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Rod, Gun & Game: Walleye season opens Saturday

Forrest Fisher writes a weekly outdoors column for The Sun News.
With the opening of the fishing season for many popular warm water and cold water gamefish species, New York State fishing opportunities will be in full swing after this Saturday (May 4) for Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel, Tiger Musky and the popular early trophy bass season (one fish per day, 20 inch minimum) on Lake Erie and the Lake Erie tributaries.

Walleye are the largest member of the perch family and are one of the most highly sought after sportfish, mostly for their exceptional table quality, but they can provide a bulldog-fight on light rod and reel tackle. Walleye can reach considerable large size in Lake Erie where eight to 12 pound fish are not uncommon.

The fishing season for walleye runs through March 15 next year with minimum length of 15 inches across most of the state, a six fish per day daily limit on Lake Erie and a five fish per day limit on most inland lakes. Finger Lakes walleye minimum size can vary, so be sure to check the fishing rules before heading out. Visit online at

Walleyes in New York originally only inhabited waters of the Great Lakes and Allegheny River watersheds. From carefully monitored NYSDEC stocking efforts and careful management, walleye now reside in over 140 waters across NYS. Each year, DEC hatcheries produce about 200 million walleye fry, including 350,000 spring fingerlings and 180,000 fall fingerlings to support the walleye stocking efforts.

While Lake Erie waters are usually too cold for most opening day fishing efforts, the lake is warming up quickly this year, the night feeder walleyes can track down a stickbait after warming to the mid-40s, so it might just be a very early good fishing season on the big lake.

Lake Erie is considered among top walleye destinations in Western New York and abundant year classes make up the good range of large, catchable fish to be found here. New York anglers can enjoy good walleye action from Buffalo all the way to Barcelona near the NYS line as the year progresses, but the early embayment areas will warm more quickly and attract fish to spawn there, more than the open lake areas.

The shallow, sand/rock waters off Athol Springs are the number one local Lake Erie water where anglers can catch early season waters where a check of water temperatures shows this area has hit 48 degrees earlier in the week. To verify water temperatures in any location of Lake Erie, visit

Inland lakes offer top walleye fishing too and small boat owners favor our smaller, inland lakes due to the usual semi-windy conditions in WNY. Chautauqua Lake is one of our premier nearby walleye lakes that can offer exceptional opening day walleye action. Located in the southeast corner of nearby Chautauqua County, the 17 mile long waterway is essentially divided into two different lake basins of nearly equal size in the center of the lake near Bemus Point.

The north basin from Bemus to Mayville is the “deep end” with a 25 foot average depth and 77 feet maximum depth, while the south basin from Bemus to Jamestown is much shallower with an 11 foot average and a maximum depth of 19 feet.

Popular Chautauqua Lake public boat access exists at Mayville Lakeside Park, Prendergast Point, Long Point State Park, Bemus Point and the public ramp at Lakewood Community Park, while private access exists at Snug Harbor Marina, Asheville Bay Marina and Smith Boys Marina.

Shore-fishing anglers can enjoy success fishing in simple manner, casting floating minnow stickbait lures, like the Rapala, after sunset. A favorit shore fishing location is the Tom’s Point multiple use area located near the south side of the Bemus Point ferry landing, but anywhere you can find access to the water can offer great after-dark casting fun. Be sure to carry a flashlight, a stringer and a net that will allow the handle to fit (handle side down) into the backside of your waders. Walleye have some huge teeth and anglers need to be careful when handling them.

Rushford Lake, Cuba Lake, Silver Lake and Bear Lake also offer inland lake “calm water” fishing for walleye. The most popular of these for walleye is Silver Lake, located in Wyoming County near Perry. Public access for trailered boats can be found at Silver Lake State Park in the south lake basin off West Lake Road.

The walleye population here is self-sustaining, with 15 to 20 inch fish common, popular lures for walleye in Silver Lake are floating minnow imitations or jigs tipped with a night-crawler of golden shiner. Cast into the shallow weedy areas at night or troll with a minnow imitation lure or a worm harness along the emerging weedline at daybreak.

Lime Lake offers action for tiger muskies, a hybrid cross between a female muskellunge and a male northern pike, and these have been stocked in Lime Lake since 1973. These fish are stocked as fall fingerlings and after several years in the lake can reach 30 to 45 inches; they cannot reproduce and are used mostly for small fish control, but they like to eat, making them a prime target for anglers. Tiger muskies are quite famous in Lamoka and Waneta Lakes in the Finger Lakes region, and provide anglers with a small lake opportunity to catch a truly trophy size fish.

