By GENE PAUSZEK
OBSERVER Outdoors Columnist
If you are in the vicinity of the City of Dunkirk Pier around 7 or 8 a.m. today or Sunday, don't be alarmed if you hear fire truck sirens and water shooting about 50 feet up in the air. That will be the official start of the A and B Flight for the 20th Annual AMARA-CAN Walleye Classic hosted by the New York Walleye Club.
OBSERVER Photo by Gene Pauszek
Pictured from left to right are Kim Sobilo and Molly Frey modeling and displaying this year’s AMARA-CAN Walley Classic apparel.
Club president Bob Zoeller approached the Dunkirk Fire Dept. last year about the idea and the guys were delighted to comply. Hopefully this will become an annual tradition. Also if you are in the area, bring the kids to observe as the boats depart the Chadwick Bay Marina area.
The AMARA-CAN walleye tournament is a two-day team event that allows teams of two to four anglers to engage in fishing competition for walleye only. This is a timed event where the teams are divided into two flights - A and B. Flight A departs at 7 a.m. on Saturday and must return by 4 p.m., while Flight B departs at 8 a.m., and must return by 5 p.m. Failure to arrive on time will result in a forfeiture of prize contention for that day. On Sunday the teams flip, with B Flight leaving at 7 a.m. and returning by 2 p.m. and A Flight leaving at 8 a.m. and returning by 3 p.m. Note that the fishing time is shortened by two hours on Sunday.
The entry fee is $250 per team and there is a cash payout for the 10 teams that weigh-in the heaviest total weight of walleye over the two days of the tournament. Each team is allowed to bring to the scales five walleye each day. The weigh site is located at the Chadwick Bay Marina area's small pavilion, located near the Clarion Hotel outdoor pavilion.
The public is invited to observe the weigh-in, as well as to purchase any of the items available at the concession tents, which will include commemorative T-shirts and hats, as well as food and beverages.
All the teams are required to depart from the Dunkirk Harbor at their assigned times and display their assigned team identification numbers. There are 27 rules total for this event, which were covered at the captain's meeting held Friday evening.
The event coordinators have informed us that they will continue to sign up teams until the B Flight is scheduled to depart today. Don't wait until the last minute as there are forms to sign.
Exactly how many teams will sign up is a guessing game, with many of the smaller-sized boats waiting until the last moments to observe the weather forecast for the two days.
Weather will be a factor in determining fishing strategy for many of the teams. Fishing reports have indicated that the hot walleye bite has been recently occurring near the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor and near North East, Pa. Because all the teams must stay on the water and depart from the Dunkirk Harbor exclusively, they must be able to travel to a fishing spot, set-up, catch sufficient quality fish, break down their equipment and return to the Dunkirk Harbor by their assigned deadline. Teams have to be concerned about fuel consumption, mechanical breakdowns and our infamous Western New York weather.
Then the teams must go out the next day, contend with a new start time and plan their strategy on a time frame that is shortened by two hours. As you can see, this is a unique contest, not just a couple of days of relaxed fishing.
This contest also attracts a number of teams from Canada, which usually boat across the border on Lake Erie, but weather, custom regulations as well as Homeland Security and fuel costs can have an impact on our friends from the north.
The AMARA-CAN Walleye Classic has been coming exclusively to Dunkirk for 20 years and some of you may be wondering why. Where else can you find the convenience of a marina, a beautiful hotel, several restaurants, bait and tackle, fuel, groceries, ice and nightly live entertainment all within walking distance, not to mention a world-class walleye and small-mouth bass fishery? Out-of-towners, who have come to experience our fishery consistently remark how pleased they are with our area, including the locals.
So, on behalf of the New York Walleye Association, come on down to the Chadwick Bay Marina, Clarion Hotel lake-front area during the launch times and weigh-ins, admire the size of the fish, enjoy the food and camaraderie and see what our area has to offer.
Look for tournament coverage in the OBSERVER.
Gene Pauszek is an outdoor columnist for the OBSERVER. Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.