Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Come Fish Presque Isle and Lake Erie!

Hello: My name is Jeff Tombaugh and I am an avid fisherman. I was born and raised in Erie, PA which offers arguably some of the finest freshwater fishing in the United States. In this article, I will cover the many different species of game fish found in Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay and the best times to pursue these fish. Whether you are a novice or an expert fisherman, you should find this article helpful. It is my goal to share with you what many fisherman do not know. Lake Erie is teeming with many different hard hitting and fighting species of fish!

The area of Lake Erie that I will be covering in this article begins in Girard, PA very close to the Ohio line and follows the lake shore to North East PA which is very close to the New York state border. I am also including Presque Isle Bay, a bay of Lake Erie that offers excellent fishing opportunities.

In the month of January, Erie PA is generally very cold and snowy. High daily temperatures do not frequently reach above freezing and during many seasons, Presque Isle Bay is sufficiently frozen providing ice fishing opportunities. Lake Erie during this time of year may be frozen or open but the Lake is dangerous this time of year and I would not suggest venturing out in a boat. Depending on how bad the weather is, sometimes fisherman do go out a hundred or so yards off of the stream mouths and fish for steelhead in open water. However, most seasons ice is building up preventing open boat fishing. January is a good month to fish the areas streams for steelhead trout but only if they are free of ice. I am going to be posting frequent updates to this article which will cover the weather forecasts and how the fishing is, so keep posted if you are planning a trip. However, if you are planning a trip to Erie to go fishing, you usually will be able to fish for some species of fish. Whether it be in the open streams in January for steelhead or for perch and bluegill on the ice in Presque Isle Bay, it is a rare day when you cannot find something to fish for.

If the streams allow, steelhead fishing in all of the streams of northern Erie County in January is generally very good. In western Erie County, we have two nursery streams where fishing is prohibited in the streams. These are Godfrey Run in Girard PA and Trout Run in Fairview PA. These small streams are packed full of fish during the winter and early spring and many non-fisherman and tourists enjoy going down to Trout Run to look at all of the big steelhead. In case you are unfamiliar with steelhead, steelhead are rainbow trout that migrate from the streams out into the open lake and then return to the streams to mate. In our area, 28 to 30 inch steelhead are common and they weigh between 6 and 10 pounds on average. They fight hard when hooked but do not fight as hard in colder water.

The fishable streams in western Erie County include Elk Creek which has numerous areas where you can legally fish and Walnut Creek. Both streams have large access areas by the stream mouths and are not fished as hard in January as in later months such as the beginning of March and April. You can access both of these larger streams by going west on Route 5 past Tom Ridge International Airport just west of the city of Erie and following the road for several miles.

In January, steelhead can also be caught through the ice, if conditions are good, at the head of Presque Isle Bay. and sometimes you can venture out on the Lake ice around stream mouths. Use extreme caution when venturing onto ice around streams. And never go out on ice in the bay unless it is at least 3 to 4 inches thick. Perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, and smelt are readily caught in Preque Isle Bay through the ice in January and sometimes you can find a school of great tasting crappie. Try Misery Bay for crappie. Misery Bay is a small bay located in between Presque Isle Bay and the lagoons. You will know you have reached Misery Bay when you cross over the second bridge on Presque Isle. The lagoons will be on your left which looks like a large stream. A monument commemorating Oliver Hazard Perry is located right next to Misery Bay.

If the weather has been warmer than usual in the Erie area, there are many streams in eastern Erie County that do not get fished as hard as the western streams. My favorite is 12 mile which is approximately 12 miles east of Erie, hence its' name. You can fish this stream from the mouth up to Route 5. Very few fish get above Route 5 due to a steep cascade. Twenty mile creek is by far the best steelhead stream in eastern Erie County and can be fished in many access areas all the way up to Interstate 90.

Fishing in Erie County in February is very similar to fishing in January with the exception of better ice and usually solid streams. Crappie fishing picks up in intensity in Misery Bay and at the head of the bay in parking lots 1 and 2. Steelhead appear to be everywhere in the month of February.

March is still cold in Erie but one of the best months of the year for the shore fisherman. When the streams thaw, steelhead are in the streams in large numbers. And when the ice breaks up in the bay, open water fishing from the public dock and other piers along the bayfront highway is excellent for steelhead and jumbo perch. During this time of year, I like to throw out one line for steelhead and one for perch but steelhead will also hit minnows which are the best bait to use this time of year. If you are looking to fill a bucket full of great eating jumbo perch, March is the month to do it in Erie PA. April and May can be good also but in March right after ice out, it is hard to come home with an empty bucket. Huge crappies are also caught in Misery Bay and the lagoons right after ice out.

In the next post, I will cover fishing in the spring and summer months. Happy Fishing! And if you have some spare change, please consider donating to the Erie organization that is working for the future of fishing in our region. Sons of Lake Erie Thanks!