Hot Lake Erie Walleye – It’s Late September!

-Dunkirk to Cattaraugus Creek is HOT ZONE
-Stratified Lake Helps Focus Forage and Predators

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The Lake Erie walleye fishery of Chautauqua County, New York, near Dunkirk Harbor, can be spectacular at times – times like right now. Late September, 2016.

1st mate Dennis Gullo hollered out, “Setting the starboard side outside diver to Index 1-1/2 with ring, 10 foot leader, 17 pound test fluoro, we are at 155 back Captain.” Captain Roger Corlett softly replied, “What bait is on that one?” Gullo replied, “The 5-inch Pirate Lure Brown Trout.” “Yea, that’s been a good one lately,” Corlett grinned.

On the other side, Corlett deployed another diver with ring set to an index of three and 170 feet back, using a similar Rainbow Trout pattern lure. In the next two hours, both lures caught big walleye and memorable moments were made for everyone on board the charter boat named “89-Surprise.”

Captain Corlett modifies his lures to assure wide swing action (wobble) at 2 to 2.5 mph and to assure positive hook-ups without bent hooks. “I like to remove the front treble and replace the middle treble with a #2 VMC or Mustad, or other top high-strength hook that won’t bend and allow the fish to get away that we worked so hard to fool.”

Midwest Outdoors editor, Dave Mull, was all ears too. Shared tips and advice are hard to find on most days among fisherman, but Captain Corlett was schooling us about things that he does every day, his standard winning fish-catching tactics. Things we are not likely to soon forget.

Without proper professional science and management of Lake Erie, these conversations among happy fishermen might have never taken place. Thanks to the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in Dunkirk, New York, the walleye resource for Lake Erie’s eastern basin is well managed under the watchful eyes of Don Einhouse, Lake Erie Unit Leader, and his staff.

Lake Erie Unit Fisheries Leader, Don Einhouse, lower left, heads up a program that allows anglers to meet on a regular basis and review the “State of the Lake”, allowing questions and answers. This provides a renewable network of valuable communication between recreational anglers and the fisheries staff. Forrest Fisher Photo

The walleye resource is composed of local spawning stocks (eastern basin) as well as fish from summertime migration movements of western basin spawning stocks. Proof of the science and nature working together is that the walleye fishing quality in recent years has generally been very good. From the chart below, review and note that the success is largely attributable to excellent spawning success observed in 2003, 2010, and 2012.

The Lake Erie Fisheries Unit advises that measures of walleye fishing quality in 2015 were the fifth highest recorded in the 28 year survey. New York’s most recent juvenile walleye survey indicates a moderate spawning year in 2014. Overall good recruitment through recent years, especially from 2010 and 2012, suggests adult walleye abundance in the east basin will remain satisfactory for the next several years. Good news for walleye anglers.

The western basin of Lake Erie experienced a high walleye recruitment event in 2015, which should also help to support New York’s walleye fishery in the future. A new research initiative that began in 2015 uses acoustic telemetry to study walleye movement and assess the contribution of west basin migrants to the New York walleye fishery. A $100 reward is associated with the return of each tagged fish along with the internal acoustic tag.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit is responsible for research, assessment and fisheries management activities for one of New York’s largest and most diverse freshwater fishery resources. A variety of annual programs are designed to improve understanding of the Lake Erie fish community to guide fisheries management, and safeguard this valuable resource for current and future generations.

The staff at the Lake Erie Fisheries Unit includes Donald Einhouse, Lake Erie Unit Leader; James Markham, Aquatic Biologist; Jason Robinson, Aquatic Biologist; Douglas Zeller, Research Vessel Captain; Brian Beckwith, Fisheries Technician; Richard Zimar, Fisheries Technician; and MariEllen (Ginger) Szwejbka, Secretary. The staff is supported by Steven LaPan, Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head and Phil Hulbert, Chief of the Bureau of Fisheries.

The complete annual report on Lake Erie is available on NYSDEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/32286.html, or by contacting DEC’s Lake Erie Unit office (contact information below).

For comments to the Lake Erie Unit, please send to NYSDEC Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit e-mail: fwfishle@dec.ny.gov.

Western New York Fishing Forecast for Friday, September 16, 2016

Bass, King Salmon, Walleye News

Ed Shannon shows up a 30-plus pound Niagara Bar king caught on Kingfisher Charters.

Lake Ontario and Trib’s

An important meeting is being held this Monday, September 19, at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara, 4487 Lake Avenue, Lockport, starting at 6:30 pm. If you are a Lake Ontario drifter, troller or tributary fisherman, you’ll want to attend this meeting. Members of DEC will be discussing what their proposed plans are for 2017 when it comes to salmon and trout stocking, based on recent forage base assessments. This is your opportunity to listen to the proposal and voice your concerns.

On September 23, the King of the Creek salmon contest – from both boat and shore – is being run by All in the Same Boat Tackle, 2911 Lockport-Olcott Road, Newfane, through November 6. Call 716-638-4158 for more info or visit www.abstackle.com.

Speaking of salmon, one of the hottest spots has been the Niagara Bar at the drop-off. Salmon are stacked up there like you wouldn’t believe. Captain Mike Johannes of On the Rocks Charters out of Wilson, went 15 for 18 matures last Saturday on the Niagara Bar before the wind picked up and cut the day short. Fish were in 80 to 200 feet of water down 50 to 80 feet on wire divers set on 3 out 160 to 180. Out of the 15 boated, 14 were caught on meat behind large flashers and Twinkie rigs. His best flasher was a white King’s Flasher. He also caught some on white/green Bechhold flashers. When running the larger flashers, a speed of 2.2 to 2.4 is best. They were marking a lot of fish and quite a bit of bait when they were there.

Olcott also has a fair number of fish hanging inside of 80 feet of water according to Wes Walker at the Slippery Sinker. Plugs, cut bait and flasher-fly are working there for matures. They are starting to pick up a few off the piers and some browns, too. Browns off the piers in Wilson, as well, with spoons. Both harbors have a mix of warm water fish. A few trout and salmon have been caught at the dam, but mostly warm water fish have been hanging around.

Lower Niagara River – Walleye Action

Ray Van Horn with lower river smallie with fishing with First Choice Charters.

Salmon numbers are slowly starting to increase for the shore guys. A few have been caught on spoons; some have been caught on spinners. Rattlebaits will also work. NYPA Platform casters are out-producing the boaters right now as far as salmon in the river. That said, the boaters are still doing well on bass and walleye – especially downriver and on the bar. Worm harnesses for the walleye; tubes and live bait for the bass. Captain Randy Lingenfelter reports that fishing has been good with soft baits and crayfish if you still can find them. B.A.S.S. pro, Ray Van Horn, fished on his boat recently, throwing Strike King Soft Baits doing very well. Baby Rage Craw in three inch. They were catching 25 to 30 fish a day. One of his charters caught a 6.5 lb. smallie last week. Several local media were in town last weekend and managed to get some decent smallmouth bass.

The New York Power Authority’s Wildlife Festival, held at the Visitor Center, 5777 Lewiston Road, Lewiston will be September 24 and 25 from 10 am to 5 pm both days. Everything is free! This is the area’s version of National Hunting and fishing day and the event is co-sponsored by the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs. Get ready to have a great weekend!

Upper Niagara River / Erie Canal – Bass Action

Bass are still the best thing to go after with tubes, spinnerbaits or live bait like crayfish and shiners, fished off three-way rigs. Know where you are at all times in the river because there are severe restrictions in Canadian waters – on bait and on calling in before you venture across the line, or is it as you cross the line, or is it when you are in Canadian waters. Not quite sure because we’ve been getting different answers from different people.

Bill Hilts, Jr., Director, Outdoor Promotions

Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY USA 14303
p: 716.282.8992 x.303| 1.877 FALLS US, f:716.285.0809
website | facebook | twitter | blog

Sportfishing has a $30 million annual economic impact in Niagara USA!

Western New York Fishing Forecast for Friday, September 2, 2016

Contest Winners, Methods, Lures

Lake Ontario and Trib’s

Scott Foster (left) of N. Tonawanda, NY caught a nice 15 lb 13 oz Brown. His father, Earl Foster (right) of Wilson, NY did a little better with a 17 lb 4 oz Brown that took over the lead in that division. Both fish were caught on Bay Rat Stickbaits and weighed in at Wilson Boatyard Marina. It was a great fishing day for the Fosters! Photo LOC Derby.

The LOC Derby is starting to wind down, ending on Labor Day. Grand prize leader for the $25,000 is still the 33 pound, 13 ounce King Salmon weighed in by Richard Clark. To make the leader board, you need a fish better than 30 pounds, 3 ounces! There’s a new brown trout leader out of Wilson as of this week. Earl and Scott Foster of Wilson, a father-son fishing team, were fishing out their home port trolling Bay Rat lures when they scored on two dandies – a 17 pound, 4 ounce fish for Earl and a 15 pound, 13 ounce fish for Scott. Bigger fish are still out there! Go to www.loc.org for details.

Salmon are stacked up on the Niagara Bar right now according to Captain Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown. Flasher-fly, cut bait, plugs and spoons will all catch fish. The same will work for you off Olcott where you have the option to target staging fish in 30 to 120 feet of water or go deep for a mixed back of salmon and trout. Same baits mentioned earlier will work in close; primarily spoons offshore. After recent rains jacked the CFS in 18 Mile Creek to 175, we did see a few pier casters hook up with salmon at night by casting Cleo’s out into the lake. A few browns are being reported, too. The best is yet to come.

Another successful Fish Odyssey is in the books! Grand prize winner in the Adult Division was Matt Dunn of Newfane with his 31 pound, 5 oz. pound salmon. In addition to his $4,000 Grand Prize check, he also won $500 from the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association for the largest salmon caught by a LOTSA member and $100 for big salmon of the day. Dunn won the Grand Prize in the drawing at the awards ceremony at the Newfane Town Hall. Other divisional winners were Dennis Stabler of Lockport with a 17 pound brown trout; Patrick Barber of Niagara Falls with a 17 pound, 5 ounce lake trout; Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston with a 25 pound, 10 ounce carp; Dave Muir of North Tonawanda with a 6 pound, six ounce smallmouth bass; and Steve Majka with a 12 pound, 10 ounce walleye. Some outstanding catches came to the scales, a tribute to the local fishery. In the Junior Division, it was 5 year old Alyssa McGrath of Niagara Falls winning the Grand Prize with a 10 ounce panfish. She won a $100 Cabela’s gift card, a nice plaque, a rod and reel and tackle box.

Other winners in their respective divisions were: Alex Heath of Sanborn with a 26 pound, 13 ounce salmon; RayLee Peterson of Home, PA with a 9 pound brown trout; Abigail McGrath of Niagara Falls with a 4 pound, 13 ounce smallmouth bass; Matthew Kelsey of Attica with a 13 pound, 7 ounce carp; and Ethan Brolinski of Lewiston with an 8 pound, 7 ounce walleye. Take time to remember the person that we honored this year – the late, great Jeremiah Heffernan, a local charter captain who did much to promote the local fishery.

Lower Niagara River – Walleye Action

The walleye bite has been pretty consistent for some; not for others. In the Niagara River Anglers Associations Lower River Walleye Contest, some 25 contestants were vying for some decent cash prizes. In the end it was Steve Majka who had the hot hand with two fish totaling 13.86 pounds. Majka also caught the big walleye in the Fish Odyssey at 12 pounds, 10 ounces at the mouth of the river, power trolling an orange and gold worm harness to take his biggest walleye ever.

Hook N Look has taken fishing and scuba diving to provide new levels of learning and outreach to anglers on the Outdoor Channel. Photo Credit: http://www.hooknlook.com/

Back to the NRAA event, Mike Fox of Lewiston reeled in 12.07 pounds of walleye for second place; third place went to Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston with 11.87 pounds. Big fish for the contest went to Charlie Hoy with an 8.07 pound ‘eye. More than $1,000 in prizes were given out to the winning anglers. We mentioned Nick Calandrelli’s 25 pound, 10 ounce carp and that was caught in the lower river too, while fishing in the NRAA contest with a worm harness. It was caught on the Jackson Drift.

Bass fishing on the Bar has been spotty, but the lower river has been pretty good. Kim Stricker of Hook ‘n Look TV Show on the Outdoor Channel was on the water Tuesday to take some dandy smallies around Lewiston and film a show that will air in February. The cool thing about the show is that it includes underwater footage that takes you into the world of the fish and pinpoint specific holding areas. They will also talk about the importance of current.

Upper Niagara River / Erie Canal – Bass Action

Bass – both smallmouth and largemouth – are available for boaters and shore-casters. Finding holding areas like flats or deep holes will be key to success. If you do venture into Canadian waters, make sure you call in to notify the Canadian authorities of your intentions to fish. Worms are the only live bait you can use and they can NOT be in dirt. It’s a pretty painless process, but they do mean business if you violate the rules over there. Sheepshead seem to be everywhere, from both boat and shore. Softshell crabs are the best bait for those, but they have also been hitting tubes

Bill Hilts, Jr., Director, Outdoor Promotions

Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY USA 14303
p: 716.282.8992 x.303| 1.877 FALLS US, f:716.285.0809
website | facebook | twitter | blog

Sportfishing has a $30 million annual economic impact in Niagara USA!

Western New York Fishing Forecast for Friday, August 19, 2016

10 year old Adam Flachbart of Fairview Park, Ohio, fishing with his dad, landed this 14 lb 5 oz Brown Trout while casting a Yo-Zuri crankbait from the Olcott Pier in Niagara County, New York. The youngster won the youth award for that species in the Summer LOC Derby. Picture courtesy of LOC Derby

Lake Ontario – King Salmon & Steelhead Action

It will be a busy weekend in Wilson, Olcott and the Fort Niagara areas. It happens when the calendar aligns properly – three different fishing derbies on the same weekend, giving you nearly $100,000 in cash and prizes – if you get into all three contests.

Just another friendly reminder that you have to be in it to win it and the odds are better for these contests than they are for the state lottery!

Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker sends word that the mature king salmon are starting to stage off Olcott in 50 to 100 feet of water as they start to darken up color-wise. Any lure that will get them to strike out of aggression – J-plugs, cut bait and flashers, flasher-fly rigs, or magnum spoons – will work on any given day. This is a time when you can catch them outside of the preferred temperature zones, too.

Out deep, a mix of immature salmon, the occasional mature and steelhead will show up in the top 60-70 feet of water over 350 to 500 foot depths. Standard or super slim sized spoons are the preferred trolling bait.

Perch and rock bass are being caught in the harbors at Wilson and Olcott. Largemouth, smallmouth and pike are also possibilities. Over in Wilson at the state park, some work around the launch ramp should be completed by Friday for the LOC Derby, but it might take an extra day or two so be prepared for a secondary option for launching.

Eighteenmile Creek has good water flow after recent rains. It was 87 cfs on Wednesday morning, blowing out duck weed and triggering some fish to hit.

First up on the contest calendar is the Orleans County Rotary Derby, currently running through August 21. Yes, it ends this Sunday. The current leader for the Grand Prize is a 30 pound, 14 ounce king salmon reeled in by Julie Schaeffer of Sligo, Pennsylvania – well within reach. Top steelhead is a 14 pound, 1 ounce fish caught by Robert Griffith of Akron, Ohio. Jessie Pepper of Rochester has the top lake trout with 16 pounds, 12 ounces and Patrick Pullinzi of Hamlin is the leading brown trout catcher at 15 pounds, 7 ounces. The Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby – the Fall Return of the King event that runs for 18 days – starts on August 19 and will be offering up over $70,000 in cash and prizes including $25,000 for the largest salmon weighed in. Go to www.loc.org for details.

The third event kicks off on Saturday, August 20 – the 40th Annual Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby honoring the late, great Capt. Jeremiah Heffernan. The prize structure has been increased for this year’s history-making contest, including $4,000 for the Grand Prize. There are categories for salmon, smallmouth bass, walleye, carp and trout. The winning catches in each of those categories will be placed into a hat at the Captain’s meeting in Newfane. The winning pick earns the Grand Prize. Last year it was young Nick Perri, winner of the Brown Trout Division winning the top prize. The best part of the Odyssey is that kids fish for free in a special Youth Division. Lots of great prizes will be handed out – whether you catch a fish or not! Sign up at www.fishodyssey.net or at any of the registration outlets. Get out there and have some fishing fun.

Also on Friday, August 19, is the inaugural “Reelin’ for a Cure” event out of Olcott.

Lower Niagara River – Walleye Action

Walleye action has increased a bit, just in time for the NRAA walleye contest on Sunday. Worm harnesses or yellow sally flies rigged with a spinner and a worm, fished off three way rigs is the best approach. Mike Heylek and the Niagara River Anglers Association will be holding the annual lower Niagara River walleye contest on August 21. There will be a guaranteed $500 prize structure no matter how many people are in – $250 for first; $150 for second; $100 for third. 100 percent cash pay back from the $20 entry fee and $5 big fish category. Best two fish, total weight. Scales will be open all day at the Lewiston Landing until 2 pm. The picnic and awards will also be at the pavilion at Lewiston Landing – pizza and wings from Mr. B’s. You can check the NRAA website (www.niagarariveranglers.com) and the Facebook page Niagara River Anglers for details, or stop in at Creek Road Bait and Tackle. If you fish in the contest, make sure you are registered for the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby set for August 20-28. Just ask John Walaczak! Bass action has also picked up a bit, but you do have to work for them. Crayfish and shiners top the list of preferred baits. Expect to catch a few sheepshead or silver bass, too.

Upper Niagara River / Erie Canal – Bass Action

Bass is still the primary focus for drifters and casters with live bait working the best, fishing off three way rigs for drifters. Casters are using tubes, drop shot rigs or stickbaits – the same artificial lures that worked for the fishing pros a few weeks ago. Strawberry Island is always a good spot to start, at the head of the island or just east of the island. In the west river, bass action can be good, but remember that is mostly Canadian waters – follow the rules. The head of the river in the current is also a good spot to target bass and the occasional walleye. Sheepshead are showing up regularly.

Bill Hilts, Jr., Director, Outdoor Promotions

Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY USA 14303
p: 716.282.8992 x.303| 1.877 FALLS US, f:716.285.0809
website | facebook | twitter | blog

Sportfishing has a $30 million annual economic impact in Niagara USA!

Summer Walleye Secret: How to Find Every Fish in the Lake

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Fishing is full of ironies, paradoxes and incongruities.

A good example is catching walleyes in the summer time when the fish are feeding at their most intense and aggressive pace of the year, eating up to three-percent of their body weight daily. You’d think with the fish pigging out like this every day that they would be easy to catch—and truth be told, they are—but they still manage to drive many anglers crazy.

If you are not catching as many walleyes in the summer as you think you should be, it is most likely because you’re fishing in locations and around structures where there are no fish. So move—but not just anywhere or randomly.

Instead, remember that like all freshwater fish, walleye are cold blooded animals, so the only way they can regulate their body temperatures and stay comfortable is to inhabit the zone of water that is most conducive to their well liking. And the zone in which they feel most contented, at ease and well-off has the register set for between 64 F and 67 F.

Depending on your geographic location, the size of the lake, its average depth and water clarity you may find this optimal temperature zone as shallow as 15 to 20 feet, or as deep as 30 to 40 feet. Regardless, when you find structure and cover in the favorable section of the lake and/or water column, it is usually lights out for walleye.

Of course, you’ll need to select the appropriate “tools” – or the key to open the door to allow you into the zone – which is the subject of this week’s short Fish Talk With The Doc video segment that I recorded for the Fish ‘N Canada TV show.

Just click on the following link for a video explanation and learn how easy it is to dial in on walleye fun in the hot summertime sun. http://www.outdoorcanada.ca/Walleye_fun_in_the_summer_time_sun.

Western New York Fishing Forecast for Friday, August 12, 2016

Senator Thomas O’Mara with his 15 year-old son, Thomas, fishing out of Olcott Harbor with Captain Bob Cinelli, found the secret to catching lots of steelhead in Lake Ontario.

Lake Ontario – King Salmon & Steelhead Action

Captain Tim Sylvester of North Tonawanda sends word he had a good trip Tuesday with local anglers Lee Bolsover, Mike Hanowski , Mark Clark , Eric Thursom and Ryan Gebphart, all from North Tonawanda. Ryan had just landed a 21 pound King off the port rigger, 55 feet down, using a mag NBK spoon when they put out a 300 foot copper.

We were fishing the top 60 feet of water in 300-400 feet of water west of Olcott with a brown on black spoon when it tore out of the release. Clark grabbed the rod, his first time fishing Lake Ontario. It took 25 minutes to get it into the boat – a 31 pound King! Of course, they would be leading the Orleans County Fishing Derby had they been entered. They ended up with a nice mix of kings and steelhead, boating 9 fish for the morning trip.

Wednesday, it was Captain Bob Cinelli of Newfane hosting Senators Rob Ortt and Thomas O’Mara, as well as O’Mara’s son Thomas – showing off. Fish are spread out right now after the recent blow and they picked salmon and trout from 5 miles out to 13 miles out using all spoons – a mix of Wonderbread, Spooks and some Silver Streaks with a green stripe through it. None were out of the package as they were all doctored up to a personal preference. They were fishing the top 65 feet of water using downriggers and copper lines from 200 to 350 feet back. Mostly steelhead were caught.

The other option for anglers was inside of 160 feet of water for mature kings, Captain Vince Pierleoni of Newfane was targeting big fish early in the morning and they did turn a nice 28 pounder using flasher and cut bait. They were not in the Orleans County derby either!

Tim Sylvester with Mark Clark (right) with 31 pound king.

After getting blown off a tournament at the eastern end of the lake, Captain Pete Alex and Vision Quest launched at Wilson (another advantage being west) and fished from noon until 6 pm on Sunday. They took 21 bites landing a nice bunch of kings and steelhead straight north of Wilson. They worked the suspended bait pods and targeted 50’-75’ down. Hot spoons were DW Carmel Dolphin, Martell (rocked), and Get-R-Dun. They did have some meat mixed in. Kings were a mixed class with biggest about 22 pounds.

The Fall Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby will be held August 19 to September 5. A $25,000 check is up for grabs for the largest salmon caught. Check out www.loc.org for details. On August 19, “Reelin’ For-A-Cure” is a team ladies fishing event with proceeds going for cancer. Contact Stephanie Pierleoni at 481-6388 for details.

Lower Niagara River – Walleye Action

Walleye action is finally starting to pick up a bit according to Captain Arnie Jonathan of Lockport. He managed to catch a few fish last Sunday during the Independent Living Bass Contest. He was fishing with Doug Usiak and Jeff Riefensnyder. Worm harnesses fished off three way rigs at Stella worked best. The winner had five walleye registered. Some bass were caught too, but bass fishing continues to be tough overall.

August 20th kicks off the 40th Annual Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby for Niagara, Erie and Orleans counties. Six species categories and kids 15 and under fish for free. All the prizes have been increased for this landmark competition honoring the late Jeremiah Heffernan, a charter captain from North Tonawanda who passed away last fall. The Odyssey runs until August 28th. Check out www.fishodyssey.net for details.

The Niagara River Anglers Association will be hosting its annual walleye contest on the lower Niagara River August 21st to help round out the month of action. This is a change from the original announcement. Go to www.niagarariveranglers.com or stop in at Creek Road Bait and Tackle for additional details.

Upper Niagara River / Erie Canal – Bass Action

Bass fishing continues to be decent around the upper river. Live bait, like crayfish and shiners, are your best bet. Canadian waters have been the most productive in the west section of river and around Strawberry Island. If you do go into Canadian waters, make sure you call in to Canada Border Services and make sure you know what bait is allowed.

Attention all you kids out there: The 3rd Annual Free “End of Summer” Kids fishing contest will be held at Wide Waters Marina, Lockport, on the Erie Canal, Saturday, August 13 from 10 am to 2 pm. Get out there and have some fun!

Bill Hilts, Jr., Director, Outdoor Promotions

Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY USA 14303
p: 716.282.8992 x.303| 1.877 FALLS US, f:716.285.0809
website | facebook | twitter | blog

Sportfishing has a $30 million annual economic impact in Niagara USA!

Lightning Bolt Walleye on Lake Erie

Solutions for Thunder and Skittish Fish

John Mills from Orchard Park, New York, was straining to lift his walleye prize from the clear water depths of Lake Erie while fishing with Captain Jim Skoczylas aboard Ultimate Adventure Sportfishing.

When Mother Nature decides to drop in on your fishing plans, the wind and the rain may not keep you from fishing, but those big bright lightning bolts with clapping thunder will sure turn most of us around.

What’s almost worse, when the cloudburst and natural fireworks happen the night before a fishing day plan for 60 people and the lake turns calm, the fish do too.

That’s what happened for the VIP Fishing Day in Dunkirk Harbor, New York, on Wednesday, August 11, 2016. Our dedicated hosts included Zen Olow (Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club), Lance Erhardt (Lake Erie Charter Captain’s Association) and Andrew Nixon (Executive Director Chautauqua County CVB) and their supporting crew. The plan was to provide the time and resources for a networking opportunity where 12 charter boats (walleye and bass guides), local expert fishermen, legislators, business owners and Mother Nature, could share conversation. lightningwalleye2There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting of the minds. Issues can often find solutions or at least become identified. This annual event is one an effective way to bring real issues and the potential for discussion and action together on the battlefront of conservation, the outdoors, Great Lakes resources and other factors.

Overnight the lake was a sea of flashing thunder and driving rain, but by morning, the lake was calm and the charter anglers all knew where the schools of walleye had been located over the last few days. So off they went, some of the boats carrying three, four and five of the would-be angler folks to fish catching destinations looking for the sweet song of a screeching drag.

There is nothing like walleye gills and fins to bring a smile to anglers that expect fishing action.

I was aboard the new 31-foot Tiara piloted by Captain Jim Skoczylas (Ultimate Adventure Sportfishing, (716-796-5372) with his first mate, Tom Yetzer, and it was fully equipped with 16 rods/reels, downriggers, diving planes, planer boards, temperature and current speed sensing equipment for surface and down deep detection, and all the lures necessary to fool those fish we call walleye in untold different ways.

We could see the fish suspended 55 to 65 feet down in 91 feet of water, but they decided to play hard to get. Question was why? Answer: Overnight lightning seems to spook both baitfish and predators. I have often wondered if when we see what appears to be a lightning bolt striking the surface of the lake, that the effects are not more serious than we think. Maybe the fish are getting a shock treatment?! Whatever it is, it seems they head for their brick house in the lake bottom and stay there for a bit before thinking about breakfast.

The interconnectivity of water molecules and electrons may have secondary effects that have not been yet explored, since it appeared on this day, that the fish were just going to take a breather.

Running 12 lines at depths of 40 to 65 feet down in 90 feet of water, some with 10 colors of leadcore line with fluorocarbon leaders, some off diving planes, some off downriggers and all displaying either homemade spinner/worm rigs or Bay Rat hard stickbait teaser lures with extra sharp hooks, Captain Jim and First mate Tom had hooked us up with eight fish on a day in waters where 19 or 20 fish in the boat were the norm for four hours of fishing on the days before. Other boats hooked up far less, some had no hookups.

Even secret fishing lures are not overly effective on days following an electrical rainstorm.

The fish we lost were light-biters, even the fish we landed were lightly hooked. Did it matter? It sure made for good conversation time! Maybe it was the best scenario! We caught a few fish and enjoyed more time to discuss issues and answers.

The chef-supreme walleye fish fry and fish chowder lunch with multiple desserts that was shared by all made the mediocre fishing of the storm effects just dissolve. It didn’t matter. Everyone enjoyed a great time networking about life in the outdoors and the incredible natural resource, Lake Erie, which we all work hard to keep as a treasure into the future.

God Bless America!

Program coordinator, Zen Olow, from the Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club in Dunkirk, New York, is the friendly mastermind that has brought national, state and county legislators to the common discussion table everyone can find when they go fishing for a few hours.

Western New York Fishing Forecast for Friday, August 5, 2016

Lake Erie bass fishing can be unbelievable at times, especially when you fish with Captain Frank Campbell

Lake Erie – Walleye and Bass

Closest consistent action for walleye continues to be off Sturgeon Point in 70 feet of water. While trolling worm harnesses or stickbaits are always an option off planer boards, downriggers or diving planes – like Dipsy-Divers, some anglers prefer to use the very basic approach of a three-way rig, bouncing bottom with a worm harness trailing.

Capt. John DeLorenzo of Niagara Falls has been focusing between Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek in 68 to 73 feet of water to take limit catches of ‘eyes. The recent northeast winds did shut things down a bit and he only had 8 fish on Wednesday. Orange and chartreuse are the best colors, but firetiger does well, too. His basic set-up has the distance from the three-way to the worm harness at 3 feet. His front rods will have a 5 ounce drop weight; the back rods a three ounce weight to avoid tangles. GPS ground speed is normally around 1.3 mph, using his trolling motor to supply the speed he needs. Bass action has been a bit tough. Deeper has been better on the outside of reefs and shoals. Crayfish and shiners; tubes and drop-shot rigs. Start in 25 feet of water and work out.

Lake Ontario – King Salmon, Steelhead

After a hard east-northeast blow last weekend, the lake is just starting to settle back down and resume with some of the great salmon and trout action we’ve seen this summer. Anglers are still experiencing tackle-busting salmon inside of 150 feet of water, starting in 60 feet of water at first light according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker. Meat rigs, flasher-fly or spoons will all take fish, but some days you do have to work harder than others.

Browns have pushed inside of 50 feet of water and the leading youth catch in the LOC Derby was Adam Flachbart of Fairview Park, Ohio with a 14 pound, 5 ounce brown trout, caught off the pier in Olcott on a Yo-Zuri crankbait! Walker also reported a few jack kings came from the pier after the lake rolled over following the storm. Now it’s back to the normal catch of bass, perch and a few crappies. Ditto for warm water fish over in Wilson. Out deep, the 23 to the 26 north line continues to be productive on steelhead and teenager kings. It was actually tougher fishing in the 450 to 500 depth range due to some cold water upwelling.

Niagara County led the charge once again in the Summer Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby held July 1-31. Grand Prize catch came from Olcott and Wilson both – Chad Fenstermaker and Mitch Shipman of Ohio were fishing out of Olcott, but ended up north of Wilson in 205 feet of water when a 31 pound, 7 ounce salmon hit their raspberry shadow Moonshine spoon 90 feet back of their dipsy diver set on No. 2. Chad reeled the fish in – his first salmon on his first Lake Ontario fishing trip – to take home the $10,000 check. First place in the salmon division was Larry Wills of Lewiston with a 30 pound, 15 ounce king salmon caught out of Wilson on a purple Warrior spoon – 40 feet down over 400 feet of water. First place brown trout was Guy Witkiewitz of Ontario, NY with an 18 pound, 14 ounce fish caught east of Irondequoit Bay. Second place came from Wilson when Thomas Gies of Michigan reeled in a 17 pound, 6 ounce trout while fishing with Capt. Dan Evans of Lone Wolf Charters. It hit a Moonshine Ice Shadow spoon 45 feet down over 220 feet in front of Wilson. In the Lake Trout Division, Ephriam Burt of Watertown bested Bob Turton on Sanborn with a 24 pound, 3 ounce fish from Henderson harbor. Turton’s Niagara Bar laker tipped the scales at 23 pounds, 7 ounces. He was using a green Kwikfish to take his local trout. Top steelhead came from Niagara when Wade Winch of North Tonawanda hauled in a 17 pound, 10 ounce fish from Wilson. He was using a slide diver, back 185 feet on a No. 2.5 setting over 180 feet of water with a purple Dreamweaver spoon as bait.

Next derby on the calendar is the Orleans County Rotary Derby, set for August 6-21. The Slippery Sinker and the Boat Doctors in Olcott are both registration points.

The inaugural Reelin’ for a Cure team tournament – focusing just on the ladies – will be held out of Olcott on August 19. Get those teams together and plan on fishing! For more info contact Stephanie Pierleoni at 481-6388 for more info. Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey registrations are now online at www.fishodyssey.net and at area registration outlets.

Canadian Open Bass Tournament (Lake Ontario) – Congratulations are in order to Capt. Joe Fonzi of Gasport who placed third overall in the Canadian Open last month out of Kingston, Ontario, on Lake Ontario, with a three day catch of 64.50 pounds. He caught 19.5 pounds, but with a penalty for one dead fish. It may have cost him second place. Day two he reeled in 19.85 pounds of bass, sitting in 8th place. On the third day, he brought in the big bag of the tourney, a five fish total of 25.65 pounds, anchored by a 6.75 smallmouth that was big fish for the day. Steve Boris of London, Ontario, won the tournament with over 67 pounds of bass. Big fish of the tournament was caught by Darren Izumi, son of Canadian legend Bob Izumi, with a 7.2 pound fish. Secret to Fonzi’s success was a drop shot rig approach in 18 to 28 feet of water with goby imitation plastics, running about 27 miles to his favorite fishing hole. He attributes his successful runs to his Ranger 621FS Fisherman that handled the 3 and 4 foot waves admirably and his Cabela’s fishing gear that helped him to deal with the adverse conditions.

Lower Niagara River – Sturgeon Caught!

After a lake roll-over resulted in some great bass fishing at the mouth of the river last Sunday (according to Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston), those fish scattered and it was a struggle for anglers fishing in the Lower River Fishing Challenge to benefit Cystic Fibrosis, part of the second annual Charity for Children event held Monday and Tuesday.

Moss is no longer an issue, but finding bass and walleye during the dog days of summer was definitely a “challenge” as the name suggested. The most bass any one person caught was Tim Kolb with 5 on Monday; 7 for Dean Hale on Tuesday. Only a few walleye were caught and trollers that hit the lake did produce some salmon and trout on the Niagara Bar. Top salmon catcher on Monday was Jim Weber of Newfane; Tuesday it was Adam Thomas of Amherst with Beneficial Soil #2 – who also won the individual title for the overall contest with 1,305 points. He was fishing with Capt. Mark “Sparky” McGranahan. In the end for the team title, it was Capt. Jim Gordon of Appleton leading the Team event for Beneficial Soil #1 (Frank D’Amico, Joe Manz and Rick O’Brien) with a total of 3,320 points.

The surprise catch of the contest would have been Gary Hall’s 5 foot sturgeon that he fought for a half-hour before losing it at the side of the boat when the hook came out. Quite a thrill!

The 11th Annual Bass Contest to benefit Independent Living of Niagara County will be held at Fort Niagara and the Three-F Club on August 7. Contact 284-4131 Ext. 146.

Upper Niagara River / Erie Canal – Silver Bass Time

Best fishing has been along the east side of Strawberry Island for smallmouth on crayfish, shiners or tubes. The inside of the Strawberry Island horseshoe has been closed due to nesting bald eagles. Bass action has been consistent, but you can catch sheepshead and silver bass from boat and shore if you are using live bait like crayfish or shiners.

In the Erie Canal, the kids will be flocking to the Wide Waters Marina in Lockport on August 13 from 10 am to 2 pm for a special free derby that is open to the public.

Bill Hilts, Jr., Director, Outdoor Promotions

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Fishing Report: Orleans County, New York Lake Ontario, Lake Alice, Erie Canal for July 28, 2016

There are only a few more days until the end of the Summer LOC Derby this Sunday, but still enough time to enter and win one of the great cash prizes that are up for grabs.

Next up, will be the Orleans County Rotary Derby running from August 6th to the 26th this year.

On Lake Ontario the storms of earlier this week have shaken things up just a bit. Cold water moved to the inside waters causing fish to move out as far as the 30 line. Not sure just how long it will take for conditions to return to more normal, but I suspect it won’t be too long. Even with all of that some great catches are being reported from those outside waters.

On Lake Alice the Crappie bite seems to have slowed a bit fishing from the bridges, but the bass bit is as heavy as ever.

There is still an occasional Walleye being caught, but not with any consistency.

As always, the Erie Canal provides a broad spectrum of fish species for all to enjoy, offering a great place to enjoy all that the canal has to offer.

From Point Breeze on Lake Ontario, the World Fishing Network’s Ultimate Fishing Town USA and the rest of Orleans County. We try to make everyday a great fishing day in Orleans County.

Email: sportfishing@orleansny.com

Old-Timer Walleye-Catching Fish Secrets

Understand Depth and Speed, Control Bait Attraction

Big walleye in big deep waters like those found in eastern basin Lake Erie are not always easy to find, but the fish are there if you know how to approach them and how to keep your bait in the fish zone long enough for the fish to find it. After that, HANG ON!

For many traditional deep water (eastern end) Lake Erie walleye anglers, fishing methods have not changed much. Most of the old timers still prefer to troll than cast or drift, and they troll plugs using any of many longline trolling methods. It’s many of the old timers too, that catch most of the big fish. Go figure!

Their reasons are simple. They understand how to do it and they understand all the variations they think they need to make changes on the fly and be successful. Can it ever get any better than that? Do they ever get stumped and admit it? Answer: yes.

What changes? The savvy anglers who will talk details, many won’t, say it is the fish that seem to change their appetite for the lure type. They share that some old lures still work with regularity – like the floating Rapala taken to the desired depth, but many times, it is the brand new lure designs that simply slay the big numbers of fish and the biggest fish too.

Is it because the fish have not yet seen these lures? Do they have a different, more appealing wiggle? Are the lure makers doing a better job of convincing anglers to use the new lures and therefore they are in the water more and maybe even most of the time? Hard to say, maybe all of those reasons.

Some of the old timers I hang with when I can say they have not changed much except one thing. They use more simple means to get to the depth they want to fish. They use quiet speed control (electric motors) and slow down with the shortest possible line to reach the level that the fish (walleye) are suspended at.

