Hot Lake Erie Walleye – It’s Late September!

-Dunkirk to Cattaraugus Creek is HOT ZONE
-Stratified Lake Helps Focus Forage and Predators


The Lake Erie walleye fishery of Chautauqua County, New York, near Dunkirk Harbor, can be spectacular at times – times like right now. Late September, 2016.

1st mate Dennis Gullo hollered out, “Setting the starboard side outside diver to Index 1-1/2 with ring, 10 foot leader, 17 pound test fluoro, we are at 155 back Captain.” Captain Roger Corlett softly replied, “What bait is on that one?” Gullo replied, “The 5-inch Pirate Lure Brown Trout.” “Yea, that’s been a good one lately,” Corlett grinned.

On the other side, Corlett deployed another diver with ring set to an index of three and 170 feet back, using a similar Rainbow Trout pattern lure. In the next two hours, both lures caught big walleye and memorable moments were made for everyone on board the charter boat named “89-Surprise.”

Captain Corlett modifies his lures to assure wide swing action (wobble) at 2 to 2.5 mph and to assure positive hook-ups without bent hooks. “I like to remove the front treble and replace the middle treble with a #2 VMC or Mustad, or other top high-strength hook that won’t bend and allow the fish to get away that we worked so hard to fool.”

Midwest Outdoors editor, Dave Mull, was all ears too. Shared tips and advice are hard to find on most days among fisherman, but Captain Corlett was schooling us about things that he does every day, his standard winning fish-catching tactics. Things we are not likely to soon forget.

Without proper professional science and management of Lake Erie, these conversations among happy fishermen might have never taken place. Thanks to the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in Dunkirk, New York, the walleye resource for Lake Erie’s eastern basin is well managed under the watchful eyes of Don Einhouse, Lake Erie Unit Leader, and his staff.

Lake Erie Unit Fisheries Leader, Don Einhouse, lower left, heads up a program that allows anglers to meet on a regular basis and review the “State of the Lake”, allowing questions and answers. This provides a renewable network of valuable communication between recreational anglers and the fisheries staff. Forrest Fisher Photo

The walleye resource is composed of local spawning stocks (eastern basin) as well as fish from summertime migration movements of western basin spawning stocks. Proof of the science and nature working together is that the walleye fishing quality in recent years has generally been very good. From the chart below, review and note that the success is largely attributable to excellent spawning success observed in 2003, 2010, and 2012.

The Lake Erie Fisheries Unit advises that measures of walleye fishing quality in 2015 were the fifth highest recorded in the 28 year survey. New York’s most recent juvenile walleye survey indicates a moderate spawning year in 2014. Overall good recruitment through recent years, especially from 2010 and 2012, suggests adult walleye abundance in the east basin will remain satisfactory for the next several years. Good news for walleye anglers.

The western basin of Lake Erie experienced a high walleye recruitment event in 2015, which should also help to support New York’s walleye fishery in the future. A new research initiative that began in 2015 uses acoustic telemetry to study walleye movement and assess the contribution of west basin migrants to the New York walleye fishery. A $100 reward is associated with the return of each tagged fish along with the internal acoustic tag.


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit is responsible for research, assessment and fisheries management activities for one of New York’s largest and most diverse freshwater fishery resources. A variety of annual programs are designed to improve understanding of the Lake Erie fish community to guide fisheries management, and safeguard this valuable resource for current and future generations.

The staff at the Lake Erie Fisheries Unit includes Donald Einhouse, Lake Erie Unit Leader; James Markham, Aquatic Biologist; Jason Robinson, Aquatic Biologist; Douglas Zeller, Research Vessel Captain; Brian Beckwith, Fisheries Technician; Richard Zimar, Fisheries Technician; and MariEllen (Ginger) Szwejbka, Secretary. The staff is supported by Steven LaPan, Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head and Phil Hulbert, Chief of the Bureau of Fisheries.

The complete annual report on Lake Erie is available on NYSDEC’s website at, or by contacting DEC’s Lake Erie Unit office (contact information below).

For comments to the Lake Erie Unit, please send to NYSDEC Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit e-mail: