The Winds of Erie Smallmouths
June 26, 2012
Meet Jerry Myers, a professional auctioneer and a longtime competitor in tournaments on Erie and elsewhere around the region. Jerry is one of the first people to take me smallmouth fishing on Erie almost 20 years ago. It was in April, while I was there covering a PWT event. Jerry showed me how smallmouths used grooves gouged into the floor of Erie by glaciers 10,000 years ago to access shallow spring foraging sites from deeper wintering habitat.
We used hand-tied fox-hair jigs and Bass'N Bait Company Snakie Spoons back then. The man who invented the Snakie Spoon, Ron Perrine, is here with us on Erie this week, hunting fish in transition. As usual, Myers does most of the finding.
The smallmouths of Erie move a lot in early summer, trying to roll with the punches. Since the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels that cleared the water, smallmouths moved progressively deeper as the water warmed in recent years. Inconsistent water clarity this year, however, has kept them shallower than usual. Affected by a host of factors, the water is cloudier than it has been in recent years. After hunting them for several hours, we found them in depths of 12 to 14 feet — shallower than recent seasons at this point in June.
Wind played a factor, too. It blew at over 20 mph out of the north from about midnight until 3 pm today. Cloudy water and waves keep light levels low. Smallmouths are sight feeders. They stay where they can see what they're after.
Our best method today was a drop-shot rig. I would tell you what we were using, but only Myers knows the name of the products and he crashed. I sit here in Bill Bower's vacation home on the the canals of Port Clinton — the Walleye Capital of the world, where "we drop a fish on a crane for New Years." Bowers says. "Everybody else drops a ball." It's actually called Nugent's Canal. We've stayed here before, filming segments for In-Fisherman TV. Perrine is snoring in a recliner across the room. With any luck, I'll be asleep in 15 minutes or so, in a familiar spot — a loft in Bower's A-frame. (Bowers offers cheap, clean, quaint lodging next door at The Arc — $100 per night for up to 10 people — right on the canal, with access to Erie. Call him — 419/234-1872.)
Disdaining the cruel waves of Erie, we ferried the boat to Put In Bay in the famous Bass Islands archipelago. Summer activities were well underway in this famous tourist attraction. We interrupted the famous cardboard boat races to trailer our boat at the public landing. Myers accused me of drawing the crowd as we approached the dock. "Can't be for me," he said. Turns out cardboard boats draw a much bigger crowd, though our waitress at the Mon Ami did ask if we caught any fish.
"Yes," I said. She smiled and went back to cleaning a table. (I'll get Myers to tell me what brand of ringed, paddle-tail grub we were using in the morning.)