Lake Erie Memorial Day 2015: a Lifer and a Monster

EDIT: Pictures won't show on thread so here's the album until I can fix the issue whatever it is, all but one or two are in chronological order.

This has been a long anticipated trip for me this year and even with the slow fishing, I'm happy with the results of this trip! We go up to Erie around 12 times a year but this weekend was special because we had Friday afternoon through Monday afternoon to fish as opposed to the usual Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Erie is a special place for me and my dad because we've both grown up going there constantly all times of the year and have both grown to love the aspect of big water fishing in Pennsylvania. We get home from school and work Friday afternoon and immediately head up to the lake where our beach-front cottage and 22' "fishing" boat await us. We're both (myself and my dad) very excited for this trip as we just last week bought a trolling plate. downriggers, and trolling setups to modify our express cruiser for trolling.

About 3/4 of the way up we pass over Geneva Marsh, the largest and most pristine marsh in all of PA that after last week I proved was plentiful with Central Mudminnows and Grass Pickerel.

Finally, after a two hour drive we head over to our Marina on Presque Isle to work on the boat and attach the new trolling gear.

After a frustrating 5 hours of work and improvising because our original plans didn't work out for positioning the downriggers, we had a boat setup for trolling and the plate proved to work well.

After all that work we headed back to the cottage and I decided to try pier fishing for about 10 minutes before realizing that 2-4 swells from 16 mph winds does not produce fish.

Time to call it a night, we head back and go to sleep and set our alarms for 6:00. 

We get up on time and are ready to go trolling for Lake Trout, a very long desired fish I'd love to catch that we previously could not fish for. We leave our Marina around 7:00 and start the 18 mile drive by boat to a spot known as "The Mountain" that is the deepest part of Lake Erie (210 FOW on the Canadian side, slightly shallower on the US side).

The air temperature was 36°F when we woke up and about 42°F for the trip to the mountain.

After arriving, we troll in 70-110 FOW at around 1.2-1.6 mph for around 8 hours.

8 hours of trolling later, not a single hit nor sign of a fishing touching either setup. We're both depressed as we watch half a dozen boats around us reel in 3 or 4 fish a person. We decide to head back to the Marina.

On the way back we anchor in about 50 FOW for a few minutes and I was able to pick up a single jumbo Yellow Perch at 12" and pushing 2 pounds, it wasn't much, but it was a fish, and after nothing for 8 hours I'll take what I can get!

We got a few more light taps but after 10 minutes decided to head back to the marina and then back to the cottage. 

After doing some research on why we couldn't catch a lake trout I discovered that we were going to slow and needed to troll at 2.0-2.8 mph as opposed to 1.2-1.5 mph which is what most internet sources will tell you!

Conditions were a bit more favorable tonight with calm water and dead wind. I fish for about 5 minutes and after casting a daredevle out I get something that felt like a snag, but it was moving towards me. Maybe a clump of algae I thought to myself. No, a minute later proved it to be a very sickly looking white bass that I snagged on the side while bringing my lure in! Kind of lucky I thought to myself that I'd be able to run into a fish on the way in with a lure in this huge lake, this would prove to be no where near as lucky as the next night would be.

I switched from a spoon to a small white rooster tail and a few minutes later a decent rock bass hammered it close to shore.

No more hits for tonight, time to head in. After all, we are getting up at 5:00 to try to slam some lake trout.

We get up at 5:00 (AM) and are leaving the marina in our boat my 6:00. We get to the mountain around 6:50 and start trolling around 7:00. This time, we're trolling at 2.3-2.5 mph.

After about 80 minutes of boredom I turn around to check how large the waves are getting and see that one of the rods is jumping up and down. I immediately jump on the rod and we've got our first lake trout of the day! The fight was incredible, our setups were medium-heavy action with 25 pound test and this thing felt like a swimming log coming up from the depths of 75 feet! This was the best fight from a freshwater fish in my life up to this point and it takes a solid 5 minutes to bring it up, and that's with me horsing it up so I make sure we land the first fish! After 5 minutes we see it jumping at the surface and my dad grabs the net. He gets it's head in and half the body is still trying to wiggle out! We get it up on the deck and are amazed by the size and beauty of the fish. I bring out the tape measure: 28". Next, the scale: 10 lbs. 

After a dozen pictures I place him back in the water and he takes off back to the depths. And there it went, my first lake trout, the best fighting freshwater fish of my life, and another species to add to my lifelist.

