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For many anglers when they think of fly fishing the Great Lakes the tendency is to think about opportunities for steelhead and salmon. Fantastic opportunities for these fish are abundant and there are many to be caught, but that is only part of the story. Musky, Bass (White, Smallmouth, Rock, and Largemouth), Panfish, and numerous other warm water species fill the near shore reaches of Lake Erie and are available to fly anglers from boat and on foot. As a rule any fish that can be caught with conventional tackle can be caught with a fly rod, but the optimum depth is less than 15 feet of water with decent clarity. The fly rod brings subtlety to pressured or spooked fish in clear water and offers anglers a challenge when fighting even smaller gamefish. Also, flat out flies catch fish! There is no denying the effectiveness of a properly presented fly.

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Equipment
When selecting what fly rod an angler should choose a rod that matches the conditions they might face while on the water. In most situations on Lake Erie fly rods between 6-8weight and roughly 9 feet in length will be the preferred size. If I had to pick one size rod to have on Lake Erie it would be a 7wt. 9ft. fast action multi-piece fly rod from a reputable manufacture (a few of my favorites include Winston, Orvis, Echo, and Sage). Ironically this is the same set up many anglers already have to tackle steelhead on the local river systems. The most popular fly lines have a weight forward taper and are either floating or intermediate (slow) sinking and should suffice in a majority of fishing situations on Lake Erie. Reputable line manufactures include RIO, Scientific Anglers, and AirFlo. Tapered leaders between 6-9feet are normal and as a rule larger flies require shorter leaders, while a longer leader lender to a stealthier presentation for smaller flies in shallower water. Leaders should match the size and conditions anglers are faced with, but 12-6 breaking strength should handle most situations. Fly reels in most freshwater warm water situations are merely for line management. While purchasing a fly fishing outfit a fly reel should not take up a majority of an angler’s budget when considering a suitable option. Economically priced reels from Sage, Ross, Orvis, and Cabelas are great options and should be the least considered piece of equipment in your purchase. The last and maybe most crucial piece of equipment is a good pair of polarized sunglasses. A good pair of popularized lenses will help an angler spot fish, reduce eye fatigue, and guard your eyes from errant casts. Fly patterns made of natural fibers including rabbit and bucktail imitating local forage are safe bets and “matching the hatch” is key to angler success. For local patterns and knowledge two shops that come to mind are the Backpacker Shop at 5128 Colorado Ave, Sheffeild, Ohio (440) 934-5345 and Chagrin River Outfitters 100 N. Main St. (440)-247-7110. A lot of information is out there, but spending some time and a little money with a local fly shop is still the best way to hedge the learning curve especially for local fly patterns.

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Locations/time of year

Fly fishing begins on Lake Erie once water temps reach 50 degrees typically at the end of April with consistent fishing continuing through October. The Islands of the western basin as well as many of the harbors and marinas across Erie’s southern shore will hold catchable populations of Black Bass throughout spring, summer, and fall and are easily accessible to the fly rodder. Pockets of Bluegills, Crappies, and rockbass inhabit the same areas and readily take a fly. Lesser targeted species such as Freshwater Drum, Carp, and white bass make excellent targets with the fly rod and are available throughout the season. Favorite fly rod hotspots include Headlands Beach to the East, Cleveland Harbor centrally located, and the Islands of the Western Basin. Experimentation in patterns and location are key to angler success and are part of the fun of fly fishing! Many anglers and even guides fly fish Lake Erie, but are the vast minority of anglers out there. If you own a fly rod and are only fishing for steelhead you are missing out and I personally hope to see more fly anglers on the water soon!

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Anglers looking to try their luck fly fishing Lake Erie should contact Capt. Nate Stansberry (330-414-1765 or nstansbe@gmail.com) or visit stansberrysportfishing.com for more information.

Like many areas across the country early summer offers some of the hottest fishing action and reliable weather of the year.  The famed Central Basin of Lake Erie is no different and has a large variety of fishing options for both boat and shore bound anglers.  The most popular options are Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, and Perch and this will remain for most of the season.  However, there are many other species are available and the techniques to target them are just as diverse.  I hope you find the information helpful and feel free to reach out to me for more information.

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Smallmouth- Once temperatures hover or reach above 50 degrees you can be sure hot smallmouth fishing isn’t far behind. Consistent weather and clear water are key factors when targeting these hard fighting site feeders. Many techniques popular throughout the smallmouth’s range also work well in the Central Basin. Popular lures include tubes, dropshot rigs, and jerkbaits will consistently take fish though early summer. Target depths from 15 feet to near shore and adjust with weather conditions and temperature. It’s no secret smallmouth love boulders and other structural elements and finding these features while covering the entire water column with a variety of lure will lead to success. The fish will tell you the pattern for the day and savvy anglers must adjust to meet the feed mood of the fish. If you find fish inhaling your bait and making savage strikes it is a good idea to use larger lures and more aggressive techniques to cover more water and engage more fish. The opposite is true if you are getting short strikes and not connecting consistently. Downsizing you bait and slowing down should trigger negative/neutral fish and help you get through a tough bite (I’ve used as small as a 1/16oz jig in really tough bites). Smallmouth and most other “black” bass are off limits for retention in the Early Summer so be sure to check local regulations before harvesting.

