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Rod, Gun & Game: Sturgeon Point boat launch mayhem

Anglers and recreational boaters alike showed patience and poise during crowded launch and retrieve activities with their boats last Sunday, another measure of inadequate access and overcrowded marina facilities in Western New York. (Photo by Forrest Fisher)
Each year when the weather and the fishing turns right, recreational boaters and angler groups travel to area marina’s to recharge their soul with outdoor fun and enjoy a common measure of their love for Lake Erie, an area resource that is somewhat limited for economic impact by the inadequacy of access to the waterway.

Last weekend at Sturgeon Point Marina, heavy boater access activity left little room to park boat trailers and vehicles after 10 a.m. Most folks were patient with each other and the management, thank goodness, but the negative effect was wasted time waiting in line to launch and worse, waiting in line to exit later in the day.

At about 3 p.m., the boat departure line went from the four-lane boat ramps all the way around the Lake Erie breakwall and into Lake Erie, with about 12 to 14 boats waiting to leave at one time. It took longer to exit because boaters had to reach the ramp and then walk an extra-long distance to their vehicles. This is a problem that has existed for many years and it is surprising that legislators and vacation promotion groups fail to recognize the needs to satisfy high volumes of boaters trying to get to the waterway.

The patience and stamina of the marina operational groups is tested each weekend during the summer and especially during the periods of good weather and weekend fishing tournaments.

The Southtowns Walleye Association is in the middle of its annual nine-day Lake Erie walleye contest and such activities only allow the mayhem of overcrowded marina conditions to dominate what should be a fun day, not a frustrating day. Instead of anglers focusing to be “on the hook,” they are frustrated with transportation and access limitations, wasting their precious free time.

With the highest taxes in the country, one might wonder why such deplorable access conditions exist at all, but it is up to legislators and citizen planning groups to meet and discuss needs to solve situations like this that require repair. The passion of boater groups is suppressed without apology during such crowded weekends and it seems achieving that status is a real shame.

Fishing is hot in Lake Erie

Walleye anglers fishing Lake Erie from Buffalo to Barcelona Harbor can enjoy some of the best fishing activity in a long time. As of Tuesday, the Southtowns Walleye contest had several big walleye entered into the adult division with the top three weighed in at 11.04, 10.91 and 10.79 pounds. The top three in the youth division (15 years old and younger) was 9.94, 9.20 and 9.01 pounds.

While anglers on big fish are quiet about where they are finding the larger fish schools, anglers catching smaller fish are quite talkative. The walleye bite in the waters off Buffalo is hot, with many anglers reporting limit catches. Best action has been straight out from Smokes Creek off the giant windmills all the way to just east of Myer’s Reef in 30 to 40 feet of water depth.

Simple fishing styles are dominating the catch, with three-way spinner and worm rigs at the top of the list. Black and purple are the hot colors, though the blades that reflect pink, purple, red color hues, seem to draw peak appetite attention from the fish. Many anglers are using electric motors to slow troll the spinner/worm rigs just off the bottom, while other anglers have gone back to the 1950s manner of catching walleye, drifting with a light wind and adding enough weight to keep the sinkers just off the bottom, pumping the rod action to add extra action to the presentation.

Listening to anglers discuss their fishing results on the VHF radio last weekend was not fun if you were not “on the fish”. Three-angler boats were “heading back to port” with their 18 fish limits by noon in many cases, while other anglers not tuned into where the fish were situated found either no fish or few fish in their coolers.

While anglers near Buffalo enjoy the simple fishing styles that are catching fish, farther out west at Dunkirk and Barcelona, the biggest fish are suspended 10 to 15 feet off the bottom in 60 to 65 feet of water, following the forage with changes in wind direction. Savvy anglers are using lead core line and fluorocarbon leaders off side-planer boards to spread out their presentation and cover a wide swath of water on their troll patterns.