We troll for another almost 3 hours and I once again see the rod bending over, just like last time, I jump on it! The fight was just as great as the last one and as it surfaces about 7 minutes later I can see that it is maybe a few inches bigger than the last fish. I bring it in close, right to 12" of the swim platform in the back. Then, this happened. My dad goes to net it's head, just like last time. The cloth net catches the two hooks on the treble that the fish isn't hooked on and gets stuck on them. The fish slams on the surface with all it's might and used to net to rip the hook out of the lip. Then there it swims away, the second laker of my life swimming away to the deep before we could land it. For the next 10 minutes countless F-Bombs were dropped by the both of us and we're both pissed off for the next 30 minutes.

We troll for another 4 and a half hours, then I see the left rod literally doubled over in the rod holder! I didn't want to lose this one, I set the hook and yanked with everything I had! This was by far the largest fish of all and took aboutb10 minutes to get up. Just lifting the rod after a cycle of reeling took severe strength and my arms were screaming by the time I got this thing up. Then we see it at the water surface, by far the largest fish so far and would be the largest all day! It looked like it was pushing 36" and right around 15-16 pounds. I bring it in close, once again within 12-14" of the swim platform. My dad reaches out to net the beast. It jumped up with all its might of 16 pounds and the spoon gets stuck in the net again. Both of our eyes open wide as we watch the frenzied behemoth jerk the only part of the treble hook it had been hooked on out of it's mouth. I didn't want to loose this beast, I hastily threw my phone and hat to the floor and plunged into the water after it. I just barely gripped it's caudal peduncle before it slipped out of my reach into the deep water. My dad brought the boat around and I got back in and dried for the next hour. We were both so disgusted that the monster got away that I almost puked off the side of the boat!  All that remains from that fish it a large spoon with a broken treble hook.

We are both appalled by our current 1 for 3 landing luck but I insist that we keep trolling. I toss the spoon back in, go to sit down and sulk and suddenly I hear the drag screaming. We had another fish on just 10 minutes later! Neither of us were ever going to chance loosing him and we both took our hats off in preparation for one of us to jump in after the fish. This one was heavy, and by far pealed more drag than any other fish today (well, any other fish caught trolling, that is). 7-10 minutes later and the beast is up at the surface, he's big, really big! Not quite the monster as that last one I lost but definitely second runner up to it! We brought him into the boat very strategically this time and to be cautious I took him around side instead of to the back this time. My dad swept behind him this time and not from the front to ensure the spoon didn't get caught in the net before we had the fish in it. The fish tried to wiggle out but I held my arms on top of the net as we brought it in the boat. There it was, finally, after 7 hours we finally had the next laker in the boat. I finally got to use the tape measure again and he was 30" long and the scale read 12 pounds! This fish wasn't as heavy as the last one lost but it sure did have more jerking movements!

We take two dozen photos and I toss him back in, there goes another one back to the the mountain. Only this time, we handled him first!

I toss the setups back in and we troll for another 30 minutes before deciding we were tired from being out for almost 8 hours and want to head in. I bring one downriggers up and tag the spoon off on the clip. Then I start bringing up the other one with the rod and notice that it is very heavy. I bring the ball up to the surface and see the kind jerking in the release, I unclip the line and see a laker swimming with a lure in it's mouth 15-20 feet down! So, I had another one on! I realized that the tightest setting on the release probably would trip for all lake trout so next time I'll know just to use medium. About 3 minutes later and he's at the surface. I bring him around the side of the boat and my dad sweeps him from behind. We bring him in and he measures 26" and weighs 9 pounds. The smallest fish today, but the way I see it it's still a monster fish compared to what we caught before we were setup to troll!

After that bonus fish was tossed back in we see dark clouds rolling in, time to head back.

Some guys say they taste all right and fillet them, but these broken forceps from removing the hook from the 12 pounder are the only souvenir I need!

We get back to the cottage and have pizza for dinner with my dad's side of the family that that was also up at the cottage for the weekend. After a light drizzle passes I decide to try my luck at the pier again. I fish for about hour with no hits. All I saw was were large schools of Emerald shiners and a lone Quillback sifting through the sand, not nearly as many and the dozen or so of them I saw off the pier two weeks ago. A nice kid comes up to the end of the pier and asks if he can fish here as well. Being a social angler I say of course. We talk walleye, bass, trout, catfish, rods, reels, boats, tournaments, etc for about 40-45 minutes and he then quickly scores a decent 14-15" pair of walleye which he threw back.


