Jack Wollitz: Warmer weather alters feeding habits


Hot weather this week has raised water temperatures and cooled down the action for many anglers pursing the Youngstown-area’s most popular fish species, but not those who chase walleyes on Lake Erie.

Water in most of our local reservoirs topped 80 degrees and I saw readings as high as 86 degrees this week. That’s a bit on the warm side for walleyes and approaching the temperature where largemouth bass and crappies change their feeding behaviors to take advantage of nighttime’s coolness.

Up on Lake Erie, meanwhile, the big water is just about perfect for the massive schools of walleye that are prowling offshore in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Year in and year out, Erie gets hot just about the time the walleye fishing at Mosquito, Pymatuning and other local reservoirs starts to tail off.

Boaters who frequented the state park ramps at Pymatuning and Mosquito in April, May and June are flocking now to the launches and marinas from Port Clinton to Conneaut.

Limit catches are the rule the past couple of weeks as walleye anglers report the fishing is excellent for those who troll as well as those who prefer casting.

The fish are as shallow as 15 feet and range out to the 70- and 80-foot depths where they suspend to feed on multi-acre schools of baitfish.

Erie isn’t for everyone, however, despite the fantastic fishing. Those who are more comfortable on small waters find lots of options close to Youngstown.

One of my favorite summertime fishing opportunities is moving water. Rivers and streams stay relatively cool during the heat of summer, so when the reservoirs are boiling anglers can turn their attention to the Mahoning and Shenango rivers, Little Beaver Creek in Columbiana County, and other small waters.

Smallmouth bass are popular targets for stream anglers, who cast spinners, small crankbaits, topwater lures and jigs. The pools and runs can hold good numbers of hungry bass, along with rock bass and bluegills.

Channel catfish also cruise the rivers and are great for night-fishing parties during the heat of the summer.

July is not the end of fishing on the reservoirs, of course. Anglers who stay in touch with the walleyes continue to catch good numbers are Mosquito, Pymatuning, Berlin, Milton and Shenango.

Much of the mid-summer fishing on the reservoirs is aimed at largemouth bass.

Our local lakes tend to stratify, which means oxygen levels are low in the cooler water that layers under the warm surface. Bass require ample oxygen, so they continue to hold in the shallow water instead of retreating to the depths.

Anglers catch July largemouth in dense shoreline cover, including vegetation, brush, willows, stumps and toppled tree trunks.

July also is the perfect month for bass fishing after dark. Largemouth and smallmouth bass will feed aggressively after sunset and often go on sprees during the wee hours.

The temperature may be uncomfortable this weekend, but that’s not a good enough reason to keep your rods in the garage. They will get plenty of rest in a few months, but for now they still have a lot of work to do.

Jack Wollitz is a lifelong angler who enjoys the diversity of fishing water close to Youngstown. He appreciates emails from readers about their fishing adventures. Send a note to him at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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