Guide-Fishing Secrets to Catch Chautauqua Lake Walleyes

June 20, 2017
Fishing , Guides & Outfitters
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  • Chautauqua Lake Secret: Work the Weedline

  • Keep Fishing Simple To Succeed Often

  • Spinner/Worm Rigs & Snap-Jigging


Jan Adair (left) landed this nice walleye, her first walleye ever, while fishing Chautauqua Lake, then caught five more walleye before the noon hour while fishing with Captain Frank Schoenacker (right).


By Forrest Fisher with guide, Frank Schoenacker (Infinity Charters)

 When great guides and charter captains talk, honest anglers that don’t always catch fish listen.  So I listen very well.  I’m as honest as they come.  One thing I’ve discovered, when anglers share life through the gift of a fishing charter, good things can happen! 

During a recent Chautauqua Lake fishing trip for one client couple, there came lasting memories and lots of fishing fun. 

The client contacted my friend and local guide, Frank Schoenacker, in December, as she had purchased a charter fish trip as a Christmas gift for her boyfriend.  Frank said, “They both fish, but haven't done much walleye or musky fishing.  So last week, they had a couple of firsts.  She landed her first ever walleye, which was a nice 17-inch fish, then she followed up with 5 more!  That’s not all, her boyfriend caught his first musky while fishing for walleyes.” 

Frank added, “I teach my clients to fish simple.  It all starts with meeting them at a common place.  At Chautauqua Lake, for many guides and for me too, that place is the Bemus Point boat launch.  The next thing is not overcrowding the action and the people aboard. On Chautauqua, I limit clients to two people maximum and I don't fish when I have clients.   I provide equipment and have it setup before the trip.” 

When Frank talks, he explains juicy details, “On my boat, I use an 8-horse kicker to troll weed edges at slow speed (1 mph or so), mostly using a very simple, old-fashioned, spinner/worm harness.  Small beads, a small spinner blade and small hooks are essential when fishing Chautauqua.  Lots of reasons why, they have to do with catching your targeted species.  Boat control and using electronics to see the weed edge is critical.  My boat is a tiller steer, so I have direct contact with my motor and boat direction.  I tie my harness with small hooks (size one), then use a small copper or fire-tiger blade (size 2) off a clevis, then I usually add small red beads as attractors – or whatever fish think those are!  They work.”

Schoenacker uses a sliding-sinker for weight on his 6 to 8 lb braid as mainline.  He adds, “Pretty much an old school setup. Normally I'm anywhere from 8 to 14 feet of water depth depending on the weed edge where we fish.  Early in the season when water is cool, I'll use nightcrawlers (sometimes half-worms are better than whole ones) and I start to use a rubber worm soon after, as white perch get pesky and they won’t touch a plastic worm.” He was smiling with a big grin.

“Starting at the tail end of June, I fish a rubber worm instead of a live worm pretty much all the time.  When the bite slows at mid-morning, I have one client go to a live worm.  Sometimes we can get an extra bite or two. “

What if the fish aren’t biting?  Franks says, “I move around and pre-fish before guided trips so I have a plan based on wind and weather for the day.  Generally, during the early season I'm in the lower lake mostly (south of Route 86 bridge).  This year (2017), the channel in Bemus was good early.” 

Even in summer, it pays to bring an extra jacket when the weather send a chilly breeze at sunrise.


“It’s not as simple as I’m making it sound, you need to adapt and you know when that needs to happen after a few decades of fishing, ”Schoenacker says.  “Weed lines off the creek mouths are good, so I look around Prendergast Bay, Dewittville Bay, Goose Creek, etc.  The fish tend to be active at different places and at different times, so this is where the knowledge of the guide comes in.  Add the varying style of fishing we can do and add the potential to change position, "run and gun," from spot to spot, we find them most every day we try.” 

If you live on or near the lake, that is a bonus.  He adds, “Pre-fishing helps me have several spots planned.  Any angler that fishes today needs to have pretty good electronics so they can see the fish for as many times as they work the weed line.  I have also seen that when walleyes are active, the white perch are less of a problem.  I'm seeing several good year classes of walleyes in the lake now, lots of 13-14 inch throwbacks, then there are numbers of 17 inchers and then a class of 20 inch-plus fish. “

Anglers are pleased that the walleye population is doing well in the lake and folks are also very pleased that the DEC lowered the walleye minimum size limit to 15-inches in 2017.  Schoenacker adds, “I do some musky trolling, but my primary focus is on fishing for walleyes.”

“I'll fish the weed lines until the water warms and fish move deeper.  At that point I move to open water trolling and snap-jigging.  Snap-jigging works for me right on through the fall.  I like the weedline and jigging programs best because you hold the rod and feel the fish hit.  Hard to beat that for sure,” says Schoenacker 

Schoenacker adds, “I want to help people have more fun finding and catching fish, so I’m sharing some of my program plan with walleye anglers everywhere that plan to fish Chautauqua Lake sometime soon.  This gives you the background on my simple walleye program, but don’t forget, you can always call me for a hands-on trip.”

Lastly, Schoenacker has two boats, he uses the smaller one (Lund Pro-V Tiller with 60hp Yamaha and 8hp Yamaha) for that up-front experience on Chautauqua Lake, but he is also a licensed Lake Erie Charter Captain and member of the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association and National Association of Charter Boat Operators. He will also share his fish-catching secrets while aboard his Pro-Line 25 (powered by Evinrude 225hp ETEC and 9.9hp Yamaha kicker).  You can reach Capt. Frank Schoenacker by phone at 585-406-5764, email: fcs49@hotmail.com, or on his website at: http://www.infinitycharters.com/

You know, we never stop learning when people that know way more than we do are willing to share.  Hat’s off to Captain Frank!

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