Chautauqua Lake, NY – 26 Walleye FUN, Rod-in-Hand Fishing…Memorial Day Treat

Frank Shoenacker gets the net for another one of our 26 walleye caught in daylight the Friday before Memorial Day.

  • Simple Fishing, Simple Fun, NEW METHOD
  • Peaceful Fishing Fun with Time to Share Conversation
  • Braided Line, Fluorocarbon Leaders, Sharp Hooks 

By Forrest Fisher

My fishing friend, Captain Frank Shoenacker (Infinity Charters), gets the net for another one of our 26 walleye caught in 3-4 hours of daylight fishing on Chautauqua Lake the Friday before Memorial Day.  Forrest Fisher photo

“There’s one!” Frank shared, “Can you get the net Forrest.” It was actually, to be more correct, “another one.” 

We started at 7 in the morning on the Friday before Memorial Day, the sun had not yet made it over the eastern hill at Bemus Point.  Through about 10:30AM, we landed 26 walleye. Not joking.  My fishing buddy and friend, Captain Frank Shoenacker (pronounced “sha-na-kir), enjoys fishing for walleye with rod in hand.  “It’s real fishing,” he says.

When he’s not guiding for fun with guys like me to catch walleye to 6 pounds, he likes to work on his rigs, experiment with new baits, learn from other experts – like at the seminar series at the Niagara Outdoor Show every year, and also share what he knows too.

Our catch included a good number of throwbacks that were 1/8″ under the 15″ minimum, but being honest, I filled my limit fishing with fish to 24 inches long while spending a peaceful morning of conversation with this incredible fishing expert and friend. Secrets abound, some of them you need to find out from Frank himself, but think about it, 26 walleye. An amazing morning!

The future for great walleye fishing at Chautauqua lake looks really good if the 14-7/8″ fish landed are any indication. Minimum size limit is 15″, 5 fish bag per day. Forrest Fisher Photo

I felt like I was fishing in a throwback time. You remember those old days when going fishing meant leaving the rest of the world behind and just hoping to find some fish that would bite? That’s how it is was with Frank. We’ve been fishin’ friends for a few years now because we share a passion for the fun and legacy of catching walleye in Chautauqua Lake (and Lake Erie), especially with rod in hand. 

We leave the fancy toys, riggers, boards and all that behind when it comes to early season walleye fishing. I like to cast toward evening and into the night, but Frank prefers to catch fish in daytime hours (who doesn’t?) and shares his secret tactics with those folks that use his guiding services for charter fishing on Chautauqua Lake, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Frank says, “For the newbie fishing folks to enjoy the day and really have fun, I have learned the lesson that keeping it simple gets that done. Customers go home happy and with fish for the table if they want to keep ‘em.” When I saw how simple his tactics were, how savvy and coy they were at the same time, I was not just impressed, I was blown away. 

An 8HP, Four-Stroke trolling motor and wind sock combo allow total, fish-catching, boat control with the Shoenacker method. Forrest Fisher Photo

As we moved from spot to spot collecting three or four walleye from each fishing zone, we shared conversation with 9 other boats out there vying for a fish-catching moment. In all, there was only one fish among them! Surprising to me? Yes! We were killing ‘em. Why? Stealth. Proper colors. Proper presentation. Fishing were the fish were (perhaps the biggest reason).

Cut weeds, floating weeds, short emerging weeds, all were also present in the water, but no algae or moss. Seeing the weeds, you might agree, trolling is not an option. At least not an option that most folks might take. For Frank, it’s the one situation he likes the best. “No boat traffic this way,” he says with a smile. 

He likes to use a modified troll using his 8HP/four-stroke engine with a drift bag to make the type of motion control possible that he wants for his 17-foot Lund fishing boat. Very slow forward motion in particular places, almost negligible motion…but there is motion, fish-catching motion. 

Frank understands this motion thing quite well and can explain it. He puts the presentation on the fish where they are and then tantalizingly appeals to their sense of scent, visual attraction, lure motion and hunger using small baits. The scent of live nightcrawlers on his assortment of artificial worms in combination with vivid colors, stealth bead rigs and a unique catch-no-weeds arrangement, makes Frank rig effective on Chautauqua Lake. Quite amazing really.

The motor was running, though I couldn’t hear it. As Frank reached for a Tim Horton’s Timbit he looked over his shoulder at me and said, “It’s so good to be out here just fishing for fun today, ya know?” He tossed his line out about 40 feet behind the boat and told me to follow suit. He had the right side, I had the left looking back toward the transom. We caught one freshwater clam before moving to the next spot. “Lots of spots to fish,” Frank shared with a grin.

In similar depth water, we repeated the cast-out routine using his 7’ high tensile strength graphite St. Croix rods and Daiwa reels filled with 10-pound test Seaguar 832 braid and terminated with a fluorocarbon leader to the lure. You could feel every pebble, every bottom sensation and every nibble, tap-tap and anything else that contacted the lure. The rig provides the perfect rod-in-hand experience for every angler.

Rod feel is important when fishing simple. This St. Croix “Eyecon” rod works well. Forrest Fisher photo

Over the next two hours, we landed dozens of walleye, but we also hooked or caught other fish species too, including musky.

I raised my rod tip, there it was, one tap and a slight movement left, dragged the rod forward and wham, the fish slammed the lure, just like Frank said they would. This guy likes to share fun, that’s all I can say about this trip.

“Get the Net” was a frequent expression that morning. The net is important to keep big fish from falling of and to keep little fish getting injured. Forrest Fisher Photo

Frank catches walleye using a method with lures that he alone has perfected. Since I’ve been doing this for 60 years I can say that.  The results are amazing on even a short day of fishing. Imagine 26 walleye, a 4-foot musky and so many other fish from a lake 17 miles long that thousands of anglers fish each year.

It pays to have some secrets, right? If you’re looking to share in this fun, look him up, Google Chautauqua Lake, Captain Frank Shoenacker (585-406-5764), Infinity Charters (www.tourchautauqua.com/Go-Fishing/Charters-And-Guides/Infinity-Charters-LLC.aspx?mid=15798&c=76) for simple fishing, rod in hand. 

I enjoyed hearing that one expression we used so often, “Get the net!”

A most relaxing day!

Unforgettable.

Thanks Captain Frank.