It pays to check depths of 25 or 30 feet too, as the water columns on Lake Erie are still setting up and are not totally stable just yet, so you never know where the next 14-pound walleye may be lurking. The biggest fish are always where you find them, so during the walleye contest that ends Sunday, just be sure to get your line into the water wherever you are.

Don’t be afraid to test out old lures, new lures, change rod action or boat speed if you are trolling, and change often. Test the fish with that large assortment of tackle in your boat that you never, ever use. You know, that stuff in your box that is just always there. You’re not sure why you carry it, but it adds to the volume and mass that you enjoy calling your tackle. Try it out!

Test it for real! Add it to the end of your line and get it to the depths where you are seeing suspended fish on your screen. The biggest fish are usually caught on lures and presentation that the fish have never seen before.

Fish Management Workshop on June 13

The second annual Lake Erie – Upper Niagara River Fish Management Workshop will be held at Woodlawn Beach State Park on Thursday, June 13 from 6:30 to 9 p.m., the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Key members of Lake Erie and Niagara River’s fisheries management and research community will present on Lake Erie fisheries management, including steelhead studies, walleye status, fish passage for the Springville Dam, and habitat initiatives on the Niagara River.

The free, informational workshop, sponsored by DEC’s Lake Erie Fisheries Unit and Region 9 Fisheries offices, will take place at Woodlawn Beach State Park, and will begin with informal discussion, poster exhibits and DEC biologists presenting fish aging demonstrations. This will be followed by a series of presentations on Lake Erie and the Upper Niagara River. The workshop will conclude with questions and open discussion. Anyone interested is welcome to attend this free event; registration is not required.

March on Albany

A huge crowd from all the corners of New York State met in Albany to protest the NY SAFE Act on June 11. The legislative gun-control package was passed in overnight haste in the wake of the hysteria caused by the Newtown, Connecticut school incident, denying the right of citizen voters to provide comment in the usual waiting period for NYS legislative action. The event was supported by a number of national speakers.

The Scope and Erie County Federation of Sportsmen arrived in Albany at 10 a.m., walked in a group with Assemblyman David DiPietro to the Governor’s office and then met in the Park below the Legislative Office Building. Hats off to SCOPE and the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen for organizing another day that may remain notable in the history of NYS for all time. Some 18,000 advocates opposing the NY SAFE Act made a previous trip to Albany on Feb. 28.

Cabela’s coming to Buffalo

After all the anticipation of a Bass Pro Shops store in downtown Buffalo, and all the disappointment too, finally, a favored, major outdoor retailer has made an 88,000 square foot commitment to tap into the economic benefit that 110,000 licensed sportsmen of New York State’s Erie County will surely provide. Erie County has the highest number of licensed sportsmen in all of NYS, so this plan makes perfect sense. Sportsmen who hunt, fish, shoot, trap, camp, hike and picnic are elated! Folks everywhere are talking about the new Cabela’s store to be located directly across the street from the Galleria Mall on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga planning to open in 2014. Happy Days!

Outdoors Calendar

June 13: LOTSA monthly meeting, 4487 Lake Ave., Lockport, 7 pm, charter boat panel to discuss keys to summertime king salmon, call 636-0519.

June 16: Southtowns Walleye Association annual Lake Erie walleye contest ends at 4:00 pm.

June 16: Niagara Frontier Gun Show, Alexander Fireman’s Hall, Route 98, 8am-3 pm, see

June 23: NYS Archery Certification, Erie Conservation Society, Miller Ave., Chaffee, 8 am start, call 585-680-2519 to pre-register (5-9 pm)

June 23: Southtowns Walleye Award and Ceremony Picnic, noon – 4 pm, 5895 Southwestern Blvd, Hamburg.

June 24-27: Children On The Stream, interdisciplinary fly fishing conference for adults teaching the fun of fishing to kids, $350, visit online at

June 26: Summer Fly Fishing with Ray Marks, six-week class, local waters and fly patterns familiarity, Lake Shore Central School, call 926-2270 to register.

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