For as rough as February was weather wise, it sure didn’t take long for the ice to disappear on Lake Erie. As soon as the ramps were cleared from ice flows, the diehard fishermen started catching monster walleyes.

Fishing has been hot the past week with boats loading up with prespawn fatten walleye. With a predicted population of 151 million walleye this spring, taking out females before they spawn certainly won’t harm the fishery. Anglers are already having success trolling crankbaits slowly and jigging near the reefs as well. Expect things to get even better when the water temperatures enter into the forties. The next few upcoming weeks will be an excellent time to nab that Fish Ohio walleye. Just be careful and keep an eye on the winds. This time of the year the water is dangerously cold if something goes wrong.

• Now is also a wonderful time to get out to the lakes and wetlands to catch the migration of birds heading back to the north. If you enjoy bird watching, March is a perfect time to do it especially since all of the males are in full plume right now to attract a mate.

The wife and I ventured up to Lake Erie a few weeks ago and saw all kinds of ducks and geese. We found one raft of birds in a harbor that was over 200 yards long. There were thousands of mostly canvasbacks, ringbills, and scaup. We also stumbled onto a field that had hundreds of swans feeding in it. Add in several sightings of bald eagles and other waterfowl, it was a tremendous day to bird watch.

• Speaking of swans. Not long ago, this iconic scene only played out on special occasions as trumpeter swans migrated through the state. However, after years of dedicated conservation work by the ODNR Division of Wildlife and its partners, trumpeter swans once again nest in the Buckeye State.

This work is made possible, in part, by Ohio’s annual tax donation program. This is an important way for wildlife enthusiasts to help contribute to restoring and managing endangered and threatened wildlife, including trumpeter swans. Funds from the income tax donation program go directly to projects that protect Ohio’s wildlife and natural areas. By making a tax donation to the Wildlife Diversity Fund on this year’s tax form, Ohioans are helping to ensure the future of Ohio’s ecosystems, supporting research on trumpeter swans, monarch butterflies, lake sturgeon, hellbenders, and more.

Individuals may donate all or part of their state income tax refund by entering a dollar amount for “Wildlife Species” on line 26d of the 2020 IT 1040 tax form. Contributions made on the 2020 tax return and filed in 2021 are considered deductible donations made in 2021.

Trumpeter swans have a unique life history. Thanks to large-scale habitat improvement, they’ve fought back from the brink of extinction to their current breeding population. Because trumpeter swans are dependent on high-quality wetland habitats throughout the year, conserving these spaces is key to ensuring their continued success.

In 2020, wildlife biologists found 98 breeding pairs of trumpeter swans in Ohio, an encouraging increase in population. These birds nested in 20 counties, including public wildlife areas such as Killdeer Plains (Wyandot County) and Big Island (Marion County). The breeding pairs produced 235 young, called cygnets, in 2020. Trumpeter swans, listed as a threatened species in Ohio, are on the road to recovery but face continued threats, including habitat loss and lead poisoning.

Research is ongoing. Wildlife biologists from Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada are studying North America’s interior trumpeter swan population, found in the Mississippi Flyway. Swans have been fitted with solar-powered GPS collars to learn crucial information about their nesting, migration, overwintering, and habitat preferences. Researchers use this information to make conservation decisions that impact the future of trumpeter swans. Ohio’s team of biologists successfully tagged 12 adult trumpeters with GPS collars in 2020. Hopefully, those numbers will continue to grow as we learn more about these majestic birds.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

Water and Wings by Ken Parrott

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.