USA Veterans CATCH FUN and FISH at Lake Erie WALLEYE EVENT

  • Chautauqua County, NY – Veterans enjoyed this free event sponsored by WNY Heroes, Inc. – they caught fish and line-stretching fun departing from Chadwick Bay Marina/Clarion Hotel.
  • Chartreuse stickbaits (Yaleye Lure) and spinner/worm rigs (Eye-Fish Rigs) were the hot lures
  • Wind and waves did not deter volunteer charter captains from finding the walleye
As wind and waves whipped up the water surface, the walleye went on a big feed. I’m holding this 9-pounder up for a picture with Barb Erdt. Jim Klein Photo

By Forrest Fisher

As military veterans parked their cars and trucks in the limited spaces available near Chadwick Bay Marina, located in downtown Dunkirk, NY, Program Director Lynn Magistrale from WNY Heroes Inc. (www.wnyheroes.org) led the charge at sunrise registration activities on Friday, June 26, 2020. Magistrale was joined by event master-mind planners, Captain Jim Steel and his wife, Diane, in conjunction with their volunteer promotion of this event at Innovative Outdoors Tackle Shop HQ (https://innovative-outdoors.com/), along with other volunteer groups and professional resources to make this event unforgettable for military veterans that had registered with WNY Heroes, Inc.

Some 24 volunteer expert boat captains joined forces with WNY Heroes, Inc., to share walleye fun for military veterans that had served our country during any era. Forrest Fisher photo

Military veterans filled the boats of 24 volunteer fishing crews that shared their on-the-water fish-catching skills and expert watercraft leadership. The crews donated their time, gear and special services for this impressive extravaganza fishing event during this time of worldwide pandemic. All, just to say thanks to our military veterans. Hats off to all the volunteers.

With 18 walleye in the live well, we headed back to the dock and the fish-cleaning station. We had brought 22 fish to our lines during the morning trip, releasing the smaller fish. Forrest Fisher Photo

It was a privilege to meet retired US Navy Petty Officer 1st class, Barbara Erdt, and many other veterans. The fishing was absolutely great as we shared rod-exchanging maneuvers in fire-drill mode with exciting line-stretching moments for the next 3 hours, catching 22 walleye, keeping 18 for the freezer, while fishing aboard Eye-Fish Charters with Captain Jim Klein. I shared my experiences as a US Navy veteran with Barb, but I left after 4 years as a Petty Officer 2nd Class, serving during the Vietnam era on the flight deck aboard the USS Independence/CVA62, maintaining A6-Intruder fighter-bomber jets. Erdt had served during the era of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom from 1989-2004, then with the US Navy active reserve. We compared locker room stories and laughed about morning reveille at boot camp.

The new Eye-Fish THUMPER BLADE was among the hottest lures on board. Forrest Fisher Photo

 

 

 

 

One of the hot lures, the Yaleye commemorative lure designed for the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day tournament.

With a strong west wind of 12-14 mph at the morning take-off, we headed west about 15 miles and focused on 45 to 65 feet of water. While trolling an assortment of crankbaits and spinner/worm rigs, we enjoyed moments of 3-fish on at the same time on several occasions. The sizzling hot lure was a 2-hook Eye-Fish Firetiger (color) spinner/worm rig (https://www.eye-fish.com) and the commemorative Yaleye Mooneye fish lure (chartreuse w/faded blue rib color, www.yaleyefish.ca) from the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day fishing contest. Barb caught the biggest fish at 9.04 pounds, adding to the total number of really large and healthy walleye already swimming in the live well.

Wind and Waves – We fished from 8AM-11AM and headed back to port as the wind srated to peaked with 22 mph gusts. Forrest Fisher Photo

The presentation method was not complicated, but the boat location and speed was fine-tuned as the wind picked up pushing 24 mph gusts from the southwest. Klein said, ”We caught fish from both sides of the boat using four lines on the big boards and two riggers.

Running the downriggers near the bottom produced fish, but then popping them with the Eye-Fish spinner rigs caught fish too. Forrest Fisher photo

The boards were trailing the lures on 5-color leadcore with a 40-foot fluorocarbon leader and riggers with spinner/worm rigs set back 50 feet while deployed 35 to 55 feet down. The boat speed was 1.4 to 2.6 mph, walking the boat in and out from shore, northeast to southeast, then northwest to north east, as the boat was pushed laterally due east with the strong wind. We never even had time to put the diving planes in! Was a fun time!”