Many still use in-line weight systems, 3-way rigs, and clip-on weights with old-fashioned 14, 17 or 20-pound monofilament line and they will not switch. Why? They are catching fish! They reason this way: they say they know the fish always on some kind of feeding timetable and that time can change from day to day. They shy away from 10-color lead core, 400 foot copper, and similar very long line systems. Why? They’re old and they won’t admit they’re lazy, but they do admit they don’t want to reel in a 10-pound fish for 35 minutes and have to go home because they’re tired. Guess that keeps their logic simple!

This modified Renosky lure is extremely effective when using simple speed and weighting system methods to get the bait to the fish.

So they troll around familiar waters with their familiar sinker-weighted, short-line, systems that harbor eddy currents that attract forage baitfish, then they try to match the shimmer and shake and size and color reflections of the type of baitfish they find there.

If they see suspended baitfish, they may be emerald shiners, smelt, shad or perhaps, there are schools of gobies if they see the bait right down near the bottom. They usually tinker with line deployment and weight-size vs. boat speed to connect with fish before very long.

Trolling lure plug types are usually 3-1/2 inches to 5-1/2 inches long, are usually wobble stickbaits and more often than not, they switch back to an old alternative all walleye anglers know, the spinner/worm. They switch between lowering speed and increasing their in-line weight to get into the fish zone, then let the fish decide on when to feed. They repeat the process with their known alternative baits every 15 minutes or so, one line at a time. They are patient anglers and that usually wins them many fish in the cooler.

Stickbait favorites in the eastern end of Lake Erie and many other larger water bodies include the new Bay Rat lures, new Rapala Shad family of lures, the new color Renosky lures, and the new line of Live Target Lures.

On many sunny days in July with a little riffle on the surface, early in the day fishing right after sunrise will find that lures that reflect shades of purple with any other color seems to be a killer. Many modify their lures and hard-lipped about sharing those secrets, but in the end, they say removing the front treble of 3-hook lures allows for a wider wobble at slower speeds and that this modified action catches more fish than other lures changes. They add a 2-3 inch piece of nightcrawler to the center hook and that allows an even wider wobble at slow speed. If the fish are near bottom, orange color lure pigmentation will often turn the fish on.

Spinner/worm style favorites depend on water temperature. There are the choices of Colorado blades, Indiana blades, turtle blades, willow leaf blades, and many other styles, including one-blade, two-blade and bead size and bead spacing variations, clevis size changes for efficiency and blade rattle (with the beads) that can really make a difference.   All have a purpose. Tight lines.

More on that next time!

Tuning Up for Walleye – Part 4

Be Consistent for Good Walleye Action, Catching the Biggest Fish – Not All Luck, Learn from Winners

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Considering the recent results of many 2016 Lake Erie walleye fishing tournaments in the eastern basin this year, there are some anglers that have really improved their walleye fishing success and their bankroll too!

There are also a handful of anglers that have once again proven that they are masters of understanding the mystical aura of finding large, elusive walleye, no matter what the conditions. They are repeat top-ten walleye fish catchers in many tournaments almost every year.

As an example, some feel that the Southtowns Walleye Association Annual Walleye Tournament is a contest of sheer luck since it involves the mere single objective of catching one single fish that is the heaviest of all when compared to all the rest of the fish caught by everyone else in the tournament. You know, catching just one fish that is big only involves being in the right place at the right time, right? Question there might be, please share – what place is that?

Some folks reason that such contests would be more of a skill measurement if they involved a combined weight of three fish or five fish over the tournament period (9 days), all weighed in aggregate total. They say, that would be more a measure of skill, not luck. Others argue that such tournaments are too long – they should be multiple fish and only three or four days long, it should be a skill tournament, heaviest bag.

In one sense, all of the rationale could be argued one way or the other, but with a one-fish, biggest fish by weight winner, the good logic of the biggest single fish is that just about anyone can win the big money and that allows all who are entered an equal chance. Is it fair? Yes, as long as all the scales in multiple weigh station locations are calibrated and certified to the same standard. Then it would appear to many that this is very fair.

Back to anglers that consistently are in the top 10 or catch multiple heavy fish every year. How do they do that? There is one (complicated) answer to that. They know what they’re doing and they are ready to catch a monster walleye at all times with any of their tackle and on any rod or reel in their boat.

Be Tackle Ready

They are tackle ready. The have sharp hooks. They fish with new leaders. They tie strong knots. They know their rigging options. They have control of their boat. They know how to use their electronics. They have friends that share. All of these things are key elements of their road to repeated success.

Learn About Weather Effects

There are many other things they know too. They know weather and lake conditions that include wind shifts and the sub-surface currents that form, currents that can drive forage to new locations.

They know that sunny days after a cold front are the worst days to fish. The know that the days following a severe wind blow and thunderstorm are the next worse days to fish – and sometimes, the “bad day” can last two or three days.

They know that the best conditions to catch fish are on Lake Erie water that is medium clear to highly clear is with overcast skies and a slightly choppy surface. The good clarity level allows the walleye to see the forage more easily and the surface disruption keeps them feeding longer, sometimes all day, or it seems from my experience.

Understand Fish Movement and Change

They know bottom types such as mud flats, sand, gravel, rock and weed. They know where newborn forage base populations like to feed as they grow and they check these areas consistently.

They know that after a cold front, the walleye usually head for the bottom and stay there. Close mouthed too, but if you’re going to catch them, it will be dragging a line near the bottom with copper or 10-color or three way rigging with contact.

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If you are like most anglers, you think you’re doing all the right things, yet your friend Billy or Joey or Herbie is telling you everything he says he knows, but he is catching lots of fish and you’re not. Do you really trust your friend? Most of us know and do trust our friends, so the question you must answer is why are they catching more than I am?

Does Scent Matter? Yes

The questions are always there, trust me on that one, but the answers and solutions are not really that far behind. Scent is a big deal. Fill your oil and gas reservoirs before you fish? Not good, unless you really get that smell off.

One reason why scent attractants seem to work is that the cover such mistakes, not so much that they attract fish, though there is some truth to the attraction factor too.

You use 20-pound test mono leaders because you think that 20-pound Fluorocarbon doesn’t really make a difference and it costs a lot. With our clear water, these things can often matter. Science has helped us.

Does Boat Noise Matter? Yes

Maybe you are trolling with a 4-stroke and your buddy is trolling with a 2-stroke. They both make lots of underwater noise when the fish are shallow, but the 2-stroke makes less noise. A bow-mounted electric is the quietest and stealthiest, and perhaps, the most effective too, when it comes to catching numbers of fish, but most traditional Lake Erie walleye anglers are trollers with gas motors of one sort or another.

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You can see walleyes all over the place and yet, you can’t hook any. If there is a fresh mayfly hatch going on, that’s why. Walleye are opportunists and they feed on whatever is in abundance. You have to put available food resources in your planning when you prepare to fish for the win.

Know the Food Options

Eastern basin Lake Erie forage includes emerald shiners, smelt, shad, gobies and yellow perch. Lure color and actions that imitate these are what you’ll need. Size variations too.

Interestingly, most of the winningest anglers will all share that they have one hot lure or one hot color. Studies show that walleye see orange, yellow and green the best in deep waters, this is not a physics function, it is a walleye sensitivity function.

Sometimes a spinner/worm rig catches all the fish and you have three of them, but only one of those three are doing the job. Why? It could be flicker, flutter, and balance, bend in the blade – hard to tell, but look for these differences.

Lastly, sooner or later, you will have one of these “hot lures” or your friend will shed his curtain and tell you what he is doing exactly. Until that happens, just pay attention to some of the ideas mentioned earlier. Discover your own trail to big fish.

Take Notes, Study Them

Take notes. It helps when you look back on them. Talk to anglers at the dock. Did they go east, west, how deep, how fast did they troll, what kind of rig did they like using? Ask and learn. Add what they share to your own arsenal of knowledge and be strong to share what you know too.

Some anglers have learned the rules of their fishing own fishing road. They know where the turns are. They modify as they need to. They adjust to win and they remember what they did for next time and next year.

Learn to Love Fishing and Sharing

Learning, sharing, winning some cash too. That’s what makes fishing one-fish contests the fun it is. If it’s a skill or luck tournament for you, no matter. Are you enjoying your time on the water and at the dock, and at the weigh station and the fish cleaning station? Let’s face it, most anglers are not pro anglers, but a simple cash purse can make it seem so.

For most of us, fishing is about fun, especially when your name appears in the top 200. Get a notebook, take some notes!

Good luck on the water!

Tuning Up for Summer Walleye – Part 2

Find the Forage, Match Your Lure, Catch Fish!

Bob Rustowicz has been a tournament winning angler for many decades- he fishes hard and often, following bait schools near his favorite fishing areas in Eastern Basin Lake Erie. This 11.42 pound walleye is currently leading the 32nd Annual Southtowns Walleye Association Tournament.

When tournament anglers travel to a waterway that they know, it is often a brand new ball game because everything changes week to week.  Sometimes it’s better not to know the waterway, that way you can’t make the same mistakes by fishing the same way you did last time when you caught fish and now, the conditions are changed.  Bad habits can cause bad fishing days, of course, we all know there are no days that are actually bad days to be out fishing!

You may know where the creek beds and the sunken roads are in reservoir lakes, the offshore shoals and reefs in natural lakes – maps can tell you that too, but it’s the other variables that affect forage location.  Where the forage schools are controls where the predator fish are and what they will strike.  As you choose your lures, this is a big key to catching fish.

Plain and simple, walleye like to eat.  As waters warm, they eat often.  Their metabolism rises and they have no choice, so they stay close to forage school locations.  As anglers, it is up to us to understand how the wind direction and water temperature changes affect the forage.  It pays to know as many details as possible about the forage community.  What types of forage live in the waterway?

