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Southtowns Walleye Derby survives global pandemic

Submitted Photo Justin Wekenmann won the 2020 Southtowns Walleye Association 36th Annual Walleye Derby with a walleye weighing 11.90 pounds.

The Southtowns Walleye Derby has survived another year despite a global pandemic.

This was the 36th event and say what you will about the organization, many of us were happy that they were able to provide the event and provide a little bit of “back to normal,” if only for a brief time.

The SWA held a small-scale awards ceremony on Sunday at the club, with an emphasis on social distancing. In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, they know how to “Git er done!” This year’s first-place finisher in the adult division was Justin Wekenmann. Justin caught his fish near Presque Island on June 17. He used a Bandit deep diver stick bait in “wonder bread” paint pattern to land his 11.90-pound winning walleye.

Many of us have fished this derby off and on through the years, and I can remember if you got a 10-pounder you were in the “big” money. This year there were six walleye in the 11-pound range. In fact, Michael Sacca and Eric Crawford Jr. took the next two spots with walleye that weighed 11.61 pounds. Completing the top-10 weights for 2020 were 11.27, 11.23, 11.17, 10.82, 10.76, 10.72 and a 10.70-pounder caught by Richard Skrabski. In all, 870 anglers competed in this year’s event.

In the youth event, Garret Schmitt took first place with a 9.04-pound walleye followed by Fischer Sleeman with a 8.34-pounder and Hunter Swoope claiming the third place with a 7.72-pounder. The 10th-place walleye in the youth event weighed 6.89 pounds.

Following are some other SWA derby fishing facts. Last year the average weight of the walleye weighed in was 7.55 pounds. This year the average weight was 7.37 pounds. The total weight of the fish entered last year was 3,919 pounds and this year it was 3,905 pounds. The total amount of fish weighed in 2019 was 537. This year it was 517. Congratulations to all the winners!

So where are all the fish? Lately the walleye seem to be west. This angler, along with his buddies, managed to boat seven walleye on Wednesday morning fishing west of Van Buren Point. Stick baits presented on lead core line and in-line planner boards took all the fish, but by 10:30 a.m. the bite shut down. Another boat coming in reported boating 13 walleye in the same area using bottom-bouncing techniques and worm harnesses. On Tuesday, one angler reported a slow pick during the day, but a half hour before sunset the walleye turned on , providing a two-man limit in less than two hours fishing by Meyers reef.

Locally the perch bite has also slowed down, both at Dunkirk and off the mouth of the “Cat.” Captain Larry Jones of Mostly Muskies charters reports that the musky fishing on Chautauqua Lake has been great. Jones reported catching and releasing three muskies in one day between 35 and 45 inches in length. He fished the northern end of the lake, trolling 5-inch “Baker’s”

stick baits at a 3.9 to 4.1 trolling speed.

The Western New York Heroes fishing event held last Friday was another success. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was “trimmed,” but the anglers had success and a good time . More coverage at a later date.

Have a safe 4th of July.

CALENDAR

¯ The Sunset Bay Shootout will take place this year with mandatory health precautions as dictated by the health authorities. The captain’s meeting for this year’s event will be Thursday July 15. Big Fish Friday will launch on July 16 with the weigh-in at 4:30 p.m. on the beach. The main event will take place on Saturday July 18 with the weigh-in at 4:30. Due to the social distancing protocol the awards will take place on Sunday morning at Cabana Sam’s, if possible. Jim Steel’s 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. 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.

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