Captain Jim Klein (L) and retired USN 1st Class Petty Officer, Barb Erdt, enjoy the picture taking moment on the trip back to the dock. Forrest Fisher Photo

Barb Erdt said, “I can’t wait to tell my brother about this Lake Erie trip. He fishing quite a lot, but for some reason says walleye fishing is tough this year. Captain Jim made it look pretty easy, thank you Captain!” Erdt added, “I can’t wait to share these fish with my two kids and my two grandkids.”

Event master-mind and organizer, Captain Jim Steel said, “While we scaled down this event to about ¼ of what it usually is, due to the pandemic social distancing rules, we still had 24 boats out there today, including two out-of-state charter captains that volunteered their time for our relatively local Western NY event.

They stayed at the Clarion Hotel, paid for their own fuel and food, never asked for any expenses.” Captain Jim followed, “These two long-distance volunteers, like all of our other master-angler volunteers on the water, just said they wanted to be here to say thanks to those who served to provide the USA freedoms we enjoy each and every day.” Diane Steel added, “The NYSDEC provided free fish-cleaning services for the veterans today too, preparing more than 100 walleye to take home for their kitchen dinner meal. From the conservation side, the DEC biologists and technicians collected age and health data for their study and record books too.”

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation staff volunteered efforts to clean fish for the veterans. Forrest Fisher photo.

Besides a big resealable bag of fresh walleye fillets (they sell for $19.95/pound in Florida!), every veteran left with a red/white/blue fishing rod/reel outfit and a tasty box lunch for the trip back home.

The mission of WNY Heroes is to provide veterans and their families with access to essential services, including financial assistance and resources that help support their lives and sustain their dignity. To help support their life-saving services, WNY Heroes does rely on volunteers for many functions. To learn more about them check out www.wnyheroes.org.

For area accommodations, vacation lodging, charter fishing contacts and services and hotel information/discounts, visit www.tourchautauqua.com. 

 

DONUTS, HOT COFFEE and WALLEYE AT SUNRISE!

  • 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

Which lures to choose are among key questions that anglers ask each time they head out to Lake Erie for walleye.  This year, some of the solid choices are shown here. Forest Fisher Photo

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. 

 

Ally Pawarski from the Buffalo Sports Commission, shares in the walleye fun and bounty of Lake Erie with a nice 5-pound fish. Forrest Fisher Photo

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.” 

Captain Skoczylas found fish about 70 feet down in 80 to 105 feet of water. Downriggers, diving plans and long lead-line rigs were used to catch 26 fish in less than 4 hours of fishing. Forrest Fisher Photo

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.

Spinner/Worm rig colors for blades and beads, and hook size, can vary from day to day, but the question can be finding the right one on the day you are fishing. Forrest Fisher Photo

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.    

Gene Pauszek, outdoor communicator for the Dunkirk Observer, caught this 11.41 pound walleye monster a few days before the Great Lakes Experience in early August.  He was fishing aboard Sassafras Charters with Captain Lance Erhardt and using a borrowed fishing rod and rig to fool this whopper.  Go figure.

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.

The 2017 Lake Erie Experience: A “Must Do” Destination – Dunkirk Harbor

  • Lake Erie 2017 is a WALLEYE MECCA near Chadwick Bay / Dunkirk Harbor
  • Merritt Estate Winery offers FREE SAMPLING of all Wine Varieties
  • Cassadaga Lake is a Bass and Musky SECRET
  • Cabana Sam’s Blackened Grouper is a WINNER DINNER

By Mike Joyner

The great Empire State by any casual observation is one of our nation’s meccas for natural resources and endless opportunities for recreational pursuits. With a critical eye it is by reasonable opinion one of the top five states arranged only by personal recreational preferences.

 It is now entirely possible to nudge a hard core turkey hunter to enjoy nearly as much, another sportsman’s activity such as fishing. It is a most somber admission after a quarter century of long beard mania madness. In all honesty fishing came first as a wee young lad, whitetails in my mid-twenties, and in 1993, gobbler chasing took over everything. Prior priorities were relegated to distant second and third rankings of outdoor passions.