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Walleye- Central Basin walleye should be broken up into two groups. Giant migrating fish that traverse the lake and are typically available through the Central Basin from Mid-May through Mid-June and the locals. The locals are generally found shallower and are slightly smaller, but available year round. Many local fishermen target these local fish in early season at night fishing stickbaits (Husky Jerks, Thundersticks, and other popular brands) from the area breakwalls and public access points in Lorain and Vermillion. When fishing for the larger migrating groups of fish trolling Reef Runners, worm harness, and traditional walleye fair is the name of the game. It is not to say you can’t jig or cast for these fish, but eliminating unproductive water and finding active fish is the key to success.  GPS units are a must and good chartplotters will help to find key depth breaks and structural variances in order to pattern these giants. This is my favorite time of year for walleye because of the sheer size of the fish. Numerous fish at or above 30” are common and make for an unforgettable trip for even the most seasoned angler.

 

Perch- Early Summer Perch can be found and caught in the Central Basin, but traditionally fall is still the best time of year for fast action. Emerald shiners are a must and fish can be caught using spreaders, crappie rigs, and a variety of other live bait rigs.

 

When visiting the Central Basin weather and wind is always an important factor. Check local forecasts and be prepared for changes throughout the day. It isn’t uncommon for the wind to shift through the day especially in the early afternoon and can make for a very nautical experience for those unfamiliar with the perils of Lake Erie. As a rule winds from the south and west are the best and north and east the least favorable. This is especially true as a north/east wind will pull cooler water in near shore and naturally larger wave as they build across the lake.  Look for sustained winds under 10 mph and pay attention to the forecast the day before and after to get a sense of any weather surprises you might encounter. A good skipper on Lake Erie will also be an amateur weatherman and while staying safe is the goal this will also help you put more fish in the boat. Sunny days with south winds are great days to target perch and bass while clouds and a little chop should help put more walleyes on your line. Also, there are lesser noticed fisheries for panfish, catfish, and whitebass available to anglers both from shore and near shore vessels.

 

Join Captain Nate Stansberry for adventure fly fishing and light tackle action on Lake Erie. Captain Nate runs a 25′ Pursuit Center Console fishing craft for a safe, comfortable trip — and twin 150hp Yamaha’s to get to the fishing fast. A  US Coast Guard licensed Captain, with experience guiding some of the toughest waters in the country. He cut his teeth guiding on the West Coast, running the wildest water on the continent — the North Pacific. Now back home Nate teaches light tackle angling, fly fishing, and tying out of Lorain, Ohio.

Contact- Phone: 330-414-1765 or nstansbe@gmail.com or visit stansberrysportfishing.com for information on how to book Lake Erie guide trips for walleye, smallmouth bass and a huge mix of other freshwater options.

The fishing has been absolutely crazy for Smallmouth here on Lake Erie….(seriously we are talking HUGE numbers of fish).

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The small and large mouth bass are going nuts on Lake Erie… most people really don’t think of that lake as a bass fishery, but the truth is it is one of the best in the world.

The Lake Erie/St. Clair watershed took two of the top five spots in Bassmaster’s 2013 lake ranking…

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Fishing clear intermediate line and stripping streamers (big white/gold with a dark head) in 10-15 feet of gin clear water… It is wild to watch several fish at the same time rush a streamer next to the boat…

The time is now if you would like to go give me a call(330-414-1765) or reach me at nstansbe@gmail.com for details.

-Capt. Nate

Ever catch a walleye on a dry fly?

I have… not recently and we were a little intoxicated, but I have… 20 Million of old goggle-eye are ready for one of the greatest hatches in the mid-west.

Lake Erie Walleye

With lots of big heathy fish feeding on bugs I like our odds. Mayflies are starting to hatch in the Western Basin and we will be fly fishing for old Walter this week so stay tuned…

For those of you on the West Coast, get ready for some great fly fishing for ling cod this winter. Here is my favorite fly pattern, the ling cod clouser which uses a large circle hook and saltwater yak hair.

Capt Nate's Lingcod Fly

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Captain Nate’s Lingcod Clouser Minnow
Hook: Saltwater circle hook 4/0
Thread: Kevlar fly tying thread
Eyes: Extra Large Lead dumbbell
Tail: Saltwater Yak Hair
Flash: Flashabou