- Hot Walleye Bites, is it YOUR TURN?
- CHANGE Lures, Speed, Turn Radius, Time of Day You Fish
- CHECK Colors, Leaders, Hooks – Control Hand Odor Scent
By Forrest Fisher
Many anglers in the Northeast USA and especially in Western New York, have a preference for Lake Erie walleye fishing. Many of them are ready for Southtowns Walleye Association (SWA) Tournament action that will begin very soon.
Walleye fishing is center-stage over the first few weeks of June, especially June 10-18, when many anglers will be entered in the 33rd annual Southtowns Walleye Association Walleye Tournament. This is a 9-day/1-fish tournament where the single biggest fish wins. That means any lucky angler can win.
BIG CASH PRIZES: SWA offers cash awards for the top 200 places, with the top 10 places winning big money. The top prize can be as much as $8,000 in cash plus prizes. Last year, Jim Horbett took 1st place with his 11.63 pound walleye. See Bob Fessler or Don Mullen for info, or call 716-462-9576, or visit www.southtownswalleye.org to enter, but do it soon, as registration is closed after the tournament begins.
The Lake Erie eastern basin walleye resource is healthy and getting bigger with local spawning stocks that can also include migratory western basin fish, which may begin to arrive when summertime is imminent. We’ll have to wait and see if the area will receive some hot weather to make that west to east migration happen before the tournament ends.
POST-SPAWN WALLEYE: Local walleye anglers already know that the fish are around and are here in good numbers after the last few weeks of spring fishing. The males that have been caught at night are beautiful fish in the 3 to 7 pound range, not prize winners, but freezer fillers, or are perfect for pictures and catch and release fishing fun. As the season evolves after the area experienced a very rainy May, the larger females will be recovering from their post-spawn doldrum period and will be hungry.
The fish will be deeper during the day, but at night, will be feeding in the shallow upper water layer offshore, and also, some fish will be very near to shore during the early part of the tournament (at night). This fishing can be hit or miss, but if you don’t try it, you’ll never know.
EARLY START: If you have been fishing like many do, early riser at 330AM, trailer hook-up, travel and launch before sunrise, lights on, lines in, great bite and then suddenly, NO BITE. What happened? Simple to figure out if you think about it. Most of the fish have been on the feed all night, especially during full moon or bright moon periods. They’re done eating!
Notice I said, “most of the fish.” So don’t give up, there will be isolated schools that have yet to feed, but think about night fishing once or twice during the tourney.
LURE OFFERINGS: What about your lure offerings? Well you never know what will work until you try, but most anglers use shallow running sticks or spinner-worm rigs and weight the lines to reach the fish at whatever their level, usually 15 to 25 feet from the top.
COLOR & LIGHT PENETRATION: Colors matter for some of us, though not sure the fish care much of the time, but the variable with color is light penetration. If the fish are on the feed, wham! There will be fish on your line no matter what you are using. If not, check your lure for action, assure your leaders are healthy, hooks too, then get out there.
The rest of the time when the goggle eyes are not on the feed, you may have to provoke them. By nature, walleye are night predators, but most anglers in SWA fish daytime. Maybe some anglers are getting old? Nahhhh! We just like to see the hooks and jawbones we need to avoid burying in our hand with natural light.
BIG FISH CONSISTENCY: Anglers that win the prize for most fish and biggest fish are often the same anglers year after year. Reasons why may be widely varied, but not for them. Winning anglers are adaptive. They change lure style, lure size, color, shape, and they consider all their tackle box options. Get creative, know what you have in your tackle box. Know to change your boat travel orientation with wind direction. Turn more, turn less, swing wide and slow, or wide and fast, but change.
AVOID NO-CHANGE: Be careful not to get into that same “catch-no-fish” pigeon hole that happened once or twice last year or that last time that you never told anyone about. If you are fishing with the same lure and using the same technique at the same speed and wondering what’s going on, you know it’s time to consider CHANGE. Explore a bit. Get creative. In your heart of hearts, you know when something needs to change, so do it.
THINK ABOUT CHANGE: Should you change WHEN you go fishing? Start at 3PM instead of 3AM? That’s your call, but what you change is up to you when you’re not catching fish. Fish move, water temperatures swing with wind shifts, eddy currents push forage to new locations, creek outflows can attract or repel forage and predators, take advantage of these things. Talk with others. After all that, there is one more thing, keep it simple so you can do it again. Write it down if you have to, add it to your logbook. Keep a logbook. Update after every trip. You will not believe what you learn from your own notes a week from today.
MAKE YOUR OWN CHANGE: Look at a lake map, study your sonar map, evolve to get smarter with each trip on the water and rationalize what is going on, or you can call a best friend that seems to be catching fish! It’s really up to you to discover the new methods that will work for you.
After each tourney, I’ve always shared what was working for me and my friends in the boat with others. It’s what every fishing club is all about. It’s why some friends share their secrets during the tournament. It’s how many anglers invent their next new change, by combining what they do with others that have shared to create a new approach.
WALLEYE TRACKING STUDY: Lastly, a new research initiative on Lake Erie – east to west and USA to Canada, that started in 2015 uses acoustic telemetry to track walleye movement. Researchers are studying the west-to-east and east-west fish migration that affects the New York walleye fishery. A $100 reward can be yours if you catch one of the walleye that have a tracking device, just call DEC (716-366-0228) and report each tagged fish along with returning the internal acoustic tag.
Good luck on the water!