On Lake Erie, the deep eastern basin off New York and Pennsylvania offers many forage types, but the primary forage are emerald shiners, rainbow smelt, yellow perch and round goby.  The walleye will key on whichever species has the most abundance where the walleye are located.

Walleye favorites in Lake Erie are the emerald shiners and smelt, so angler lures that mimic those forage types – when those forage types are available, are usually taking fish to the boat.

Usually, the smaller walleye key on the emerald shiner minnows, the larger walleye key on the longer and heavier smelt, but when or the other is in low supply, the fish switch in favor of abundance.  When these two forage are hard to find, the walleye move toward shore into shallower waters and key on the yellow perch.  Again, the walleye locations vary with forage density locations.

So while I am not a biologist, I have been fishing out there for nearly seven decades and have learned from the best of the best anglers.  Today, we have so much equipment to help us cheat fair out there, since it now largely a matter of who can afford the best equipment to catch fish with science and technology helping us figure out where the forage is.  We can monitor, water temperature, wind speed, water current, boat speed, oxygen content and Ph to narrow down where we fish any length of time.

To simplify, watch your graph, study the wind and wave weather maps – the resulting current eddy’s control the flow of phytoplankton and photoplankton. The young of the year emerald shiner and smelt nursery schools feed on these the larger forage is never too far from them.  The walleye are nearby.

The wind maps can be found here: http://www.coastwatch.msu.edu/erie/e3.html.

Wind maps and lake current maps are available for all the Great Lakes at this link sector.  These maps help you locate the surface temperature of interest and help you figure out where the forage are located in their highest density.

Rig up your preferred fishing tackle, just allow for adjusting to the baitfish that you locate to catch fish.  As we transition into summer, the temperature cycles have been fluctuating and the wind shifts the lake currents topsy-turvy, often causing short duration turnovers.  When you leave the dock and head out about a mile or so, check the water temp.  If it’s 45, turn around and go fish somewhere else.  Or, head out about 15 miles to get to the other edge of the thermal break.

Match the hatch is the key rule.  Mimic the forage.  New model lures always seem to catch more fish than old stuff for some reason.  Are the fish educated?  Nope.  It’s just that they seem to always slam new baits, new colors, new sizes better than old stuff.  Can the old stuff still work? Sure it can, but sometimes only on those days when the fish are really gorging themselves.  Funny how that works.

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So I am always trying new lures. The new effective lures from my end include those that look like smelt.  This one from Live-Target Lures simulates an elongated school of baitfish.  I really like it, especially when it’s working!  It’s ideal when walleye are feeding on small baitfish, has a wide body profile, two hook or three hook design dependent on size, it suspends and is silent.  The EBB90S in pearl/olive (color 801) is a 5/16 ounce suspending lure, 3-1/2 inch long that will dive 3-4feet.  It has two hooks in size 4.  The EBB115S is a 4-1/2 inch model and has three hooks in size 6.

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Another of the new lures that has met with recent success is this one from Rapala.  Another of the newbies that has attracted some of the country’s best anglers for many species is the Rapala Shadow Rap (SDR11MBS).  This lure works best when there are also gizzard shad in the forage mix, as sometimes happens here in WNY in spring.  It has flatter sides and offers a swimming minnow action, has a rattle, will suspend and stay there, a very effective lure to cast or troll, especially when fished as a jerk bait.  The moss back shiner color has been my favorite here.  It runs just 2 to 4 feet deep, but works well off the boards with weight or a diving plan or 3-color lead core for the June timeframe.

These lure types are also offered in deeper diving models if you prefer to fish without lead core or weights as the fish head out deeper.

In the Southtowns Walleye Association Tournament on Lake Erie’s eastern basin, the largest fish so far include (June 13th) for first place: 11.42 lbs, second: 10.72, third: 10.51 lbs.  For the junior anglers under 16, first place is 9.52 lbs, second is 7.80 and third is 7.75.    Bob Rustowicz is leading with the big fish.

Tight lines!

Tuning Up for Summer Walleye – Part 1

Lure control, line control and depth control – an Evolution

Finding the fish is only half the battle, now you need to catch them, AND you need to catch the biggest fish to win if you are in a contest. How to do that is part of this series.

Provoking fish to strike even when they are not hungry, that is what wins tournaments.  Veteran anglers that catch their fill of fish on each trip know that finding hungry fish is one approach, but provoking fish to strike will catch fish almost anytime.  Lure control, line control and depth control will help you get there.

The “good lure – bad lure trail” starts a long time ago, in the 70’s.  Crankbait lure manufacturers learned how to mold plastics, imbed hook-holding points, add colors and modify actions to control wobble, wiggle, shake-frequency and other features yet to be defined at the time.

There were also the old cedar, balsa and other wooden lures, which at the time were often not as reliable to keep hooks from pulling out.  The old balsa Rapala’s were the exception and were always a front row seller.  The old lures were all beautiful and traditional, but they didn’t hold up like the plastic lures.

The plastic lures didn’t need to be repainted either, because they had built-in color and internal fish-like markings.  If you remember the term “plastics” from the movie “The Graduate”, it changed the world of the movie actor in the movie, it also really forever changed the world of fishing too.  That’s progress.

In 1973 in Elma, New York, I met master angler, Russ Johnson.  He had learned how to catch fish with plastic lures like no other man alive – that I knew, no other man except, maybe, Buck Perry, the king of controlled depth fishing lures.  A humble man through all of his fish-catching success, Johnson was willing and able to share what he had learned, or I should say, what he invented – because he was the Eastern Basin Lake Erie leading edge fishing technologist back then, with anyone that would venture to ask “how do you do it?”

Even during the hottest of summer seasons, this guy always his limit of walleye or bass, whichever species he was fishing for.

About that same time, the Lowrance “green box” depth sounder brought electronics into the fishing world and “hi tech” had started that new journey for many of us.  It would be a journey into the once very placid world of fishing secrets and hand-me-down traditions for “secret spots”, to another trail, a process for finding fish every time you fish with gadgets that help you see them.  That trail for learning was set!  Except, even if you found the fish, you might find like anglers do today quite often, they just would not bite! You still need to provoke fish to strike to catch them ALL THE TIME.

Finding the right lures to use is based on YOUR EXPERIENCE to understand HOW-TO-TUNE those lures so they deliver their MAXIMUM APPEAL where you place them for fish to see, or for fish to be provoked by, those lures when they are performing during your fishing time on the water. A lure in the right color, but not performing well is ineffective!

Johnson learned to use the new electronics and incorporate it with his fine points of controlling lure action, lure depth and how to eliminate fishless water way before anyone ever wrote about it.  His fish coolers were always open because the fish he caught were so big and so many in count, the coolers were too small!  No joke!

Today, he is in his 80’s and spends much of his time with a similarly aged angler, Bob Carlson, teaching youngsters how to tie proper fishing knots.  When he fishes, he is so good today that catch and release is his common practice because we know better now – you can deplete the fishery.

His favorite lure for catching walleye and bass back then was a Rebel Deep Wee-R, but there was more to it than just using that lure model.  Johnson also controlled his fishing line (diameter size), the lure color, rod length and rod action (resonating parabolics matched with lure type and boat trolling speed), his fishing reel (calibrated for distance deployed by cross-feed revolutions – feet per cross-feed, today we have line counters…much easier), and the boat speed.

There was also the not-so-small matter of his fishing knot and the size of the snap-swivel he attached between the line and the lure.  While Johnson is slowing down a bit today, he uses – to this day, a Palomar knot with a size-2 ball-bearing snap-swivel.  Johnson had fishing down to a science before anyone else called it “the science of fishing”.

The real trick?  First, tuning the lure.  He advised me from the first day, “Never tune any lure from the boat.  Too much swish from the boat that affects the lure action and it will be tuned improperly.  Get to a swimming pool, turn off the filter, cast it out to the other side and then tune it there.”  Of course, you had to first add the snap-swivel and proper knot, trimmed to the shank – so no overlap of the end loop, then after the cast, using a Garcia Mitchell Ambassador 6000, a level wind reel with a cross-feed line pickup, cast it to the other side of the pool and reel it back starting at about 2 miles per hour.

Johnson would say, “Get it running about straight down first, then turn up the speed to 5 miles per hour, that’s about as fast as you can crank with a 6.3 to 1 ratio bait casting reel.  Fine tune the front eye of the lure, but also tune the underside wire hook holders molded right into the plastic – they matter! ”

When you got this technique all set up right, a lure advertised to run 10 to 12 feet down would hit the bottom in 25 feet of water when it was trolled at 2.5 miles per hour and run 125 feet behind the boat with 8-pound Trilene XT monofilament fishing line.  Add thinner 10-pound Fireline today and they go much deeper!

Adjust the line length or the boat speed to modify depth and distance down.  Johnson had a little green book where he kept all his “speed trolling notes”.  Johnson proved that in virtually any body of water, he could devastate any big fish population in a matter of hours, catching mostly the biggest fish.  He controlled all the variables before us modern day anglers called them “variables”.

What Johnson learned all by himself and what he shared with a few lucky angler fishing folks, including me, is more or less common knowledge today.  One thing I know for sure, many anglers don’t heed what they have learned even on their own time within their own domain of fishing experience.  Especially true during tournament time.  He kept a logbook, great advice for every angler – keep a logbook!

Next week starting on June 11, 2016, the biggest amateur walleye association in North America – the Southtowns Walleye Association, will take to Lake Erie to fish for nine straight days looking for the single biggest fish to bring to the scales.  More than 1,000 anglers will seek to find the biggest tournament fish in eastern basin Lake Erie for the largest cash prize – This is a $35,000 tournament!  To check in or sign up, visit: http://www.southtownswalleye.com/tournament.

