvania.
Saturday's action resulted in a bunch of smallies as well as 10 saugers and three walleyes. On Sunday, the smallmouth action was slow, but I managed to put 15 saugers in the boat.
A medium-running, chartreuse and blue Norman Middle N was the hot lure, but I also caught saugers and walleyes on Texas-rigged, green-pumpkin tubes and watermelon-colored finesse worms.
Those who want to explore the Ohio for some pretty good autumn sauger fishing should rig up with crankbaits and look for current breaks created by points along the main river channel. Cast upstream and pull the plug with the current, making sure the lure is ticking the bottom in rocky or sandy areas.
Several of the "smallmouth" spots I visited yielded more than one sauger or walleye, including one break where the bottom dropped from five to 15 feet. That spot produced four saugers on six casts, all on the chartreuse and blue Norman crankbait.
The key to fishing the Ohio River, whether for bass or saugers and walleyes, is to find places where the fish can rest in an eddy and feed on shad that are blowing past in the current. Such places typically will produce at least one fish and often two, three or more.
Even with the remnants of Hurricane Isabel washing downstream last weekend, the fishing was good. The smallmouth fishing, however, was far better on Saturday, when the river was high and fast, compared to Sunday, when the river was 18 inches lower and the flow much slower.
Those conditions did not stop the saugers, however, as they continued to hit aggressively Sunday on just about any kind of lure retrieved through their territories.
Two readers who have pulled their boats from docks in recent weeks at Mosquito and Berlin reservoirs inquired about zebra mussels they found on their boats' hulls and motors' lower units.
It's a fact the pesky shellfish have become established in both lakes, as well as West Branch, the Ohio River and several other waterways far from Lake Erie.
They arrived, no doubt, in the plumbing systems of boaters who visited Lake Erie and then trailered to inland waters. Scientists theorize zebra mussel larvae from Erie are pumped into boats' livewells and engine cooling systems, where they reside until the boaters' next trips.
Zebra mussels swim freely as youngsters, then as they approach adulthood, they attach themselves to hard objects like rocks, stumps and hulls and lower units.
Boaters should check with their marine products dealers for remedies intended to keep the mussels from attaching to boats and motors.