5 hour Offshore Fishing Trip, we caught more than 50 fish!
Cost was so affordable, all gear and bait was provided
Enjoyable day, the captain cleaned all the fish!
By Bob Holzhei
The fishing action in the Gulf of Mexico was like playing pinball. It was non-stop action baiting the hook and dropping the baited hook down to bottom, then reeling the line in three full turns. Bang! Boom! Hang on to the rod!
Dave Barus, an outdoor writer from western New York and I booked a charter with Captain Terry Heller. The boat was launched out of Placida, FL and we fished about 8-1/2 miles off shore, far beyond the sight of land. There were no other boats in sight as three-foot waves grew in intensity to about five feet. We were alone in the Gulf of Mexico and became part of the natural world that day, bobbing and bouncing around like a little cork for a few hours. The chop didn’t hurt the fishing.
A Lowrance GPS guided us to Heller’s many hotspots where he has been successful before. In each, a small buoy was dropped to mark the area and the anchor was released to hold the boat where fish showed up on the fish finder.
The bait was dropped in 50-57 feet of water, then pulled up from the bottom three full turns on the reel.
“Fish-on!” I yelled as the hook was set.
“Fish-On!” Yelled Barus.
After my first Key West Grunt was boated, Heller hurried to the other side of the boat to assist Barus with battling the fish. Ocean fish fight much harder than expected and a couple of times Captain Heller had to hold onto the rod as I lifted the rod up and reeled line in on the down stroke. “I gotta start a harder workout each day (note to myself).” The rod tip jumped again and again, and setting the hook hard was advised by Heller because the various saltwater fish out there have such tough mouths.
Captain Terry Heller baited the Eagle Claw size 3 hook with a variety of baits including shrimp, cut squid and sardines. A 7-1/2 foot Sussex rod with a 300-400 series Penn Reel had 20-pound braid line on it.
Heller started fishing with his father at 65 years ago when he was 5 years old and has been a full-time professional fishing guide for 5 years in Florida.
The center console walk-around 24-foot Polar boat was equipped with a 225 horsepower Yamaha four-stroke outboard and also had an 80-pound torque Minn Kota trolling motor on the bow.
Red and Gag Grouper were caught, Snapper, Sea Bass, Trigger fish, Tom Toms and Key West Grunts. Wow! Many fish were released back in the water because the season had not opened yet, but we caught more than 50 fish in 3 short hours of bottom dipping with bait in the right places. Caption Heller cleaned, filleted and bagged the fish for us, all part of the trip cost.
“When you like to do something you love, it’s not hard. I like taking 10-year old’s fishing, especially my grandkids. No only do they learn fast, but they also have patience. They really like catching big Groupers,” concluded Heller.
We fished for $165 apiece. A great value and a fun trip. For additional information, Captain Heller says you can call him at 941-587-4460.
Wade Robertson with a nice walleyue whopper, one of 30 nice 'eyes hooked that day.
Lake Erie offers access to schools of giant walleye from May to October
Chautauqua Lake provides opportunity for Monster Musky, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, and Walleye
Local Wineries and Microbrew Houses provide after hour and weather options that are unforgettable
By Wayne Brewer
Chautauqua County is located in the southwest corner of New York State. Lake Erie is on its’ northern border and Chautauqua Lake is located in the center of the county. Both Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake are premier walleye lakes and also have excellent musky and bass fisheries.
Andrew Nixon, Director of the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, and Dave Barus, Fishing and Hunting Promotions Consultant for the Bureau invited me to participate in the Chautauqua Outdoor Media Fall Fish Camp. Dave organizes and hosts the fish camps. The goal of the Outdoor Media Camps is to introduce visiting outdoor media members to the fishing and hunting opportunities in Chautauqua County.
Although the camp focus is on fishing, there is a lengthy list of other activities to do such as deer hunting, winery tours, visits to state fishing access sites and hatcheries, hiking nature trails – like those offered at Panama Rocks Scenic Park, touring museums such as the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and sipping tasty beer at local micro-breweries. The 4-day camp is a great get away to fish, communicate with other outdoor writers to share ideas and enjoy some excellent homemade meals, all the while taking so much that Chautauqua County has to offer.