Getting to the winners circle is never easy, but it is possible for anglers who do learn how to control their variables best. Luck still matters, improving your luck depends more on you.

During the spring to summer transition, when colder water lingers into June, the biggest fish seem to come from the Dunkirk and Barcelona sector.  Then again, the Buffalo to Sturgeon Point fishing zone has yielded many 14 pound monster walleye too.  Finding that big fish and getting it (her) to strike your lure is the challenge.  That’s where the skill of anglers that understand how to search for schooling walleye and that singular local big walleye will play into finding the winners circle.

Use modern tackle, including planer boards, to get the lure away from the noise of your boat will help.  Don’t be afraid to start experimenting.  Change one thing at a time until you find the winning combination; add weight, change lures, colors, troll speed and line trail distances until a fish is caught.  Then switch all lines to that combination and prepare to get sore arms.  It works that way on the good days!

Pray for some good fishing days!  If you happen to be on VHF Channel 68, give a shout to “Baby Bear”, that would be me.  If I’m catching, I’ll share information on where I’m not!

Tune your lures first, keep track of the important things you discover in your logbook.

Wishing everyone who drops a line fishing anywhere in North America the best of good days out there and the best of good luck.

Polovick Lightning Strikes Twice in Lake Ontario

Master Angler Wins Second Grand Prize, says, “Timing is Everything!”

Marty Polovick of Lockport, New York, believes that lightning CAN strike twice in the same spot, that is, as far as winning the Grand Prize in the Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derbies and his fishing rod is concerned.

Polovick won his second Grand Prize, this time in the spring contest held May 6-15, 2016, by reeling in a 26 pound, four ounce king salmon to take the $15,000 top prize.  He also earned an extra $500 for big fish of the day and a check for $1,000 by catching the largest salmon by a Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Assn. (LOTSA) member.  He had previously won a Grand Prize in the 2011 Summer Derby with a 36 pound, 14 ounce king.

On the final weekend of the derby, the weather forecast wasn’t pretty.  They were calling for high winds on the lake Saturday, but not until after 11 am or so.  The crew of Doug Parker of Lockport; Matt Dunn of Newfane; and Matt’s father, Marc Dunn of Lockport along with Polovick boarded Matt’s 27-foot Tiara aptly named “Streaker” out of Bootleggers Cove in Wilson.  The water was flat early in the morning and they headed west to an area off Six Mile Creek where they boated three nice salmon in the high teens.  Using an 8-inch Dreamweaver Spindoctor (white glow and green dots) rigged with a white John King Baithead with a piece of Crowes Cut Bait, they put their downrigger on the bottom in 100 to 110 feet of water.  The fish hit between 8:30 and 9 am, taking Polovick about 20 minutes to reel the king to the boat.  When they hoisted the fish up onto the handheld scale, it was heavier than they thought so they pulled lines and ran into port to weigh their prize catch at Bootleggers.  By the time they finished up weighing in the new leader and filling out the paperwork, it was too rough to go back out into the lake.  Timing is everything.  It’s interesting to note that Parker, Dunn and Dunn tagged teamed to tie for the Grand Prize in the spring of 2014, but the timing was off by a week. They had to settle for first place in the Salmon Division. Again, it was that timing thing…but this time they got it right. They will split the cash up equally between the four of them.

“It was a team effort all the way around,” said Polovick who is no stranger around local Niagara County fishing circles. He is active with LOTSA, serving on its Board of Directors. “We also won this for Pat Comerford of East Aurora who passed away earlier this year. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him as a mentor and fellow fisherman.” Pat was also a previous LOC Derby winner. Unfortunately, sometimes time is too short.

First place in the Salmon Division was Tracy Lindsay of Seneca Falls, NY with a 25 pound, four once king caught opening weekend, May 7. He was fishing with Capt. Scott Fletcher of Kings Ferry, NY aboard his 25 foot Starcraft named “Blue Moon”; and friends Eric Carlson of North Syracuse and Steve Fiorello of Liverpool, NY. Lindsay won the $2,000 first place prize plus big fish of the day at $500.

“We were fishing west of Wilson about two miles during the Wilson Harbor Invitational Tournament,” said Lindsay at the Awards Ceremony. “We were using a Michigan Stinger “42nd Spoon” working a double header at 7 am. Our downrigger was 130 feet down over 180 feet of water. Twenty minutes later we boated the big fish. It helped us to place second in the WHI, too.” He hopes to use some of the winning proceeds for a new deck at home.

In the Brown Trout Division, Ryan Massey of Oriskany Falls, NY was fishing with Capt. Dave Wilson of Oswego aboard the captain’s 28-foot Baha named “Spankmayer.” Also on board was Ryan’s nine year old son, Aidan, and a couple of buddies from Vermont (Steve and Dave). On the first Saturday, they were fishing east of Oswego when they hooked into a nice fish at 7:45 am. They had been using Otter boards and placed a Smithwick stickbait in blue and silver about 100 feet back of the board. Less than 10 minutes later, they were netting his 16 pound, two ounce brownie.

“It wasn’t the biggest brown that I’ve ever caught, though,” said Massey. “The biggest I ever caught was one better than this one … but I wasn’t in the derby. I would have won. Now the rule is for everyone in the boat to be in the derby and it finally paid off.”

Second place brown trout was a 15 pound, seven ounce fish that was hauled in by Mike Spinelli of Rochester. To go with the whole “timing” theme, he caught is fish the final day of the derby in Irondequoit Bay – because the lake was too rough from high winds.

“I was fishing with Steve Greive of Irondequoit and Dave Allison of Greece aboard Steve’s 25-foot Sea Ray named ‘Skamaniac.’ I knew there were browns in the bay, so we just trolled around with a chartreuse Rebel Fastrac 100 feet behind the board and we hit the fish over 60 feet of water. It only took about five minutes to bring the fish in.”

Greive also had a fish on the board, a 15th place brown at 11 pounds, four ounces; and Spinelli also helped David McGowam of Rush, NY with a, 11th place fish – a 12 pound, eight ouncer caught off Mike’s boat. Both of those fish were caught in the lake.

The lucky Laker Taker was no stranger to the winner’s circle either. Patrick Barber of Niagara Falls was fishing with his brother Richard (also from Niagara Falls) on Friday the 13th. While trolling the Niagara Bar off the mouth of the famed Niagara River aboard the infamous “Killer B’s” Crestliner, the duo was starting to face rough conditions on the lake. Dick wanted to go in. As he started to pull rods, the 27 pound, 8 ounce fork tail hit their chartreuse holographic Kwikfish rigged with Hammerhead cowbells. “And this time my brother was able to net it successfully!” That’s another story for another time.

Richard placed fourth in the spring contest with a 21 pound, six ounce lake trout. All told, their derby winnings are over $80,000 now for the “Killer B’s” fishing squad. It was weighed in at Creek Road Bait and Tackle, a new last minute addition for the spring to save the day in the weigh station department.

Second place lake trout was a 25 pound, 11 ounce fish out-fought by Robert Batchelder of West Burke, Vermont. He was fishing out of Wilson with Norm Paquette of Lyndonville, VT (aboard Norm’s 24-foot Thompson named “Care Free”); Richard Rice of Sutton, VT; and Michael Rice of Lyndonville, VT. They were trolling a flasher-fly rig west of Wilson about half way to the Niagara Bar, 135 feet down over 150 feet of water on the downrigger, when the fish hit on May 10 at 7:15 am. “We use to fish with a friend who made his own ‘Harris’ fly – green, yellow and white with sparkles – behind an E-Chip flasher that was green and white. That’s what we used this time. It was the biggest laker of my life and it came at a good time.” Timing is everything.

Top Youth Lake Trout was a 13 pound, 12 ounce fish reeled in by Zachary Enos of Canandaigua. He “caught it in Lake Ontario” according to his expert testimony, weighed in at Hughes Marina in Williamson.

In the Walleye Division, Tim Farmer of Dexter led the pack with an 11 pound 14 ounce fish from Chaumont Bay off Jefferson County. He was fishing with his sons, Paul and Richard, as well as Jan Coburn of Henderson on the opening day of walleye season, May 7. They were fishing out of the “Lucky Lund,” a 19 footer that does them well. The elder Farmer, a charter captain for over 30 years, attributes his success to the “luck of the Irish … and being at the right place at the right time.” In addition, his mom had passed away around St. Patty’s Day this year and it could have been a little gift from above.

“I like fishing worm harnesses and tried to get the boys to put one out that afternoon,” said Farmer. “They finally listened to me and we put a blue and silver Northland Bait worm harness out 100 feet back from the board. Our next fish was the winner. We thought it was a pike when it hit. This was a proud moment with my boys.” Speaking of the sons, they also place high in the contest, finishing in third and fifth with an 11 pound, six ounce and a 10 pound, 13 ounce fish respectively. They have also placed in the top two in the Walleye Division four times previously, winning twice.

Sometimes the timing is off just a little bit, like Dan Peschler of Pulaski can attest. He weighed in an 11 pound, 14 ounce walleye the day after Farmer’s catch with a fish of the same weight. First angler in to the scales is the tie-breaker. Peschler was fishing with Robert Holdsworth of Pennsylvania at 2 am in Oswego Harbor and his fishing partner was sleeping aboard Peschler’s 16-foot Mini-Fish Magnet, a DuraNautic. The walleye hit a black and silver Smithwick lure trolled 50 feet behind a mini-Off Shore board over eight feet of water. Peschler is another regular in the winner’s circle.

Jared DiFrancesco of Baldwinsville took home the youth trophy in the walleye division with a nine pound, three ounce fish. “We were fishing in 20 to 30 feet of water using planer boards,” the 14-year-old youngster said. “During the week we fished there were a lot of snags. We lost nine lures.”

