Jim Hanley

Resurrection of Lake Erie and The Smallmouth Bass

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Lake Erie bronzeback

Jim Hanley, a native of the Buffalo, New York area, has been fishing and watching Lake Erie change over the past 50 years.  As a former BASS angler, having competed in the Bassmaster Classic, Jim has a deep understanding of bass fishing and the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie.

Jim Hanley talks about Lake Erie smallmouth bass

Lake Erie’s resurrection from the dead makes small mouth anglers rejoice everyday

Lake Erie once thought to be a dead sea is now alive and well and teaming with big small mouth bass, walleye, perch, steelhead and musky. I have been fishing Lake Erie for over 55 years and guiding for 35 and have seen an amazing transformation, much like Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead. Here are a couple of reasons how this took place.

The resurgence came about due to a couple of reasons. The first, were factories and municipalities stopped dumping raw sewage and chemicals directly into the Lake. The chemicals along with the sewage killed fish and fowl and also caused vegetation to flourish and then rapidly die. It littered shorelines for miles with dead plants, fish and animals. I recall at about age 10, walking the shores of Lake Erie, seeing and smelling the most foul debris you can imagine. It went out into the water for several feet and it resembled some type of decaying manure. The water was actually brown in color.

The second thing that occurred, not only to Lake Erie but all of the Great Lakes, was the introduction of zebra muscles and gobies. They arrived in the ballast water of ships entering the Great Lakes from Europe. The ballast water was supposed to be dumped in the ocean and replaced with salt water before entering the Saint Lawrence Seaway, as required by law.

The zebra muscles with no natural enemy, at first caused great concern to boaters and industries by clogging up intake pipes and attaching to the bottoms of boats and motors. Because they filtered the water so thoroughly, you could see down 30 plus feet where previously you could only see 15. The problem with the overpopulation of zebras was their own demise and they ate themselves out of house and home and are presently fewer in numbers. They are now a food source for geese and fish. The gobies, small frog looking fish, are up to 100% of the bass’s diet. We now we have some really really big small mouth bass swimming in New York waters

In 1993, New York State established what has become known as the “trophy season” where you can fish with live bait and harvest, if you desire ( we encourage catch and release ) one bass over 20 inches. The trophy season opened up another month and half for my business and each season, I am booked almost a year in advance. I am averaging 30 to 50 smallies a day, many in the 5 to 7 lb category. My next article will give you some tips and techniques on how to catch some of these monsters