Interest #4: Lake Erie Smallmouth Bass

Lake Erie Smallmouth Bass. Some fly anglers call them “bronzebacks” or “smallies.”

Springtime Smallies in Lake Erie Tributaries

By: Ariadne Capotis

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Springtime in Erie is erratic in its progression but quite regular in what occurs. Steelhead smolts are stocked, the snow melts, the trout lilies pop, and the early morning woods are filled with gobbles every single spring. Another occurrence many anglers look forward to is the Smallmouth Bass spawn. Each spring, Yellow Perch, Walleye, and Smallmouth Bass (Largemouth too) spawn in Presque Isle Bay, off rocky shoals and beds made of stone, and up creeks. Presque Isle Bay is a well known spring Smallmouth Bass fishery and for good reason. Anglers can catch large bass between 11-20”, with twenty inches being a trophy sized bass. Most springs, anglers flock to the bay in April. However, fly anglers take note—Erie is notorious for erratic weather. The precipitation type & amount, due to temperature swings, is never reliable, and because of that, anglers cannot pinpoint the spring smallmouth run up the Steelhead Alley tributaries. Temperatures and bass are rather well-studied—google and read up (check the sources and try for graduate studies and other peer-reviewed work). Some creeks receive large lake-run Smallmouth Bass earlier than others. Presque Isle Bay is different than the East side creeks or even the West side creeks. If you would like to chase Smallmouth Bass in and around Erie, please do not hesitate to contact me.

The Smallmouth Bass fishery is a completely self-sufficient, non-stocked, sport fishery. Please treat it with respect so we can enjoy it for generations to come. If you have questions on the bass fishery ask an expert at the PA Fish and Boat Commission! The Northwest Region Office in Meadville would be happy to answer your questions.

Food for thought: taking a bass off its bed could expose its young to Round Goby predation.

Flies to use:

—Clouser minnow

—Kreelex minnow

—Sculpin imitations

—Muddler minnow

—Mojo Minnow Emerald Shiner pattern

Can I swing for Smallmouth Bass? Yes, you can. Many anglers fishing for Lake Erie Steelhead hook into Smallmouth Bass in the spring. However, bass like when you strip and jerk the fly, and they love big gaudy flies. Spring is the time to throw 3 inch streamers with flash!

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