Captain Marv DeGreen
Lake Erie Fishing Guide
VERMILLION-The walleye are back and so are the fishermen, crowding the fertile fall waters off Vermillion and Huron.
"We've been having a great fall season with big schools of fish and a lot of trophy walleye," said Marv DeGreen of Evil Eye Charters (216-970-1246)." All you can do is hope the fish are here in October and November. This year, we've struck it rich."
Walleye make a magical mystery tour of Lake Erie each year. They spawn in March and April on the limestone rock reefs of Western Lake Erie or on the gravel in the Sandusky and Maumee rivers, as well as other streams feeding Lake Erie.
the spring spawning season, many walleye head east to thrill summertime fishermen at ports from Lorain and Cleveland to Fairport Harbor, Conneaut and Ashtabula.
In late summer and fall, the walleye head west again and begin to gather in the waters east of Kelleys Island. They'll voraciously feed to prepare for the spring spawning season, packing on pounds as they add layers of fat and egg sacks begin to swell in their bellies.
It is a bonanza for fishermen, both in boats and casting from break walls and pier heads. Some of the largest fish of the season will be hooked and coolers often bulge with a day's catch.
DeGreen makes the pilgrimage here each fall with a fleet of skippers from the Grand River Marina. Rather than a last gasp of walleye fishing, it is a time to dazzle the customers with a trophy. The rare 10-pounder of summer is not a very exceptional fish at this time of year. It takes a 12 or 13 pounder to turn heads in the fall.
"The schools of walleye seem bigger here this fall," said DeGreen. "They can still be pretty particular when it comes to lure size or color and trolling speed. If you find the right combination, the action will be pretty darn fast."
DeGreen was trolling slowly at about 2 knots a few miles north of Vermillion, dragging Stinger spoons in copper-raspberry color patterns. Some spoons were swimming behind large planar boards, combined with one-line Jet Divers that would take the spoons to the best depths.
Other spoons trailed saucer-shaped Dipsy Diver diving planers, which have keel weights to take a lure to a certain depth and away from the boat. The diving devices were geared to swim the light spoons at the 20 to 40-foot depths, where the walleye were swimming across the screen of DeGreen's sonar unit.
We didn't have to wait long for the first strike.
A walleye snared a spoon and pulled a fishing line from a release clip on the line leading to the large planar on the port side. A second walleye gobbled a spoon swimming behind a Dipsy Diver and had a long, stout fishing rod in full bend and shaking in its rod holder.
D'ARCY EGAN | THE PLAIN DEALER
Fishing guide Marv DeGreen of Evil Eye Charters has a load of walleye to fillet at the fish cleaning station in Vermillion after a morning of Lake Erie fishing.
All hands were on the back deck of DeGreen's 31-foot Tiara for a fishing fire drill. Laura Brown of Marblehead was battling a big walleye, while Don Bush of Akron and Tom Clark of Buckeye Lake were putting out lures and watching for tangles. DeGreen had a close eye on his GPS and sonar units and had the net ready when a walleye was reeled in.
DeGreen wasn't on his own.
The Grand River Marina group of fishing guides is a tightly knit collection of charter fishermen. With Marine radio and cellular telephones, the guides who made the move to Vermillion for the fall season will share the best locations and lures that kick a walleye's appetite into overdrive.
"We're all good friends on and off the water," said DeGreen, a former construction worker and full-time fishing guide. "When the season is finally over, we'll all go rabbit, waterfowl or deer hunting together."
That will be a while. DeGreen plans to keep his boat in Vermillion until Nov. 10.
"When you've got walleye fishing like this, it's tough to quit for the year," he said. "I like those wide smiles when a fisherman catches the biggest walleye of his life."
Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
The hunt was on but it was good to know that two of the Central Basin's best bird dogs were hot on the fish's tail.
"People always ask why we fish everyday but really, every day is different. You have to find 'em and stay with 'em" said Ron Johnson of Perry Township.
A well-known and equally well respected Lake Erie charter captain, Johnson was tag teaming with fellow Grand River fishing guide, Marv DeGreen of Huntsburg Township.
Johnson and DeGreen were engaged in a scouting mission designed to relocate both steelhead trout and walleye. The effort was made necessary because last weekend's nasty winds created rough seas. This tumultuous duo of titans scattered the lake's horde of walleye and steelhead, also sending the bait fish to parts unknown. All that was left was a nickel's worth of change.
"Every blow is different and a good one sometimes sets up a mud line, which is fine. You can usually locate fish at the edge of a mud line," Degreen said.
Thus, finding both the prey and the predators is a never-ending chore. So even when the men aren't working they are, well, working, both charter skippers said.
"Before the blow, every thing was cooking," Degreen said, rigging up one of the planner board lines with clips.
To these snaps, DeGreen and Johnson attached lines cabled with Stinger spoons. The most popular Stinger spoon colors of late include the firm's "confusion" - a mixed bag of hues that sparkle and dazzle the fish into striking.
Other good Stinger spoon colors include what's called "yellow jacket" and "boy/girl" - a pattern that involves fusing pink on the lure's port side, blue on the starboard side and a streak of silver showing down the middle.
"The steelies' love it," Johnson said. "But when things get tough and the water is turned all around then sometimes body baits work better. I think it's the size of the lure and the fact that a body bait can attract the attention of a walleye or a trout."
Yet finding fish is the highest priority, since throwing lures at something that isn't swimming within a few yards will guarantee a cooler filled with air instead of a walleye.
To that end, the charter captains watched the passing of the images on the boat's electronic fish finder. They also looked for slicks, or trails of water that appear on the lake's surface.
"Those are currents," Johnson said, pointing to a set of zig-zagging slicks in the trackless lake. "Find those and a steelhead might be nearby."
Importantly, DeGreen also said, is the need to look for the establishment of a thermocline, an invisible cordon that separates the lake's warmer waters from it's colder waters.
The more well defined the thermocline the better the odds are in the favor of the fisherman as the walleye and steelhead are found straddling the barrier.
Lake Erie charter boat captain Marv DeGreen of Huntsburg Township holds a plump Central Basin walleye, a tough critter to find after sharp winds roll the water.
Even more telling is that the thermocline represents the zone in which the all important bait fish use as their reference point, DeGreen said.
"Walleye and steelhead have to eat so you go looking first for the bait." DeGreen said. "In these kinds of conditions, after a blow, the fish and the bait could be anywhere, top to bottom."
The hunt this particular evening started out many miles from Lake Erie's south shore. I water about 68 feet deep, Johnson and DeGreen set up their usual arsenal of directional divers and Jet Divers to which went a selection of spoons. In short order a 5 pound trout tripped a directional diver as did an equally sized walleye. Neither fish impressed the two captains who modulated the boats speed either faster or slower to see if any alteration would help get the fish's attention.
When their work failed to yield the hoped-for results, DeGreen and Johnson then throttled up the boat's engines. Their destination was south toward much more shallow water off the Mentor Lagoons. It was here that a coterie of fellow fishing guides were plucking walleye.
With a water depth never exceeding 50 feet, the zone for locating fish became all that much more confining. "Last year we had the fish in this same area all the way through July. It was good for business because we didn't have to run very far or use up much gas," DeGreen said. "It was our gravy run."
Dinner was definitely being spooned up as the Stingers bit the lips of nearly one dozen walleye before the sun tilted below the horizon.
"Once you know the program, where to go and what to use, you're going to catch fish," DeGreen said.
For information about fishing with DeGreen, call (216) 970-1246.
For Information about fishing with Johnson, call (440) 487-0002.