2012-08-08 / Columns

Driftwood Outdoors

Bass Islands
by Brandon Butler

Lake Erie is known for walleyes and the Bass Islands are known for parties. So two fellas toting backpacks armed with fly rods standing in line for the Miller Ferry heading out to the islands are going to draw some attention to themselves. That’s exactly what happened when my friend “Paddle Don” and I ventured to Middle Bass Island in search of shoreline smallmouth on the fly.

The Bass Islands are part of the Lake Erie Islands archipelago. Along with the Bass Islands, Kelley’s Island, Pelee Island, and several others make up the chain. The Bass Islands and most of the others are in Ohio, but Pelee Island and other smaller islands are in Ontario. So if you are fishing by boat, you must remain aware of where you are in order to be properly licensed.

Paddle Don” Cranfill casts a fly rod along the shore of Middle Bass Island. (Courtesy Photo)Paddle Don” Cranfill casts a fly rod along the shore of Middle Bass Island. (Courtesy Photo)

About 10 years ago, I ventured to the Sandusky, Ohio area to visit Cedar Point Amusement Park. After learning about Put-In-Bay, a friend and I decided to ride the ferry to South Bass Island and check it out. What we found was a bustling nightlife in a neat, clean island setting. Put-In-Bay is often referred to as the Key West of the Great Lakes and the comparison is a very good one.

With a deep affection for islands, mostly stemming from my love of Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island, I’m always on the lookout for new angling adventures that are island based. Now, the incredible smallmouth bass fishery of Lake Erie is not a secret to those who are in the know about bronzeback destinations, but it really is the walleye fishing most people recognize as the main attraction to Lake Erie. I thought a multi-purpose trip to the Bass Islands would be both a unique and exciting adventure. My goals were to enjoy all the area has to offer as far as tourism goes and to stalk giant smallmouth along the rocky shore. It was great on both accounts.

Since South Bass Island is home to Put-In-Bay, it’s by far the most touristy of the three Bass Islands. This is not a bad thing. In fact, Put-In-Bay is awesome, but “Paddle Don” and I were traveling on the cheap and staying in tents so we opted for the more remote seclusion of Middle Bass Island. We camped at the state park. The campsites were primitive, but the marina was beautiful with great shower facilities. Traveling to the island by private boat is quite popular, and if one wanted to do so, they could camp at the state park and have wonderful facilities.

Once on the island, we rented a golf cart from JF Walleyes, the main eatery and watering hole on Middle Bass Island. For the next two days we cruised around with our fishing gear loaded on the golf cart. We caught a few funny stares from folks wondering about the fellas in waders. When we found a promising spot, we waded out into the water and commenced to catching smallies. Most of the water around the shore of Middle Bass is accessible and easy to wade. Certain stretches are home to shallow flats that allow you to wade a hundred yards or more off shore. We picked up quite a few nice bass early and late on these flats.

The Bass Islands are a great vacationing spot for the angler who is interested in having an allaround good time. The food and nightlife of Put-In-Bay is a must and the slower pace of Middle Bass Island is a welcome retreat.

See you down the trail...

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