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Rod, Gun, and Game: Walleye action fast and furious

Fishing with granddad Charter Captain Don Walter aboard Eerie-Eyes Sportfishing, 8-year old grandson, Ben DiLullo, and his two brothers (Joey and Sam) enjoyed catching walleye and trout last Sunday afternoon on Lake Erie near Brocton Shoal.
For the second time in the last five years, walleye anglers looking for big fish and lots of fish have usually hooked up their boat rigs with rods, reels, assorted baits and two large coffee cups of determination, then set course down the NYS Thruway for Barcelona Harbor. The big fish have usually been there, except this year — the walleye schools are spread out off Barcelona.

Several northeasterly wind storms through the early to middle part of June and July, too, are receiving the fickle finger of angler blame.

Those anglers in the know say this sustained wind direction inverted the lake a few times and may have caused the big walleye schools to swing away from the New York shoreline and “go around” Barcelona waters while still swimming east from Ohio waters. This makes sense, as most walleye anglers have learned that the largest number of daily limit walleye catches and big fish too, are coming 25 to 35 feet down from between the Buffalo departure buoy and the mid-lake waters off Point Breeze.

Walleyes on the feed are spitting up smelt into coolers, indicating this is a good year for this forage species. Lots of natural bait usually makes catching fish more difficult, but it seems there are so many walleye in relatively wide schools that all lures seem to be working for many anglers.

Smelt-sized lures such as the five-inch long shallow-running Renosky in the chrome Crystalina finish hot colors of leopard, pink lemonade or silver chameleon have been popular for anglers catching fish, as have other shallow running baits such as the new Rapala “mad flash” and baits from a decade ago such as the Long-A bomber lures. Some anglers remove the front hook from the Renosky baits to add a wider wobble to the lure, others also add a half-nightcrawler to the middle or tail hook for more attraction, while many anglers add no worm at all and catch as many or more fish.

Other than stickbaits, spinner worm combinations have also caught the lion’s share of fish, with the hatchet blade style spinners leading the pack for effective fish catchers in orange/black, purple/black, pink/green bead colors.

Best fishing has historically been from sunrise thru the early morning hours when many fish are on the feed, but anglers this year report their best catches are happening during walleye banker hours from 10 a.m. through noon.

Dave Dart, an avid walleye angler that seems to catch more fish than some charter boat operations, has been fishing with his grandson, accessing Lake Erie from the Cattaraugus Creek boat launch. Dart warns that the water depth in the creek is “very low” and for anglers in boats to make sure they are trimmed up to avoid damaging their motor units.

The humble Dart heads his boat out toward the middle of the lake, heading due north or so, then drops lines to reach the fish at about 35 feet down in 70 to 80 feet of water using a variety of methods, including old-fashioned monofilament line and snap weight systems that seem to be working right now. He likes to fish spinner and worm rigs and says it is best to keep it simple.

Charter Captain Jim Tunney of Looney Tunes Sportfishing reports that he has found the big schools of fish. Tunney hooked up with more than 20 walleye during a recent charter last Sunday, but important to know that not everyone around Tunney was catching fish. There may still be one or two secrets out there worth learning about.

When you see folks nearby consistently pulling in fish, and not you, then you need to make a change. If you are running big planer boards or in-line boards, lead core line or not, or spinner/worm (meat rigs) lures or stickbaits, realize what is out on your lines and check them for weeds, change them up, switch location and make a change to zone in with the local preferences of the moment and day.

I been fortunate to spend some time on the water with several charter captain folks in the last few weeks and was amazed that so many of them are still using old fashioned methods! Big side-planer boards with 17-pound monofilament line and clip-on weights from one to seven ounces.

Asked about this, Captain Don Walter of Eerie Eyes Sportfishing says, “let’s face it, the simple objective is to get the lines down to the desired depth any way you can. New marketing methods show us new ways to do that with equipment most of us don’t have, that’s their business.”

Walter adds, “The old methods still work though. Some folks use 6-color leadcore line, some use monofilament line and clip-on weights with 50 feet out to the clip and 50 feet or more back to the board, others run specialty lures, others run dipsy-divers, mini-disks, side-planers and slip-divers. It really doesn’t matter, but you need to fix yourself on one method and learn it, learn how to modify it, adjust it and really fine-tune it to where the fish are for any day you might be fishing.”

I fished with Captain Walters aboard his comfortable 24-foot Thompson boat, as my grandson and his grandsons were the benefactors of his fish-catching set-ups on the water. It included an assortment of eight white perch, silver bass and yellow perch, and one seven-pound brown trout. To contact Captain Walters, call 753-07874 or visit eerie-eyes Sportfishing.com. For other safety-rated Lake Erie fishing charters, visit the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Fishing Boat Association at elecba.homestead.com/members.html.

Outdoors Calendar

July 25: Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, monthly meeting, outdoor issues & regulations, fishing – hunting reports, meet at Niagara River Station, Grand Island, 7 pm, call 440-6995.

July 27: NYS Archery Certification class, Southtowns Walleye, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 8am-6pm, call 627-0147 to register.

July 27: Sunset Bay Walleye Shoot-Out, Lake Erie at Sunset Bay, 6 fish/day for 1 day, email capt.donr@yahoo.com or call Bob Rustowicz at 830-6394.

July 29/Aug 2/9: NYS Hunter Safety Certification Course, Wood & Brook Sportsmen, 13721 Genesee St., Alden, Register July 29 at first Class at 7 pm.

July 31: 3D Archery Shoot, East Aurora Fish & Game, 1016 Luther Rd., East Aurora, 5 pm start, unlimited shooting, target bunks, open to public, call Nadine at 982-7069.

Aug. 1: 3D Archery Shoot, West Falls Conservation Society, 15 targets, 4 pm start, unlimited shooting, call Mike at 655-5030.

Aug. 2-4: Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Walleye Derby, Dunkirk Harbor, NY, 3 fish/day for 3 days, call Zen Olaw at 640-2776.

Aug. 4: NYS pistol permit class, Evans Rod & Gun Club, 864 Cain Rd., Evans, 9AM – 12 noon, call Jerry at 716-549-7251.

Send outdoor events 10 days in advance to nugdor@yahoo.com.


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