- Need a limit catch of Walleyes? Visit Dunkirk, NY, in Chautauqua County.
- NYSDEC Region 9 has a new hands-on Director that knows the ropes: Julie Barrett O’Neill
By Mike Joyner
One can easily state that any and all ports of access to Lake Erie lead to the walleye capital of the world. You would be correct, just as your fishing partners’ may counter declarations. Rather than debate the issue, I’ll lead us into the “declaration of Dunkirk” as a “must experience” port of launch and a favored choice to pursue a great fishing experience on Lake Erie. As reported in recent years by myself and legions of the outdoor media, the 2022 walleye season on Lake Erie is consistent with all the observations and claims as a “Walleye Mecca” of prior years. Yes, folks, it’s that good!
This year’s VIP Fish Day, held annually every August, would greet us with mixed clouds, moderate temperatures, and the calmest waters I have ever experienced on this Great Lake. This year’s event was coordinated by Jim and Diane Steel of the Innovative Outdoors team. A well-organized and super friendly event. Lots of familiar faces and many new ones. The event pairs Charter Captains with outdoor writers, local legislators, business leaders, and members of the NYSDEC Fisheries group. The group of outdoor writers present would hail from Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Rhode Island and New York.
As a fishing partner, I would be paired up with Julie Barrett O’Neill, the new Director for NYSDEC Region 9. We would join Captain Hans Mann of Buffalo Harbor Outfitters on his 21′ Warrior boat for a morning of outstanding fishing.
Our trip out into the harbor was inspirational for all its beauty and the lake’s calmness. We would be heading out to 60′ – 90′ depths to troll for walleyes that had been, in recent days, hanging near the bottom. Just 30 minutes into setting up the lines, we were already into fish as we started our first trolling run. Although we ran a pattern of depths, those we had out deep with dipsy divers and worm spinner jigs made it happen. The fish-catching started off with Julie landing the first walleye. We both would catch our limit for the day and release others back to the lake. To this day, in my humble opinion, walleye is one of the best fish to eat and is a welcomed treat in our home.
The fishing was fantastic, and the conversation during our trip was even better! Julie comes into her new role as Region 9 Director with an impressive resume. She is as passionate about the resource as any of us. Julie is incredibly excited about the outlook for Lake Sturgeon, which is making significant progress in the North American conservation story. Having a Director that is hands-on and very comfortable with fishing tackle is a good thing for us sportsmen. As I have, you’ll find her very approachable, friendly and knowledgeable. I would also learn that Hans is just as passionate about fishing for muskies and very involved as a board member of the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. I can tell you Hans runs an efficient setup and is directly dialed in on walleyes. I can easily envision how he takes his ‘A’ game to muskies. I found Hans to be a great boat captain and super friendly. They are genuinely great people to enjoy time out on the water with. We would discuss many topics concerning the fisheries, future development, and the current issues with proposed windmills. In a few hours on a beautiful morning, all the essential goals of the VIP event were being met on a 21′ boat. The future for Eastern Lake Erie has a bright future, in my view.
The event concluded with a great lunch at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club. As in the past, we got updates on issues concerning the lake, the latest research, and the fishery outlook.
It is a beautiful format to promote not only the great fishery and recreational opportunities of the area but also puts the significant stakeholders together in the same room, the same boat, to further the communication needed for developing the resource. The event is fully supported by the following organizations: Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Erie County Fisheries Advisory Board and the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.
© 2022 Mike Joyner- Joyner Outdoor Media