I accepted the invite with eager anticipation to attend the 9th Annual VIP Fishing Day taking place out of Chadwick Bay Marina in Dunkirk Harbor. Timing with my workload fell into a rare alignment of the stars making it feasible to get away. It would turn out to be a great mid-week getaway to enjoy several days of great fishing, camaraderie, and an opportunity to meet with local leaders, and tourism professionals to exchange thoughts and ideas as well as the requisite tall tales of fishing adventures.

Dave Barus had set up ‘Chautauqua County Media Fish Camp 2017’ for us to take in and experience what the area has to offer. I cannot thank him enough for handling the logistics and details of the excursion. He has a bright future in herding cats as outdoor writers are an independent group of individuals. Sunset Bay Cottage would be base camp for the duration. Located in Sunset Bay it is a great place to meet up, enjoy the beach and dining establishments, all within short walking distances. Past NYSOWA President Wayne Brewer, Leon Archer, Steve Colley, Wade Robertson and Collin Voss would be fellow camp mates and made for a great fish camp. Steve and Wade hailing from Northern Pennsylvania would join us for the latter two days while Collin, our youngest member in camp would endure initiation rights and would enjoy the third day out on the lake. Ultimately Collin out fished us all and kept his shirt tail intact. The conversations and storytelling at camp are the very reasons we cherish our time there!

First morning out we would head to Dunkirk Harbor only to find rough conditions which had already forced a number of boats back to the marina. We met up with local bass pro’s Scott Gauld and Scott Callen and decided to head over to Cassadaga Lake for bass, both smallmouth, and largemouth on much calmer waters. We fished the upper lake and enjoyed a relaxed and fun time catching smallmouths along with a few muskies. A special thank you to their sponsors Denali Rods, Kamooki Lures, and Venom Lures for being perfect equipment choices for our time on the lake. After a morning of ‘impromptu testing’, I will be adding them to my A-list for ‘must have’ gear. 

Scott Callen. Wayne Brewer, Leon Archer

Later in the day we paid a visit to Merritt Estate Winery located in Forestville, New York. We met up with Bill Merritt the owner and enjoyed a fine tasting of current offerings. With my ties to the industry in the Cortland area, I hope to see their offerings there. The staff is to be commended for their prompt and friendly service. They present a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere to enjoy the fine wines they craft. Being a big fan of New York craft beers, distilled spirits and wines, the offerings at Merritt Estate Winery was worth the trip. My wife and I routinely stock our wine racks with New York wines and will add Merritt estate wines to our preferred vino to have on hand.

We would take a short walk over to Cabana Sam’s Sunset Bay Grill later that evening to sample the dining fare of the area. Blacken Grouper Reuben was my choice, and I would go out of my way to go back there again just for that. I’ll express empathy to my other camp mates that could not be there for the dinner outing as it was a meal not to miss.

There are many other wineries, craft beer companies, and distillers in the area. It is my only regret of the trip that I could not stay an extra day or two to enjoy tastings at each of them and further enjoy the many dining choices of the area. It is my thought that the Tourism Bureau has a lot of great offerings to work with and promote. I will return to the area for that very reason.

Our second full day in Dunkirk would have us out on the Great Lake Experience Event with conditions a bit more hospitable for fishing. Although I purchased nearly the full accordion worth of licenses each year to hunt and fish, it was appreciated that the day was deemed a free fishing day as to attract invited guests experiencing their first time on the lake. The event matched up boat captains with outdoor writers such as myself, many folks from the surrounding county tourism bureaus, NYSDEC, local politicians, county dignitaries, state legislators, and Congressmen. It was estimated that over sixty participants were paired up with twenty-two well-experienced boat captains who went above and beyond to show all of us a great morning out on Lake Erie.

After being assigned to come aboard 365 Sportfishing Charters, I headed out with Chautauqua County Executive- Vince Horrigan, fellow outdoor writer Paula Piatt, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO- Todd Tranum, Congressmen Tom Reed Staffers- Jaqueline Phelps (Regional Director) & Alison Hunt(District Director), with Captain Mark Hitcome at the helm. We were after walleyes, as were the other charters. After navigating several miles out into the lake, we were in the thick of it at water depths of 70-100 feet. With a full complement of planar boards and down riggers rigged, we soon had one pole after another set hook, and there was plenty of action. Everyone caught a pile of walleyes along with a few silver bass. There were seven or eight just under the 15″ legal size, and we kept seventeen walleyes altogether. We came in an hour before the appointed time due to the lake kicking up five-foot waves. One of the walleyes I caught was one of several that came in just shy of four pounds.

