- The “Great Lakes Experience” EVENT is Exemplary
- Allowing Lures, Lines, Rigs, Rules and Laws, to Meet Each Other
- Communication, Great Fishing and Laughter Create EFFECTIVE FUN
- Summer Fishing for Lake Erie Walleye in Chautauqua County, NY
By Forrest Fisher
If there is a language common between anglers and fish, they were talking to each other off Chadwick Bay in Dunkirk, New York, during the Great Lakes Experience earlier in August. More than 20 charter boats each caught dozens of walleye. Yes, each. If we average the catch at 20 fish per boat, that’s about 400 walleyes in less than four hours of fishing. And when the fish are biting, good things happen, especially when folks from local, state, county and federal positions get together to discuss the recreational fishery and all that goes with it.
That’s what happened during the 9th Annual Great Lakes Experience Fishing Day. About 100 people from Erie County, Niagara County and Chautauqua County were invited to fish together. Attendees met at the harbor at about 6:00 a.m. on August 9, 2017, for the annual Tim Horton’s “Meet & Greet” session. Nothing like donuts and hot coffee at sunrise! We divided into groups from there as we were assigned to captains from the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (ELECBA), that provided a unified effort with a simple goal: To catch some fish and share more about reasons why the Lake Erie resource is so important and so priceless.
I was fishing with Captain Jim Skoczylas (Ultimate Adventure Sportfishing (716-796-5372) and first mate, Tom “TJ” Yetzer. They provided guests on board Jim’s 31-foot Tiara, a fun and comfortable time, even in the 4 to 6 foot waves that came up later in the morning.
Skoczylas says, “While the fishing has been really good this year, each day we play it by ear to adapt when we need to change lures and methods. On some days the fish want crankbaits, other days they want spinner/worm rigs, on finicky days – color matters, but on most days this year, it has not mattered too much what you put down there. The walleye have been looking to eat and there are many year classes, especially young fish, in our New York, Lake Erie, fishery right now. Many of us are wondering if there might be a shortage of emerald shiners and smelt – the primary baitfish groups out here, because the fish usually want to eat our lures quite readily.”Between hearing Yetzer holler, “Fish-on, who’s up?” and Tom Hersey, Erie County Commissioner of Environment and Planning say, “Oops, I think I might have lost that one (four times),” there was lots of kidding, laughs and honest fascination with the rigs and processes used to catch fish.”
On the other hand, Ally Pawarski, Sales and Services Manager with the Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission, didn’t lose a single fish and was tuned-in for the whole trip – landing the largest walleye on our boat.
Dan Rizzo, Commissioner of Erie County Parks, Chris Catanzaro, Project Manager for the Erie County Harbor Development Corporation, along with Patrick Kaler, CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Visitors Bureau, all enjoyed fish-catching and common conversation. I was happy to be among this dedicated group.
We talked about the fishing goodness, Buffalo Harbor State Park boat ramps, the Central Train Station location, Canalside activities, Buffalo Riverworks, Lake Erie recreational access, kayaks, the health of the fishery, the Coast Guard, the people and the fun of the outdoors on the waterfront. Add in ideas for marketing and distribution, thoughts of a virtual fish-catching program from Lake Erie on the internet, on-board drone videos for future customers fishing Lake Erie along the New York shoreline, and you can see, conversation was all-inclusive with new ideas.
Running 12 coordinated lines at depths of 70 to 80 feet down in 85 to 105 feet of water, and using all the gear dressed up with spinner/worm rigs and stickbaits, we hooked up with 26 fish in a very short 4 hours on the water. Diving planes, weighted leadcore lines, downriggers and lots of lures and stickbaits were all part of the presentation mix with a trolling speed of 2.1 mph. It was a perfect scenario for catching fish and to discuss issues/answers.
After the fishing, the perfect walleye fish fry lunch was served at the Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club. We heard from several speakers, perhaps the most notable was about raw sewage overload on our Great Lakes from Rich Davenport, Director from the Erie County Fish Advisory Board.
Everyone enjoyed a great time networking about life in the outdoors and the incredible natural resource, Lake Erie, and agreed to work hard together to keep this treasure alive and well into the future.
There were representatives from the NYSDEC, including Stephen Hurst – Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Bureau Chief from Albany, Patricia Riexinger recently retired from that same position, Don Einhouse and Jason Robinson, fisheries biologists from the NYSDEC Lake Erie Fisheries Unit, a host of legislative leaders – Senators and Assemblymen, the charter captains and their crews – the proper combination for networking and laughter too.
This annual event allows local groups to bring certain very real issues to light and provides the potential for discussion on the battlefront of conservation, the outdoors and our Great Lakes resources. There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting of the minds. Issues and solutions, in between catching fish and a few grins, become a solid focus.
Amidst the apparent visual complexity of multiple rods/reels, downriggers, diving planes, planer boards, temperature measurement and trolling gear, and lots of lures, the confidence in the voice of our hosts on board each charter craft was reassuring. Confidence reigns.
The event was organized by Zen Olow (Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club), Lance Erhardt (Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association) and Andrew Nixon (Executive Director Chautauqua County CVB), and a supporting cast of dozens.
Fish on! Who’s up?! God Bless America.