-Lake Erie, Buffalo Harbor: 3 KEYS
-Floating/Diving Rapala stickbaits
By Forrest Fisher
Autumn walleye anglers throughout the Northeast and Midwest are tuned into the moon phase at this time of year, especially when it is nearly full and bright. It’s feeding time for walleye and other predator fishes. Night clouds can affect the moonbeam light intensity and fish-frenzy feeding rate, but under a bright moon, the walleye are usually unmistakable about their devouring behavior and timely habits to gorge feed on available forage. For them, it time to survive and prosper.
Walleye fishing will take center-stage for many sportsmen over the next few weeks, as predominant mature walleye key in on unsuspecting and vulnerable forage. In the eastern basin of Lake Erie near Buffalo, the angler catch logbooks will show that the feeding fish average three to six pounds, with an occasional lunker brought aboard.
Savvy night trollers need to have confidence in their boating equipment and their tackle in the dark of night. To catch fish right now, I asked an old friend from the East Aurora Fish and Game Club, John Murray, how he is so successful, so often, catching walleye during the fall months. His answer, “I fish with friends that know what they’re doing!” Yes, he is a funny guy. His friends, like Lou Budick, do know how to catch ‘em and the best thing is, they share what they know and help others learn as they go.
One night last weekend, Lou Budick positioned his perfectly rigged Lund boat in an area of slightly flowing current at the head of the Niagara River, but still in the outer Buffalo Harbor. There are upwelling residual and eddy current areas there that are forage-attracting locations and are, for anglers, good walleye catching hotspots.
As wind levels permit access for anglers to fish in fall, such hotspots are where schools of autumn walleye gather to enjoy an evening smorgasbord of emerald shiners, smelt fry and young of the year perch. With water temperatures descending to the low-60’s this week, the metabolism of the fish has entered the “let’s feed now – winter is coming” phase.
According to the humble Murray, “We were not challenged by the fall of darkness, but we still worked hard to make perfect presentations and the fish appeared to enjoy our gourmet of Rapala’s as we hooked up with walleye 16 times in less than three hours of fishing time.” Fishing with Lou Budick and one other friend – three in the boat, that’s not a bad measure of how to have fun in nearly no-time.
The Rapala Husky Jerk is a unique lure invention that is perfect for fall walleye fishing, as the lure runs straight and true right out of the box, it is a suspending (neutral buoyancy) lure, and has premium VMC® Black Nickel treble hooks.
Multiple fish catches and occasional limit catches for savvy anglers have been the order of the day for intent night anglers off Buffalo Harbor. Especially true for anglers with the know-how to work nighttime planer boards and slip-troll in areas at the start of the Niagara River current. With the colorful laser lights of the Peace Bridge in easy view, the trio landed fish, nearly one after another, keenly aware that the food chain relationship was working for them at the moment. These fish were definitely on the feed.
Other hot fishing areas include the Buffalo water intake, North Gap, South Gap, West Breakwater, the hump behind the windmills near the old steel plant and Donnelly’s Wall. The lures of choice? Floating Rapala stickbaits, F11 and F13 sizes and #11 Rapala Husky Jerks in fire-tiger color. For a copy of a printed map that identifies these areas, visit http://www2.erie.gov/hotspot/index.php?q=buffalo-harbor-amp-seneca-shoal.
At this time of year, the tiny areas that would hold the most fish in spring and brought scores of boats together for interesting conversations, still hold feeding schools of fish, but the boats are not present in any numbers. Many folks are deer hunting and getting ready for those lake effect snowstorms we know are not that far away.
The method is not difficult. Trolling, short lines, 60 feet or less to a 6-foot fluorocarbon leader with ball-bearing swivels and snap attachment hardware for the lure. Add lure-action inducing slow speed, deploy the boards, wait for a hook-up. Consider adding a Halloween style, neon glow-stick to the board for best viewing above the potential intimidation of darkness over the distance to the boards, then hang on.
Keep quiet in the boat, keep a big net handy and accept that it is possible to easily spook the light-shy walleye with a big bright light beam, as the good fishing can end in a hurry that way.
The delayed onset of fall has the fish and fishermen a little confused too. The sun angle calendar is telling them to feed now and so they are moving to shallows at night to gorge. The delay will likely hold true for a few more weeks and it seems we have plenty of walleye here to support angler demand.
For walleye anglers on Lake Erie, it’s time to enjoy some great fall fishing right now. Get out there soon!! If you want to learn additional details about these fall walleye fishing tricks on Lake Erie near Buffalo Harbor, consider stopping in to see John Murray at Murray Brothers Nurseries in Orchard Park, New York (http://www.murray-bros.com/). He might even share a few suggestions for your garden fertilizer!