Cuba Lake and Silver Lake also offer good northern pike action that can truly surprise unsuspecting panfish anglers with the thrill of a lifetime. Additional northern pike fishing opportunities in western New York include the Upper Niagara River, Quaker Lake, Findley Lake, the Allegheny River, Olean Creek, Conewango Creek and Tonawanda Creek.

Lake Erie perch report

At Cattaraugus Creek, the Town of Hanover boat launch is open and launching docks are in place allowing anglers to access the lake. Reports of big yellow perch, some limits, from the waters west of Cattaraugus Creek; DEC reports that east of the creek between Evangola State Park and Foxes Point in 45-54 feet of water has also been productive. Live emerald shiners or salted shiners fished just off the bottom are the usual best bait.

Deer season harvest

NYS DEC tallied the harvest for 2012 and report that hunters took about 243,000 deer during big game hunting season, roughly six percent more than 2011. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens says NYS has been taking steps to encourage hunting as the deer populations continue to grow.

Americans not disappointed

Ninety percent of Americans have been said to support expansion of background checks to cover transactions at gun shows and other private sales. But the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reports that a recent poll released by the PEW Research Center last week showed that less than half of the country (47 percent) was disappointed by the Senate’s failure to pass expanded background checks.

While most American’s agree that something should be done to control who can legally purchase a firearm or not, expanding background checks for private-party firearms transactions would likely overtax the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as it now exists. So says the FBI in a recent story appearing in the business section of The Washington Post.

The article talks about new federal contracts, including to a West Virginia company that would be required for updating the computer system with a price tag of $100 million more than is currently spent. Overtaxing the NICS system was one of the key reasons NSSF opposed “universal background checks” and Senator Manchin’s (from West Virginia) amendment.

NY turkey virus alert

According to the Outdoor Life “Strut Zone” blog, “Officials in both New York and Maine have issued alerts asking spring turkey hunters to help them identify birds that may be suffering from Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus (LPDV). The virus causes Elephant man-like lesions on a turkey’s head and legs. LPDV has already been found in the Maine population, while biologists in New York are seeking further information to determine whether the disease has impacted their flock.

New York biologists, who are attempting to determine reasons behind wild turkey population decreases in the state, ask that samples from suspect birds be provided to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Wildlife Health Unit. For instructions on how to provide a sample, contact While officials say the disease is not transferable to humans, the New York DEC advises against eating any wild animals that appear sick.

Family fishing party

Captain Bob’s Outdoors in Clarence has an inland charter offer that is unique. He offers to take 12 friends or family members to your backyard pond or a local water of your choice and go fishing, no gear required, he will supply all the rods, reels and baits. He is a New York State licensed fishing guide and will provide hands-on instruction. Call 407-3021 for more information.

Boat launch closed

The popular Sturgeon Point boat launch is currently closed for harbor dredging.

Outdoors Calendar

May 3-12: LOC Spring Salmon & Trout Derby, all of Lake Ontario and Lower Niagara River, single largest fish, visit online at

May 4: Start of 2013 NYS walleye, northern pike, pickerel fishing season.

May 4: Start of NYS Special Season on Lake Erie and Trib’s for Trophy Black Bass, 20 inch minimum.

May 4: NYS Archery Hunter Safety Training, Southtowns Walleye Clubhouse, 5895 Southwestern Blvd, Hamburg, 8am-6 pm both days required, pre-register at 627-0147.

May 4: IBO Archery Championship Qualifier, Active Bowhunters, 3-Valley Campground, Route 16 in Holland, 8am-noon, call John Peters, for information call 585-496-5819.

May 4/5: Fly Fishing 101, Orvis Eastern Hills Mall, Free, 8am (5/4) and 10am (5/5), call 276-7200 to register.

May 4/5: Niagara Frontier Gun Show, Erie County Fairgrounds, Hamburg, (5/4) 9 am-4 pm, (5/5) 9 am-3 pm.

May 11: Wilson Invitational Salmon Fish Tournament, Wilson Marina at Wilson Harbor, largest salmon wins, email

May 11/18: NYS Hunter Safety Training, Holland Rod & Gun, Route 16 south of Holland, 9 am-3:30 pm both days, call 692-7660.

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