Once docked and the fish taken care of we headed to the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club. A luncheon get together was scheduled with invites for all the participants and special guests including NYSDEC Chief, Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Services- Steve Hurst, Chautauqua County Executive- Vince Horrigan, City of Dunkirk Mayor- Willie Rosas, NYS Assemblyman District 150- Andy Goodell, and US 23rd District Congressman Tom Reed along with other local dignitaries. Zen Olow, chairman of the Great Lakes Experience event and Club President MC’d the affair. Presentations covered issues concerning pollution in the Great Lakes that eventually flows into Lake Erie and on to Lake Ontario, upcoming/pending legislation initiatives, club awards, and comments from distinguished guests. The main course on the menu as you may have guessed was walleye cutlets which in my opinion is the tastiest culinary delight of any game fish caught in New York State. I would have to admit that begrudgingly. As a young boy, I totally believed that Northern Pike was the best fish to eat. My grandfather cubed them into one-inch pieces within minutes of being taken from the live well and placed directly into a fresh pot of fish chowder simmering on grandma’s stove. I can still remember his old F-100 coming down the driveway with giant Northern’s still jumping in the bed of the pickup. The delicious smell of fresh chowder simmering is one that stays with you all your days. Now that I leave you hungry… With over a hundred people attending, it was as much fine eating and education that you could possibly pack in between the four walls of the club.

 Our second evening was spent in camp with home cooking courtesy of our host, fine wines, and the best of company. David’s grandson Collin, would join us that evening and was a welcomed addition to our camp. Collin is an impressive young man and a exemplary example of his upbringing. The fact that he out fished all of us is something we’ll have to let go of and come to grips with eventually… all kidding aside it is a pleasure to have him in camp.

Our last morning on the lake would pair myself, Leon and local area outdoor writer Gene Pauszek with Sassafras Fishing Charters. Captain Lance Ehrhardt along with Zen Olow would be in charge of another great day out on Lake Erie. the lake would be a bit calmer than the day prior. Once all the rigging was complete we would not wait long for the hooks to set and the reeling to start. Although a little slower pace than the day before we would limit out on walleye. With calmer waters, we relaxed, told tall stories, cheesy jokes and caught plenty of walleyes! A bit of back story as few days prior to the V.I.P. event, I would learn that Eastern Lake Erie Charter Association members Lance and Zen, along with Joe Jemiolo (passed away in 2014) were the main forces behind the creation of the annual V.I.P. fishing event. All the walleyes cooked up for the grand luncheon were made possible by Eastern Lake Erie Charter Association Members in concert with Sunset Bay Shoot Out, Razor’s Big Dawg tournaments. We were in the company of great people, great volunteers.Collin Voss

It is a focused opportunity to couple what we so love and are endeared to as sportsmen to convey, to educate those that promote tourism opportunities, and ultimately makes decisions, crafting legislation that impacts our sport. It is also an opportunity for outdoor professionals & sportsmen to learn and gain insights as to how decisions are formulated. We as sportsmen can provide data or participate in the research needed to enhance our great pastime, and attract newcomers to a grand recreational experience.

Maintaining and improving the natural resources, a world class fishery was the topic at hand. I’ll speak for all that attended in that we enjoyed a grand experience of a vibrant and healthy fishery. It is a fine example of what can be achieved in the Empire State. As if you need further prodding, the word among the group was that the current state of the fishery on Lake Erie promises to be great fishing for years to come given the abundant and diverse age classes of walleye and of other fish species.

As I titled this scattered collection of impressions and honest opinion it holds so true that it is a “Must do in Chautauqua County from Dunkirk Harbor” destination. It is a gem of our great state and one that I will return to with my wife to enjoy the great fishing, as well as the other offerings that the area excels at. As an outside observer, it is impressive the number of groups, people from very different interests working together to build up a healthy ecosystem, a vibrant fishery, and a destination well worth the trip. All of us who cherish New York State’s natural resources, the quality of its fisheries extend a very large thank you to all that have made it so successful.

-MJ

© 2017 Joyner Outdoor Media (Link: http://www.turkey-talk.com/tblog/?p=622)