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Better walleye fishing

Despite weekend contest, success on upswing

She’s back.

That red, white and blue beauty that rests year-round in the Dunkirk Harbor is docked at Chadwick Bay Marina. I’m referring to the Department of Environmental Conservation research vessel the ARGO. The boat got a brand-new paint job at Smith Boys in Tonawanda and came back Wednesday. Welcome back.

Better walleye fishing appears to also be back according to recent reports. Even the best of local fishermen were put to the test recently when the Lake Erie Walleye population seemed to be developing a case of lock-jaw. Last year, limit catches of walleye were measured by how long it took to get a limit. This year it has been a struggle. The good news is that more and more anglers are reporting better numbers of fish in their creel limit. Finding how and where gets a bit tricky especially with the Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout taking place this weekend on Friday and today. With over 100 teams scheduled to participate, there should be a wealth of information after this weekend. In the meantime here’s the skinny.

The weather hasn’t been providing the best of fishing conditions lately but Wednesday was almost ideal. Heading west seems to be popular with anglers focusing west of Van Buren Point. Using the two blue towers as on-shore reference points, anglers report fishing anywhere from 50 to 90 feet of water as being productive. One angler reported fishing in 45 to 70 feet of water using a north/south trolling pattern. Stick baits in black-and-purple or pink-and-purple combos seemed to be best. The fish are located top to bottom in the water column with active fish taken on three-color, four-color, five-color, seven-color and 10 colors of lead core line. Down riggers and dipsey divers are also taking fish, so there seems to be no set pattern. Fishing during the evening is also proving productive in the same area. Anglers are commenting that they are starting to mark more fish and lots of bait pods and clouds.

Moving out to 90 to 100 feet in the same area is also producing lake trout and steelhead. Barcelona is seeing an increase in walleye activity. Several anglers from Ohio, who are fishing the Sunset Bay event commented that anglers are still getting limit catches of walleye in Ohio and the water temperature there is in the 60s. Heading east the Buffalo Small Boat harbor had a great night bite for walleye. The fish are also now being taken during the day time with lead core presentations and bottom-bouncing techniques. Anglers are culling through a lot of short fish to catch a legal limit of keepers but occasionally find a few lunker-size fish. The perch bite has been slow with one report of 20 fish taken straight out from the mouth in 65 feet of water. The bite is ultra lite. Drop to the bottom and slowly reel up setting the hook when you feel any resistance.

Fishing action has moved to the weedline edges on Chautauqua Lake.

CALENDAR

¯ The Sunset Bay Shootout did take place this year with mandatory health precautions as dictated by the health authorities, going into effect. The captains meeting for this year’s event was Thursday. Big Fish Friday was last night with the weigh-in at 4:30 p.m. on the beach. The main event will take place today with the weigh-in at 4:30. Due to social distancing protocols, the awards will take place on Sunday morning at Cabana Sam’s if possible. Jim and Diane Steel’s Innovative Outdoors walleye tournament scheduled for August is likely, with COVID-19 requirements also coming into play.

¯ The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club annual walleye tournament has been officially canceled for 2020. This highly popular event annually takes place the first weekend in August for three days. The COVID-19 pandemic is the culprit. In addition, the VIP day which is usually scheduled for the first week in August has also been canceled for this year, due to the pandemic.

¯ School’s out for summer, but wanna-be hunters can still take the mandatory Hunter Education Class by going online. This course was first available in April when COVID-19 shut down our everyday life situations. The hunter education course will remain available through Aug. 31. The course is offered by Kalkomey Enterprises which specializes in hunter education. The course is open to anyone ages 11 and up. It can be completed on a computer, tablet, or smart phone at any time. Students who complete the online course, virtual field day and pass the final exam will receive their hunter education certificate and can purchase a hunting license. Only hunters ages 12 and older may purchase a license and hunt in New York. The cost for taking the course is $19.95. To find the course go to Kalkomey’s website. Note that this course could be a game changer especially for students who are in sports programs that will not excuse anyone from mandatory practices.

Photo by Gene Pauszek

Pictured, from left, are: Rob Oram, Kevin Holobicky and Justin Wekenmann. The winners of the Southtowns Walleye Tournament in 2020, they also won the Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout/Big Fish Friday event with a 9.79-pound walleye. It was the only fish they caught over 22 inches in length and the last fish of the day.

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