Our campsite was a private home located on Point Chautauqua, just off Route 430 at 6060 Orchard Road. It is a year-round heated two-story cottage with four bedrooms that could sleep nine or ten individuals. It has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, living room, two bathrooms, a screened porch and washer/dryer. The cottage is located one street from Chautauqua Lake and had a path down to the lake where there was a dock and an available 14-foot aluminum boat for our use. Anyone that wants to bring their own boat can launch it a few miles down Route 430 at Long Point State Park and maintain it on a mooring buoy near the dock. The cottage is available to rent and anyone interested can visit: www.chautauqualakerental.com or email to: email@example.com.
Upon arrival at the camp I met our host, Dave Barus, and the other attendees. They were Jim Proffitt, an outdoor columnist from Ohio, Wade Robertson, an outdoor columnist from Pennsylvania and his guest from Olean, New York, Fred Dwaileebe. After “meeting and greeting” we decided to have dinner at Guppy’s Restaurant and Tavern a couple of miles down Route 430. The restaurant has a full menu that ranges from wings and pizza to burgers, soups and salads, along with nightly specials. I had a great platter of mussels steamed in garlic butter wine sauce and topped with fresh tomatoes. I highly recommend stopping in Guppy’s anytime you’re in the area.
The fishing itinerary for the first day had Jim Proffitt and Dave Barus fishing for walleyes on Chautauqua Lake with Chautauqua Bassmaster Don Staszyck. Wade Robertson and Fred fished for walleye on Lake Erie with Captain T.J. Yetzer (Reel Time Charters, 585-764-2006). I fished Chautauqua Lake for musky and walleye with Frank Shoenacker (Infinity Charters, 585-406-5764 or http//www.infinitycharters.com). Frank uses a 17-1/2 foot Lund when he guides on Chautauqua Lake, though he also guides on Lake Erie with a 25-foot Pro-Line.
After enjoying Dave Barus’ “hole in one eggs,” sausage, toast, home fries and hot coffee for breakfast, we all made our own box lunches for ourselves and guides before heading out.
I met Frank at Long Point State Park Marina on Route 430, located just a few miles south of our camp. We trolled for musky on the north end of the lake at about 3.5 miles per hour. We used Shimano rods with Penn reels strung with 80-pound braided line, and tipped with a couple of feet of 80-pound fluorocarbon line. The lures we used included RW Smith homemade musky lures, perch-colored Wiley musky lures and very large green spoons with black dots. We trolled several areas where Frank had been having success catching muskies, but the big lunkers were not feeding as a cold front was heading in.
We then switched to some lighter tackle and drifted for walleye using one-ounce perch-colored mooneye shimmer minnows and Rapala jigging raps. We were marking all kinds of fish, but like the musky, the walleye were also suffering from lock jaw, however, the white perch kept us busy. Some of them were nice size, so we focused on catching them. Frank told me that, “You fish for what’s biting!” So we did and had a great day catching one white perch after the other, bringing a few dozen home for a great fish fry.
Frank and I talked about walleye fishing on Chautauqua Lake and he told me that he considered the best time of the year to catch walleye was mid-May to mid-June. That time of the year he trolls along the outside edge of the weeds along shore with a slip-sinker worm rig because the bait stays in the cover of the weeds. Then as the bait moves out into deeper water, the walleye follow. He then drifts and jigs for the walleye using jigs. His preferred jigging lure is a Rapala jigging rap.
When Frank and I returned to the marina, we met Don Staszyck, Dave and Jim. We discovered that Don had a couple of secret hot spots for walleye, as each of the three anglers had limited out with 15 walleye, though they had also released at least that many again. Wade and Fred had a great day on Lake Erie and had limited with 24 walleyes as well.
