I got an amazing opportunity to go fishing for walleye in Lake Erie with Keith Eshbaugh of Dutch Fork Custom Lures. Along with me was Rob Holman of NWFR. We flew the redeye from Seattle leaving at midnight on Monday and by 9:30am on Tuesday we were on the water with Keith. Pretty cool to be picked up at the airport by a guy towing a boat!
After launching out of the Walnut Creek boat basin we headed out a few miles and started working water 25-40 feet deep. In Pennsylvania anglers are allowed three rods, but with the action we experienced running six rods was challenging. Within minutes of setting up the first two rods we were pulling in big, fat walleyes.
Lake Erie has been called the Walleye Capitol of America and if the spots we fished were any indication it is easy to see why. As the day progressed we brought in a steady catch of 18-22” walleyes. We were using Keith’s custom walleye blades and rigs. He hand paints all the lures he sells and they are beautiful walleye blades. They’re also clear-coated plastic which offers a couple big advantages over metal and other blades. First, because they are plastic they spin at very slow speeds, down to .4 mph. Second, the bead colors stand out and can be seen much easier by the fish, adding more attraction.
We ran two lines on planer boards, with inline weights and targeting suspended walleye. Then another two rods back of the boat with inline weights, again targeting suspended walleye, and finally a couple rods on bottom bouncers. All rigs had worms on tandem hooks, and no slow death hooks.
Having never targeted suspended walleye I was very curious as to how the action would be. I would say that while most of the fish came off the bottom, we also got enough suspended walleye to make me think this may be a technique to try in the Pacific Northwest.
With not much difficulty we caught our boat limits of six walleye per angler. On Lake Erie the Pennsylvania Fish and Wildlife department encourage anglers to keep all they catch, and that includes over-sized walleye. The Lake Erie walleye population is estimated at a staggering 47 million walleye! The current catch average 16-22” and it’s not uncommon to catch 24-30” walleye. We had hoped to find some big bruisers but were happy with what we did catch.
The fish we caught during this trip were filleted, vacu-sealed, and frozen, then boxed and returned home to Seattle. We brought home a lot of fish over the course of our stay!
If you’re interested in an adventure like this Keith also guides Lake Erie. Unlike the larger charter boats he offers a very personalized experience and lets his clients run the rods as much or as little as they want.
I think as anglers become aware of his walleye blades and give them a try they will find another effective tool to use when fishing for walleye. Check Keith’s products out at Dutch Fork Custom Lures and give some a try.