Lightning Bolt Walleye on Lake Erie

Solutions for Thunder and Skittish Fish

John Mills from Orchard Park, New York, was straining to lift his walleye prize from the clear water depths of Lake Erie while fishing with Captain Jim Skoczylas aboard Ultimate Adventure Sportfishing.

When Mother Nature decides to drop in on your fishing plans, the wind and the rain may not keep you from fishing, but those big bright lightning bolts with clapping thunder will sure turn most of us around.

What’s almost worse, when the cloudburst and natural fireworks happen the night before a fishing day plan for 60 people and the lake turns calm, the fish do too.

That’s what happened for the VIP Fishing Day in Dunkirk Harbor, New York, on Wednesday, August 11, 2016. Our dedicated hosts included Zen Olow (Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club), Lance Erhardt (Lake Erie Charter Captain’s Association) and Andrew Nixon (Executive Director Chautauqua County CVB) and their supporting crew. The plan was to provide the time and resources for a networking opportunity where 12 charter boats (walleye and bass guides), local expert fishermen, legislators, business owners and Mother Nature, could share conversation. lightningwalleye2There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting of the minds. Issues can often find solutions or at least become identified. This annual event is one an effective way to bring real issues and the potential for discussion and action together on the battlefront of conservation, the outdoors, Great Lakes resources and other factors.

Overnight the lake was a sea of flashing thunder and driving rain, but by morning, the lake was calm and the charter anglers all knew where the schools of walleye had been located over the last few days. So off they went, some of the boats carrying three, four and five of the would-be angler folks to fish catching destinations looking for the sweet song of a screeching drag.

There is nothing like walleye gills and fins to bring a smile to anglers that expect fishing action.

I was aboard the new 31-foot Tiara piloted by Captain Jim Skoczylas (Ultimate Adventure Sportfishing, (716-796-5372) with his first mate, Tom Yetzer, and it was fully equipped with 16 rods/reels, downriggers, diving planes, planer boards, temperature and current speed sensing equipment for surface and down deep detection, and all the lures necessary to fool those fish we call walleye in untold different ways.

We could see the fish suspended 55 to 65 feet down in 91 feet of water, but they decided to play hard to get. Question was why? Answer: Overnight lightning seems to spook both baitfish and predators. I have often wondered if when we see what appears to be a lightning bolt striking the surface of the lake, that the effects are not more serious than we think. Maybe the fish are getting a shock treatment?! Whatever it is, it seems they head for their brick house in the lake bottom and stay there for a bit before thinking about breakfast.

The interconnectivity of water molecules and electrons may have secondary effects that have not been yet explored, since it appeared on this day, that the fish were just going to take a breather.

Running 12 lines at depths of 40 to 65 feet down in 90 feet of water, some with 10 colors of leadcore line with fluorocarbon leaders, some off diving planes, some off downriggers and all displaying either homemade spinner/worm rigs or Bay Rat hard stickbait teaser lures with extra sharp hooks, Captain Jim and First mate Tom had hooked us up with eight fish on a day in waters where 19 or 20 fish in the boat were the norm for four hours of fishing on the days before. Other boats hooked up far less, some had no hookups.

Even secret fishing lures are not overly effective on days following an electrical rainstorm.

The fish we lost were light-biters, even the fish we landed were lightly hooked. Did it matter? It sure made for good conversation time! Maybe it was the best scenario! We caught a few fish and enjoyed more time to discuss issues and answers.

The chef-supreme walleye fish fry and fish chowder lunch with multiple desserts that was shared by all made the mediocre fishing of the storm effects just dissolve. It didn’t matter. Everyone enjoyed a great time networking about life in the outdoors and the incredible natural resource, Lake Erie, which we all work hard to keep as a treasure into the future.

God Bless America!

Program coordinator, Zen Olow, from the Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club in Dunkirk, New York, is the friendly mastermind that has brought national, state and county legislators to the common discussion table everyone can find when they go fishing for a few hours.