Lunch and dinner each day was provided by Dave Barus and most of the delectable meals (secret recipes) were prepared by his wife Rosalie. Our meals included venison chili, homemade potato salad, chicken Alfredo, walleye cheek chowder, Sahlen’s grilled hot dogs and Rosalie’s mouthwatering homemade apple pie. During and after dinner, our outdoor clan invited our guides to join us as we shared excellent wine from Johnson Estate Winery, Merritt Estate Winery and Liberty Vineyards, all of these just a few minutes away.
Mother Nature threw us a curve on the second day of the fish camp. Wade Robertson and I were to fish Lake Erie for bass and walleye with Captain Yetzer, but the lake had six to seven-foot waves. It was just too rough to fish, but this was not an issue because when Dave Barus plans these events, he always has backup plans and alternative activities lined up. Dave had made arrangements for us to fish Chautauqua Lake for bass with Chautauqua Bassmaster President, Mike Russo.
Mike checked out a few areas earlier that morning before he picked us up and caught a couple of bass. Not long after, we headed back to fish these areas, but the wind picked up and the lake became angry. We threw everything in the boat at the bass, including spinnerbaits, jigs, grubs, crankbaits and even live bait, but could not entice even one hit. The bass had shut down completely. We tried different locations all over the lake until we entered a small channel that Mike said had put tournament anglers on the winner’s podium. It looked and felt promising, but we had no luck catching bass.
Half way down the channel, where it widened out, Mike and Wade were tossing spinnerbaits when a “cloud” of nice sized yellow perch swarmed up chasing them. We immediately decided to fish for the perch. Mike and Wade used the minnows and I used a small white plastic grub below a bobber. We caught perch on practically every cast. Not all the perch were keepers, but Wade and I ended the day with about 70 fish.
That night Julie Szur, a local fly fishing consultant and guide on stream fishing tutoring, joined us for dinner and gave a very interesting presentation that included a discussion different fly varieties and various fly-fishing techniques. Julie is an extremely knowledgeable and accomplished stream fishing expert. View her website at: www.flyfishingjulieszur.com and contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 716-481-6619.
The next day Lake Erie continued with high seas, so instead of fishing for walleyes, Dave, Jim, Wade and I met Julie at Chautauqua Creek to check out the steelhead fishing. Dave and I were photographers while Jim, Wade and Julie fished. The creek was low and clear with very few fish, but Julie did entice one fish to strike her speckled streamer.
The Chautauqua Fall Fish Camp was an exciting and unique experience. All of us caught a lot of fish even though the wind kept some us off Lake Erie. It’s terrific to fish in Chautauqua County because there are several bodies of water to and no matter the weather, the waterways support a variety of different species of fish. There are six lakes in the county and 50 miles of Lake Erie shore line. There is no place in the county more than a few miles from open water. So, if you cannot fish one lake, you can fish another. If one species of fish is not co-operating, there are always other species to fish and if you cannot fish, there are plenty of other activities in the county to enjoy and have a great time. I highly recommend putting Chautauqua County at the top of your “places-to-visit” list.
For more information go to: www/tourchautauqua.com or call at (716) 357-4569. Be sure to request a Chautauqua County Visitors Guide to use as a reference for planning your getaway to Chautauqua. To keep updated on news and events, sign up for the monthly e-newsletter. For day-to-day news, join in the conversation on the Chautauqua County Facebook.
You can also check out Visit Chautauqua, to receive a downloadable APP for helping plan your trip.
“Where is the guide?” was my second question. My first question was, “Which boat is mine?”
The boat was one of many 27-foot long Sportcraft walleye charter boats neatly tied-up to the Border View Lodge docks on Lake of the Woods, Baudette, Minnesota.
This was my first experience going out on a walleye charter. I really was not excited, a walleye charter never did sound like my kind of fun fishing.
I was attending a conference at Lake of the Woods in Minnesota and fishing buddy, Dave Barus, a skilled Lake Erie angler, had arranged this Walleye Charter. Going out in a big boat on big water with six anglers and a guide did not appeal to me. By the end of the day, I found out it was not only productive, it was great fun! It was a very enjoyable way to spend a day on water…in the rain!
