The seasons have changed.
May 1 is the magic date for many fishermen across Northeast Ohio. The steelhead have all but left the rivers. Lake Erie fishermen usually have their boats in or preparing for it, as fishing on the lake heats up.
If the past few years are any indication of what is to come, it should be a banner year for fishermen, particularly those seeking walleye.
For those without a boat, the smallmouth bass bite in the rivers is rapidly heating up right now. While these fish do not migrate upstream as far as the steelhead, they do come into the rivers making them very easy to target across a variety of techniques.
These fish are in the rivers, usually dwelling in deeper, rocky holes. Vermilion, Rocky, Grand and Conneaut are all rivers from here all the way east that see a good population of smallmouth. Fishing near the river mouths off the breakwalls can be productive, too, as rivers with rocks at their mouths usually provide good smallmouth habitat for these strong fighting fish.
Catching a smallmouth in excess of 5 pounds is not out of the ordinary this time of year. Pound-for-pound, these are some of the hardest fighting freshwater fish out there and can give the most experienced angler a true test. Generally speaking, if heading to the rivers, the first few miles upstream from the lake will hold the largest amount of fish.
As for technique, smallies are aggressive and will engage across multiple techniques. Anything that is or imitates a baitfish is a safe bet to hook a smallmouth bass. The season to catch them nearshore runs from now until about the beginning of June, as water temperatures increase and angling pressure decreases with steelhead anglers packing up until October.
On Lake Erie, May 1 is when the walleye daily limit increases from four fish per day to six. There are new regulations this year when it comes to smallmouth bass though. Fishermen can keep one fish from May 1 through June 21 if it is over 18 inches. This is the time of year the smallmouth spawn and, in the past, all bass were catch-and-release during this time period.
If you aren’t into river fishing or taking on the lake, local pond fishing has been excellent lately, too. Largemouth bass are entering their spawn mode along with the panfish.
Largemouth have started to aggressively attack rubber worms along with the top water bite getting started as the water temperatures continue to warm every day.
May is the month where things bloom and the spring season comes into its own. Fishing is at its peak for many species where the whole family can get involved and target a variety of easy-to-catch species like bluegill and crappie. Some of the bass I caught as a kid have left a lasting impression in my mind and still something I enjoy fishing for so many years later.
So grab the allergy medicine and get outside. These temperatures won’t last and after a long winter, these days serve as a nice reminder that waiting out the winter is sometimes worth it.