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Lake Erie Walleye Fishing Cranking Up

April 23, 2010
By Larry Claypool, OVO Editor
What makes a charter fishing captain on Lake Erie happy? Fish, of course, and customers.

With the sluggish economy wavering this industry too the past few years, having customers and fish that are biting at the same time is a good thing. Veteran walleye captain John Gribble has experienced both good and bad seasons on this grand lake. As the 2010 season cranked up in April, Gribble reported business was “very good” in the western basin.

“It’s been going good. I’m excited. We’ve been going great since April 1,” said Gribble during an afternoon phone interview after he returned to shore with another limit of spring walleye. The limit of this popular fish was four per person until May 1, when it jumped to six.

Several days of warm weather in early April spurred the fishing — after a very harsh winter. “With the (warm) weather we’ve had it’s definitely increased the fishing.”

With water temperatures up and fish spawning, the fishing really “heated up” in mid-April, according to Gribble, a nine-year veteran captain who owns four boats under the name of DB Sport Fishing Charters. What bait is working? “Vertical jig baits with purple hair. We use Tiny Cyclops hair jigs,” said Gribble. “Colors vary but I recommend purple with purple hair and a little chartreuse hair in it.”

Depending on wind direction, while the females are spawning — and males are staging — walleye are available in 8-18 feet of water during this spring feeding freezy.

Gribble said his boats work out of the Wild Wings Marina in Oak Harbor, OH (western basin) the early part of spring before moving east to Marblehead (OH). “We move (east) with the water temperatures,” he said. They finish up the season (which can extend into November, depending on the weather) in the eastern basin, working out of the Geneva-On-The-Lake area.

“We cover all of Ohio’s waters (on Lake Erie), as far east as Conneaut. There’s really a lot of good fishing in the Geneva area,” said Gribble.

In the spring, DB Charters offer charters for walleye and smallmouth bass fishing. By the first week of June, Erie’s popular yellow perch are available out of the Geneva area, as are steelhead.

The sluggish economy woes for others have steadied some fishing charter business though, according to Gribble. He said some individuals were forced to sell their boats because of increased costs in fuel, insurance and storage and are willing to pay $100 for a charter (per person) rather than keeping their own boat. Overall though growth has been minimal due to the fact that many auto industry jobs in the region have been eliminated.

Despite that, Gribble’s business is holding its own with a normal booking schedule in 2010, which is up from a year ago. He estimates about 90 percent of his business comes from repeat customers. He must be doing something right — and catching fish. “Our big thing is, we want to make the customer happy. We’ll do the extra things, and people like that. They keep coming back,” said Gribble.

DB Sport Fishing Charters was founded by Gribble’s father, John Gribble, Sr., 25 years ago. John Jr’s. been on the Lake Erie waters since he was six-years-old. He took over the business nine years ago when his dad got “burned out”. With only one boat in the early years, John, Sr. was running 80 trips a year. Junior’s four 30’ Baha Cruiser hardtops are pushing 400 trips a season. Most weekend charters for this year are booked. At times they’ll take two trips per day on weekends to fill requests.

Gribble said the future of Lake Erie fishing should continue to be good. He said some experts feel the population of Lake Erie’s top fish is dwindling fast. “The state has to do something,” he said. “They may go to a four fish limit next year (all season). If they do, our business will drop and it will take a toll (on the charter business). The numbers we’re seeing, I don’t think it’s down. The state says it’s down though.”

Right now the ‘eyes action is hot. Gribble and hundreds of other charter captains on Lake Erie hope it stays that way.

Editor’s Note: For additional information about DB Sport Fishing Charters, call 800-769-1750 or visit their Website at: For information about other fishing charters and Lake Erie fishing, visit these Websites:;; and;;; and

Article Photos

This crew — on their first Lake Erie walleye trip with DB Sport Fishing Charters — limited out by early in the afternoon. Photo courtesy of DB Sport Fishing Charters

Fact Box

In the spring, DB Charters offer charters for walleye and smallmouth bass fishing. By the first week of June, Erie’s popular yellow perch are available out of the Geneva area, as are steelhead.



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