Tom at Border View Lodge answered my first question, “Your boat is the one in that slip.” “The one with the girl in it?” I asked. “Yes, that is your boat.”
The girl, Cassy, answered my other question. “Good morning, I am your guide. Get in and we’ll get going.” My first thought was this local trip has been engineered as a tourism publicity moment with a lady guide. Preconceived notions are not good things, but one crept into my brain that Cassy did not look like an experienced or hardened north woods woman. Of course, I really can’t describe what an experienced north woods woman should look like.
Cassy had a very serious look on her face as she readied six anglers and their gear, nosed the boat out into the river current and headed for the open water on Lake of the Woods. I would come to understand this serious look latter in the day, it was pure focus.
My thoughts turned back to Border View Lodge. Part of the charm of fishing in the North Country is visiting a new lodge. All have a charm of their own. Border View Lodge had a special charm that makes any angler feel at home the minute you walk in the door. Wood paneling, fish mounts on the wall, dining area overlooking the docks and river and friendly people saying welcome.
Border View Lodge is a family owned and run business. The original lodge was a commercial fish operation when burbot was harvested to make cod liver oil. Around 1962, Border View became a fishing lodge serving anglers. In 1981 the current family purchased the resort. Today, Mike and Lisa Kinsella run the resort, oversee nine guides and 10 launch boats. In the winter they have 60 Ice Houses on the lake. Border View is a full service resort for people that like to fish and the resort has amenities all anglers like. Mike has a variety of packages to fit the needs of any group. Call Mike at 1-800-ProFish, tell him what you want and he will take care of you.
Another glance at our guide, Cassy, and the same serious look was locked on her face as she stopped, put out the anchor and baited up six rods with a jig and minnow.
It wasn’t long before the first walleye hooked up. A nice walleye and as Cassy skillfully netted it I noticed the serious look was replaced by a huge smile. That was it, serious look when getting clients loaded and handling the boat, but all smiles when the bite starts. That is my kind of guide!
The rest of the day made me smile. I went from never wanting to do a walleye charter to, “Can’t wait to do this again.” We hooked more than 75 walleye and sauger, some to 28 inches long, and we put six fish apiece in the cooler. Cassy kept minnows on the jigs – baiting every one with her secret hook-up method, netted every single fish, and kept everyone fishing and in conversation. Quite a feat.
So much for pre-conceived ideas!
Cassy Geurkink is currently the only lady guide in the area, we found this out when we returned to shore, AND, she is considered one of the best guides on this part of the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods. Cassy grew up fishing and hunting with her dad Tom who is also a guide. Before becoming a guide, Cassy worked at a Chevy Dealer in the Minneapolis, St Paul area. Cassy eventually worked her way up to the Sales Manager position. She would visit Dad on the weekends and started not wanting to go home. Cassy left the car dealership and for a season worked in the lodge office. But, as she says, “I am an outdoor girl and wanted to be outdoors.” To be a guide on a waterway that borders another country, you have to have a Charter Captain’s license which involves study and a lengthy Coast Guard test. So I started studying and passed the tests.
Cassy now guides four to seven days a week. On days off, she takes her 7-year old son Finley out jig fishing. Cassy said the best part of guiding is meeting different people. She says, “Guiding teaches you even more about fishing.” She learned how to be patient and how to help people catch fish. When Cassy first started guiding, a lot of guys looked and said, “Oh boy a girl guide.” Now many of those have become regular repeat customers and ask for Cassy. I can understand why. Pure dedication, highly skilled, not afraid to try new things and focus with a smile.
Cassy puts you on the fish and makes a happy boat. If you can book her, say, “Oh Boy,” because you are going to have a great fishing day.
Catching fish with Cassy explaining the details, the options, the reasoning behind using chosen jig colors, that was pure fun. It was an education in fishing. We pay for the fishing, the fun and instruction is free. Can’t wait to do it again.