I decided to mess around with a few more lures after that and quickly had and lost two walleye around the same size. They'd hit it and hook themselves but quickly jump off of it at the surface. At this point, it didn't much matter to me and I was happy I caught all the lake trout earlier. 

Next came the most epic part of pier fishing in my entire life. I threw out a large 3" daredevle 50-60 feet out, the lure falls in the water column for 1 maybe 2 seconds, then WAM! I had the largest and heaviest fish on that anyone in my family has ever caught of this pier or anywhere in erie. This is Sunday and the clock just rolls over to ten o'clock. One of erie's famous large fireworks shows starts and a man on the next pier down about 100 yards starts playing amazing grace on his bagpipes. All this while I'm reeling in a monster fish that's peeling my drag and testing my medium action spinning rod with 12 pound test and no leader while a crowd of 3 people plus half the people in the beach see me catching this thing in the light of the fireworks. The guy with the bagpipes keeps playing different sings until the fireworks end a bit later. After 20 minutes of screaming line I drag the utter monster onto the sandy shore next to the pier and rip the spoon out of it's mouth. It's a channel catfish, and a big one at 30" 20-21 pounds! I always catch catfsh around home in the Allgeheny but I've been trying to catch any type of cat in erie for years without success. And now I finally catch one, and a beast of one too! I use my full arm strength to life the monster and while I'm picking him up the grand finale goes off and the bagpipes are roaring! Half the beach takes pictures of me with this thing (the picture below is from one of the guys in the crowd) as they can't decide to watch me and the fish, watch the fireworks, listen to the bagpipes, or all three! I could not have possibly felt like more of an accomplished fisherman in that moment as I held up the heaviest fish I've landed in my entire life!!!

After five minutes of pictures from the crowd and as the smoke slowly fades out of the sky from the fireworks, I slide the beast back into the water and pump water through his gills to ensure he makes it, them it hastily swam away from shore. I talk to a couple people for a few minutes and then shook hands with the fisherman I'd been talking to before walking back to the cottage  while hearing people around various fires shout "nice fish!" and "awesome catch!" to me. I walk in and told me dad I'd just caught a fish heavier than what we were catching all day. He and the family are all awed when they see the picture and they all claim they're never seen anything that big come out of the lake in their 70 years of coming to erie like clockwork every weekend . 

Time to sleep, which has plenty easy after a day of fishing like today! 

We again got up at 5:00 AM and left the marina by 6:30. We got about 1/3 of the way to the mountain before we decided that 4' waves and 16 mph winds were to rough to troll in, so we headed back. Hit some bass nests on the way back but didn't catch anything. Since we wanted to stop at meadville on the way home to do some seining we decided to leave erie early since it was rough anyway. Fished for common carp in my marina for a while but they were spawning so I only got a few weak hookups after placing the hook right within 6" of their path in front of them. The only one they really took the hook well was around 15 pounds and on my medium action rod it easily tore off into the weeds and snagged me in them. Time to get going home.

We stopped at French creek for about an hour and I seined out multiple species of darters including variegates, Bandeds, spotteds, Bluebreasts, and tippecanoes. Most of which went home for my 16 aquariums :). Also had an interesting fish come up in one of the final sweeps. Not sure which species but a lamprey of some kind.


After that we headed the rest of the way home and now after a long and tiring weekend I thought I'd have enough energy to write this, which I barely did :). 

To sum it up, I didn't catch numbers but I sure as heck caught size and I got both a lifer among 5 monster lake trout and the heaviest fish I've ever caught in my life being that channel catfish while professional fireworks were going off and bagpipes were blaring! Pretty dang good weekend of fishing I'll say and I'll be back for more again in 2 weeks!



Lake Trout

Species List:


drawer.bli's picture

Wow. 12 inches and 2 lbs. How big was its gut?

Divemaster's picture

It was a thick fish for sure! I wish the pics would load but I can't figure it out, the perch is on the album with the other fish though.

drawer.bli's picture

Great trout and kitty as well! Looks like you had an epic holiday!

Divemaster's picture

Thank you, I definitely did!

zippyFX's picture

Thats an awesome cat. Did I read that right, you caught is on a spoon with no bait? Nice reaction strike!

Divemaster's picture

Thank you! And yes, I caught it on a 3-3.5" classic daredevle which it pounded 1 or 2 seconds after hitting the water.