His lunker walleye was caught on May 8th around 4 pm in the afternoon. The youngster was fishing with his father and Tony Chatt of West Monroe, last year’s Lake Ontario Pro-Am Challenge Cup winner with “Five More Minutes.” The winning fish took a Smithwick stickbait. It was weighed in at Woody’s Tackle in Pulaski. DiFrancesco is a ninth grade student at Durgee Junior High School and plays soccer and is on the track team. Asked if fishing, soccer, and track are his favorite sports the youngster quipped, “No… messing around is my favorite.”

Next up on the LOC Derby calendar is the Summer Derby, set for July 1-31. The Fall Derby is slated for August 19-September 5, 2016. For a complete leaderboard for the spring contest go to www.loc.org.

2016 Lake Erie Sport Fishing Outlook Once Again Good News for Anglers

Photo by Forrest Fisher

Western Basin Lake Erie News – Walleye and yellow perch bag limits announced

COLUMBUS, OH / Ohio DNR– Lake Erie anglers should experience another year of diverse fishing opportunities in 2016, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system that involves Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. Each jurisdiction regulates its catches to comply with quotas and minimize the risk of over-fishing these species. Quotas for the upcoming fishing season are determined through consensus agreement by these jurisdictions through the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which were just recently announced for 2016.

As a result of the 2016 quota allocation, the walleye daily bag limit is four, and the yellow perch daily bag limit is 30 per angler in Ohio waters of Lake Erie until April 30. The daily bag limit will be six walleye from May 1 through Feb. 28, 2017. From March 1, 2017 through April 30, 2017, the daily walleye bag limit will be four. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season for walleye. The yellow perch daily bag limit will be 30 from May 1 through April 30, 2017, with no minimum size limit. Lake Erie anglers can find walleye and yellow perch bag limit information at ODNR offices, in special publications at bait and tackle shops and at wildohio.gov.

Walleye
Ohio walleye anglers will catch fish mostly from the 2014 and 2013 hatches, with some fish from the 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 year classes. Additional fish from 2007 and 2003 will also be harvested by anglers. Walleye from the average 2014 hatch will range from 15-18 inches, while walleye from the 2013 hatch will be between 16-20 inches. Fish from the 2003 and 2007 hatches are likely to carry most of the Central Basin fisheries, and a good number of these walleye will be over the 26-inch range. Large walleye from strong hatch in 2003 will continue to provide “Fish Ohio” opportunities (greater than 28 inches), with this year class nearing the size that may give Ohio a new state record walleye. Additionally, in 2016, anglers should see a number of smaller (less than 15 inches) fish from the excellent 2015 hatch. Anglers are reminded of the 15-inch minimum size limit and encouraged to release these fish with as little handling as possible so they can contribute to the fisheries in future years.

Yellow Perch
Expect good perch fishing in 2016, with improving numbers of fish in the Western Basin and the largest fish in the eastern areas of the Central Basin. Perch anglers should encounter fish ranging from 7 to 13 inches from the 2014 through 2008 hatches this year, with major contributions from the 2014, 2011 and 2008 year classes. Fish from the average-to-better hatches in 2007 will contribute fish in the 10-plus inch range. “In 2015, yellow perch fisheries flourished in the eastern portions of Ohio’s Lake Erie, and we expect this trend to continue into 2016,” said Tyson.

Black Bass
Smallmouth bass fishing in 2016 is expected to be fair but improving. Smallmouth bass catch rates decreased in 2015, when compared to 2014, but are still the highest observed since the mid-1990s. Smallmouth bass should be an excellent size (14 to 22 inches and weighing up to six pounds). The best fishing for smallmouth bass will continue to be in areas with good bottom structure, which is the available habitat across much of the entire Ohio nearshore and islands. Continuing the trend from previous years, largemouth bass fishing should be excellent in 2016. This emerging fishery is producing high catch rates and some large fish in nearshore areas and harbors across Ohio’s Lake Erie. All black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released from May 1 through June 24. Beginning June 25, the daily bag limit for bass will be five, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.

Steelhead
Steelhead anglers should enjoy another year of great fishing in 2016 in Ohio’s Lake Erie open waters and in tributaries. Peak summer steelhead action on Lake Erie can be found offshore from June through August between Vermilion and Conneaut, with catches measuring 17 to 29 inches. Most Lake Erie anglers troll for steelhead in deep waters using spoons with divers or downriggers until fish move close to shore in the fall. The daily bag limit remains at five fish per angler from May 16 through Aug. 31, and two fish per angler between Sept. 1 and May 15, 2017. A 12-inch minimum size limit is in effect throughout the year.

White Bass
White bass continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The 2016 catch will be dominated by fish from the 2012 and 2010 year classes. A few fish from the 2007 hatch could be as large as 16 inches. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and nearshore areas of the open lake during the summer. There is no white bass daily bag limit or size limit.

Other Species 
Bays, harbors and main lake shorelines offer excellent fishing for panfish, as well as occasional northern pike and muskellunge in vegetated areas.

Anglers are reminded that fishing conditions on Lake Erie can change hourly, and adjustments are often necessary to improve success. Anglers should take into account factors such as water temperature, cloud cover, water clarity, boat traffic, wave action, structure, currents and the amount of baitfish in the area. Anglers are also reminded to carefully monitor Lake Erie weather and to seek safe harbor before storms approach.

Updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available at wildohio.gov or by calling 888-HOOKFISH (888-466-5347). Information is available from ODNR Division of Wildlife staff from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Fairport Harbor station (440-352-4199) for the Central Basin and at Sandusky Station (419-625-8062) for the Western Basin.

Information on the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, fishing reports, maps and links to other Lake Erie web resources are available at wildohio.gov.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.

Walleye Tamer and Culinary Champion, Cameron Tait, Shares Walleye Catching Secrets – Vertical Jigging

Kamooki Smart-Craw Vertical Jigging Lure

World class culinary master, Cameron Tait, not only teaches others how to cook their wild fish and seafood, but he is also an amazing angler that has experienced success fishing for walleye all over North America.

ReelBait Flasher Jig

In this session, Cameron Tait is sharing his favorite vertical jigging lures for walleye on Lake Winnipeg in Canada, but these baits are also perfect for enticing the same fish right after first ice out, all across North America.  That means, keep these in mind to try out in the next few days and weeks, and again in fall as waters chill before ice-up.

Tait’s fish-catching expertise relies on some of the brands and gear that many of us have, but hearing about these lures first-hand is key to compete understanding.  St. Croix rods, braided gel-spun line (6-lb), with specific favorite lures from ReelBait (Flasher Jig), Kamooki (Smart-Craw), Freedom (Jigging Minnow), Yozuri and LiveTarget are a Tait’s favorites.

Live Target Jigging Lure
Freedom Minnow Jigging Spoon

REELBAIT Flasher jigs embody some of the legendary original Walleye Flasher Jig characteristics, but are refined with a few cosmetic tweaks and color schemes, combining the best attributes of the horse-head jig and the stand-up jig to produce perfect fish-catching vibration and flash. The fluttering willow-leaf blade imitates a small dying baitfish.

Lastly, a new tool that is finding its way into everyone’s tackle bag is the Kuda Pliers that feature a titanium finish and have a cutter sharp enough for cutting braided line on the first try.

Secret to Icing Reluctant Walleyes

Are they biting light? Turn ’em on with these teasing tactics

reluctantwalleyes1

When a big fish shows up on your sonar screen, there’s a natural tendency to drop your lure in front of its face. But trying to make it easy for a fish to bite rarely works. So how do you get the fish to bite? By making it harder for them! If you understand the species you’re targeting, you can trigger their predatory urges by tempting, teasing and goading them into attacking your bait.

Since walleye are the largest North American member of the perch family, you’d think you could fire up a school by using the same teasing tactics that work on yellow perch (coming soon!), but that’s rarely the case. Maybe it’s because perch are more gregarious and huddle together in greater numbers, so their competitive instincts are that more intense. Or it could be that yellow perch just aren’t the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree. I suspect it’s a blend of the two.

That said, I will use the same larger lures for walleye that I use for aggressive perch: W3 Jigging Raps and W30 Warblers (but tipped with minnow heads) and ¼-ounce Freedom Minnows. I’ll also use a fluorescent orange or chartreuse/orange ¼-ounce ReelBait Flasher Jig tipped with a lively minnow, and a lipless crankbait such as the Kamooki Smartfish (below), LiveTarget Shad or Rapala Rippin’ Rap.

reluctantwalleyes2

When I can’t see any walleye on the sonar screen, I’ll drop one of these baits to within a foot or two of the bottom and pause for 10 seconds. Then I’ll pop it up briskly and pause for another 10 seconds before letting it fall back down to repeat the process.

The thing you always have to remember when ice fishing for walleye is that your presentation consists of two very distinct phases: attraction and triggering. You jig your lure to attract the fish, then trigger them into biting by teasing them.

reluctantwalleyes3
Bay of Quinte Gold in Ontario for Bob Rustowicz of Western New York! From this past Saturday (January 30, 2016), Rustowicz warns, “Last of the safe ice up there, above freezing temps next 4 days and longer daylight hours will end the ice season there, for now.”

The problem is, you can never count on walleye to do anything consistently. Sometimes when you’re lifting and shaking your lure as if you’ve had too much coffee, one fish will rush in and smack it without hesitation. But then two minutes later, you’ll have to tease the next fish forever to entice a bite. Consider that there may be a solution! Click below to check it out.

http://www.outdoorcanada.ca/Ice-fishing_Friday_The_secret_to_icing_reluctant_walleyes