Roadtrip to Lake Erie — The Walleye Capital of the World

The author is joined by three family members on a summertime walleye adventure to Port Clinton, Ohio.

Roadtrip to Lake Erie — The Walleye Capital of the World

Left to right: Todd Nawrocki, Coby Nawrocki, Frank Nagle, and the author enjoyed learning how to drift fish for Lake Erie walleyes.

It’s safe to say most fisherman have heard about walleye fishing on Lake Erie, but it is absolutely worth the time and money to make the trip happen and make it an annual pilgrimage. I was lucky enough to make it happen recently with my son (his first walleye trip on Lake Erie), my brother in law Frank Nagle, and my twin brother Todd Nawrocki. 

On July 8, 2020, we were lucky to connect with Captain John Tucholski of J.T. Sport Fishing Charters (216-256-6358), who did not disappoint. This old salty dog captain with a fun personality has run Lake Erie for decades and knows the lake like the back of his hand. My favorite quote from this trip was when my son was learning the ropes on how to properly rig up his line and Captain John asked him, “You know what you did wrong? EVERYTHING”. I use that quote every day now.

Captain John’s website promises “booking with us ensures that you will have a fantastic fishing adventure”, and he delivered.  He got us on the fish despite a challenging start and certainly conditions that could not have been worse for walleye at least in the early going.

NO TROLLING. That's right — no trolling here. Captain John specializes in light-tackle drift fishing. “We want you to catch the fish” is a tagline of his. We used 6-foot, medium-power St. Croix Rods with Pflueger Reels spooled with 8-pound-test monofilament line. With Captain John you catch the fish, the boat doesn’t.

Landing at the docks at 5:15 a.m., on the water by 5:45, and rods in the water around 6:15, off we went. We hammered everything including perch, catfish, white bass, sheepshead, goby, and even snagged a zebra mussel, but as of 9:30 a.m. and quite a boat ride around Put-In-Bay, up to the Canadian border hitting several known marks, we caught no walleyes. Let’s just say the white bass were on, the walleye were off.

Captain John was still confident we could get it done, but was surely starting to feel the heat.  He told us, “I haven’t hit the panic button yet” and off we went to another known spot. At this point, I looked at my son and said, “Well, we are getting one hell of a boat ride.”

We settled into our next fishing hole and just like that we start reeling in walleye after walleye and nearly limited out, ultimately hauling in 17 keepers. Despite our early struggles, we were catching walleyes, and laughing and loving life. 

This half day on the water proved to me how crucial a great captain is when fishing gets tough.  What a blast, and with another 30 or so other fish caught and returned to the water, we had quite a day. Those sheepshead wear your arms out, and we caught some trophies.

A memory besides the fine fishing that I’ll take away from our day on the water was the temperature. HOT – HOT – HOT! It was one of those 100-degree days, and by noon the water was calm, the wind died down, the sun was burning us all up, and when the fishing slowed to a crawl, we decided to head for shore.  I’d go back tomorrow. In my opinion, everyone should put a drift fishing for walleyes trip to Lake Erie on their bucket list. And I can’t think of a better on-the-water host than Captain John.

Captain John Tucholski
Captain John Tucholski

About Captain John: J.T. Sport Fishing Charters is owned and operated by U.S. Navy veteran Captain John Tucholski. He was voted 2017 Captain of the Year by Ohio Sea Grant, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and The Lake Erie Charter Boat Association for his hard work and support to the betterment of Lake Erie, and his dedication to helping and supporting veterans.

Sidebar: Affordable and Effective St. Croix Rods

When drift fishing for Lake Erie walleyes, Captain John Tucholski of J.T. Sport Fishing Charters provides his clients with 6-foot, medium-power St. Croix Premier rods matched with Pflueger reels. The Premier series is made in Park Falls, Wisconsin, headquarters for St. Croix Rods.

St. Croix Triumph Series
St. Croix Triumph Series

Another affordable and effective rod series that would be ideal for drifting and detecting light bites on Lake Erie is the St. Croix Triumph. The company’s newly reimagined Triumph Series, which was announced at ICAST 2020 Online and available to St. Croix dealers in mid-August, offers anglers an outstanding combination of handcrafted St. Croix performance and value. Prior to the release of this upgraded series, Triumph was already the best-selling North American made fishing rod. 

The Triumph series includes 6-, 6 1/2- and 7-foot medium-power, fast-action rods in both spinning and casting configurations that would be ideal for Lake Erie walleye drifting and jigging. There are also two-piece and four-piece models within this range that would make it easier for anglers traveling to Lake Erie (or anywhere) to pack along their own rods.



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