Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blame the dead bird for no Fish Ohio Day walleye

PORT CLINTON — I’m not the most superstitious of anglers, though I do have my moments.

With a history to back me up, I just knew that I was in trouble even before the morning glow arrived on what’s called Fish Ohio Day.

Just before arriving at the westbound Route 2 bridge over Sandusky Bay, a tweety bird of some kind ricocheted off the right front corner of my car.

“Thump” was pretty much what I heard, though the physics of a quarter-pound bird traveling at “X” miles per hour striking an 1,800-pound brew of steel, glass and plastic did generate a felt “whomp.”

“Ah, nuts,” I said, “there goes any chance of catching a walleye.”

It’s true. Very nearly every time that I can remember, and whenever I turn some critter into road-kill, my fishing luck turns south.

There’s no explanation, it just is, that’s all.

I was not going to turn around, of course. The exit for Catawba Island/Port Clinton was fast approaching. From there the distance to the Lake Erie Shores and Islands welcome center is measured in a fraction of a mile.

It is this welcome center that annually becomes the focal point of the 30-plus-year-old Fish Ohio Day.

This event draws the top honchos from the Ohio Division of Wildlife and their Ohio Department of Natural Resources handlers.

Holding the leash is the reigning governor. In this case, John Kasich.

We are divvied up into groups of between four and six anglers and assigned to a licensed skipper who belongs to the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.

Fish Ohio Day had enough guests and enough volunteer charter captains to post 19 teams. I was assigned to team No. 6, led by 20-year Lake Erie fishing guide Dave Spangler.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Spangler now instead draws a bead on the Western Basin’s fabled walleye fisheries.

Employing either hand-held fishing tackle for the old-fashioned way of flinging worm rigs, Spangler also keeps in his quiver a bunch of line counter reels, matching rods and lots of brightly colored spoons and crankbaits.

“We’ll try casting first and if that doesn’t work we’ll troll,” Spangler said.

I was not about to tell Spangler not to bother since we were already jinxed due to my pummeling of a half-awake songbird.

When Wildlife Division fisheries biologist Mike Wilkerson reeled in the only fish at our first drop point, a freshwater drum to be exact, Spangler decided it was time for a move.

In this case, the new location was just north of Flat Rock Reef. It is here where the water depth rises from around 24 feet to only about 10 feet with the reef itself measuring roughly one-eighth mile by one-half mile.

“It’s a skinny reef,” Spangler said.

Our luck — or lack thereof — pretty much continued. So did my silence as to why we were not catching many fish or any species, let alone walleye.

About the only bright spot came when a 23-inch drum snapped up my worm harness’s hook. In truth, this fish was what I wanted most of all since it would represent the forth qualifying species in my hunt for another Fish Ohio program Master Angler Award.

Still, I tried to keep my enthusiasm in check. I knew that if I were to explain why our inability to catch the event’s intended target was all my fault I’d either be set adrift or keel-hauled.

Even after exchanging our casting gear for trolling tackle, the fishing didn’t improve much. No, not much at all.

When the pre-arranged time came to bag it our total take for the five-hour fishing trip consisted of one yellow perch, one channel catfish, three white bass, three white perch and three drum.

Not good, though once again I kept hidden to my crew mates why we were skunked in the walleye-catching business.

In fact, of the 19 teams, ours was the only one that didn’t manage to return with at least one walleye in the ice box. Talk about being jinxed.

True, I did post a measure of success by catching the Fish Ohio-qualifying drum.

But after nearly three years without reeling in a Lake Erie walleye, the last thing I wanted was to be done in by a jinx I had no control over.

Dang that stupid, little tweety bird.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twiter: @Fieldkorn

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