Warmer weather great for area anglersWritten by Mike Bauman | | email@example.com
With spring in the air and the worst of winter over, northern Ohio residents will be rejoicing not only for the warmer weather in the coming months, but also the opportunity to get back out on the water and do some fishing on Lake Erie. Recently, more than 260 professional anglers made the trip to Port Clinton to kick off the 2011 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour.
“I love going to Lake Erie and the western basin,” Professional angler Pete Harsh said in a phone interview with Toledo Free Press. “It’s always one of my top favorite tournaments. It’s a place where you catch huge walleyes, good numbers of fish, and there’s such a variety of ways to catch them. I love the area. The people have been so nice and friendly. I love going to Lake Erie.”
Unfortunately, Harsh and the other pro anglers came to Port Clinton at a time when the area was experiencing lots of storms and rain, which churned up the water on Lake Erie and didn’t make for the best walleye fishing conditions. Though Harsh didn’t win any prize money at last week’s kickoff tournament, the Sauk Centre, Minn. native is no stranger to success on the water. The 2009 FLW Walleye Angler of the Year, Harsh has earned more than $800,000 as a pro angler, including more than $230,000 on the FLW Walleye Tour since 2002.
Harsh did his first local tournament in 1984, won Professional Walleye Trail Rookie of the Year in 1993 and has been fishing full-time since 2002. Lake Erie is still the site of Harsh’s largest day’s catch on the FLW Walleye Tour (weight total of 38 pounds, 15 oz. in 2003), and in 2008 he also caught the largest fish taken on either the FLW tour or the PWT tour at the time, a 33-and-a-half incher that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said was unusually long for that system. Harsh first came to Lake Erie in 1993 and says it’s still one of his favorite places to fish.
“I’ve fished from New York to Montana, fished walleyes as far south as Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and everywhere in between,” Harsh said. “I was looking one time at all the different states I’ve fished. Port Clinton —your area — I could easily adapt to living there and be very happy with the fishing. Extremely happy.”
Fellow Team Evinrude member and pro angler Mark Courts also enjoys making the trip to Lake Erie.
“It’s awesome,” Courts said in a phone interview. “Every time Lake Erie pops up on the schedule, we look forward to it.”
Like Harsh, Courts is also a Minnesota native and one of the sports’ top fishermen, having earned nearly $140,000 to go along with eight top-10 tournament finishes on the FLW Walleye Tour since 2002.
“There’s no other fishery in the country that the fish grow as fast as Lake Erie, so every time we get the opportunity to go there, you look forward to catching big fish,” Courts said. “The first time I came out to Lake Erie had to be right around that 2001-2002 era, and [I’ve] been looking forward to it on our schedule every year, whether we start out somewhere in Michigan, or typically Ohio will be one of those two spots usually every year at the start of the season.”
Also sponsored by the National Guard, Courts took the opportunity while in the area to visit Camp Perry and spend time with local troops, also doing a fishing tournament between 20 soldiers from Indiana and 20 soldiers from Ohio on May 14.
“I represent 350,000 soldiers,” Courts said. “For me to be able to represent those people that put their life on the line every day is quite the deal.”
And while Lake Erie has seen its fair share of ups and downs, Harsh feels the conditions today are better than in the past.
According to the Ohio DNR, in 2010 walleye fishing on the Maumee River was its best since 1990.