Several walleye fishing tourneys set to hit our waters

The Day-3 “Big-Bag” cash-prize winners at the 2023 Con Club Walleye Tournament were Team 75: Jim Dolly L, Captain Tom Slawatycki, and Ben Slawatycki with 20.54 pounds for the three fish. File Photo by Forrest Fisher

The Chautauqua County shoreline of Lake Erie defines the access area for the premier summertime walleye fishery of the lake. Visitors beckon to find lodging, trailering their boats and fishing rods, and for more than one reason of catching fish. They want to fish in competition for money and prizes – COLD CASH, and some think they have a chance to help the family budget. Checking out the prize packages, they do have that chance. Multiple walleye angler tournaments are set for 2024, with anglers accessing Lake Erie from Dunkirk Harbor, Barcelona Harbor and the three boat launches at Irving, on Cattaraugus Creek. Starting with the first tournament, here is the line-up.

Chautauqua County superstar Josh Larsen, a recent military veteran, will chair a new tournament weekend that moved from Barcelona Harbor to Dunkirk Harbor this year. The WNY Classic/Dunkirk Walleye Festival 2024 will take place from the Dunkirk City Pier and run from Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 2. On “Big Fish Friday” anglers vie for a friendly cash prize among themselves. The official Competition Day for this tourney is on Saturday, June 1, with Sunday being the “blow day” if the lake is unfishable due to weather on Saturday. This is a 1-day competition event. Entry fee is $500 per boat, visit www.primitivepatriotoutdoors.com on the web to register, or contact Josh Larsen at 716-490-4226. Registration deadline is May 24. New for this year at this event, though, is the Kids Fishing Clinic set for Sunday, June 2 where MWT Classic Walleye Tournament Champion Craig Sleeman will be on hand for the kids (and adults), to share fishing secrets, provide prizes, and pick a winner for a 1-day fishing trip with Sleeman.

One week later, from June 8 – 16, 2024, the infamous 40th Annual 9-day Southtowns Walleye Association group will run their marathon walleye fishing contest. This is a one-fish, biggest fish wins contest. The entry fee is $110 per person ($60 member fee, $50 tournament fee) with more than $100,000 in prizes and cash. Visit www.southtownswalleye.com to enter, or call Jim Skoczylas at 716-796-5372.

For Military veterans and first responders, the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association under the leadership of Captain Jim Steel, will offer the WNY Heroes Day fun fishing event on June 28, 2024, to run from Dunkirk Harbor. Qualified entrants can register at www.wnyheroes.org. If you are a charter captain or want to volunteer your services to help, contact Steel at 716-481-5348. There is no fee.

On June 29-30, the new Integrity Walleye Series (IWT-1) will begin with Part 1 of the Bart’s Cove Walleye Duel from Dunkirk Harbor, run by retired and well-respected Charter Captain Bob Rustowicz. This is a two-day competition with a 3-fish-bag weigh-in on each day. There is a $500 entry fee. Contact Rustowicz at 716-830-6394.

Then on July 19-20, Captain Don Ruppert will run the Sunset Bay Walleye Shoot-Out. Entry fee is $500/boat. With more than $500,000 in cash and prizes, this event has become the largest amateur walleye tournament in the country. This contest features a Big-Fish Friday contest (July 19), with a 1-day competition event on Saturday, July 20, with a 6-fish weigh-in bag. If weather is bad, the “blow day” is Sunday, July 21. To register, visit www.walleyeshootout.com/ or call Ruppert at 716-435-4137. For an example of payouts: Wes Bartoo of Team Crazy-Eyes won last year with a bag of 35.27 pounds, Randy Jaroszewski of Team Ice Breaker was second with 34.78 pounds. Cash payouts go to 15th place, with the winner taking home $25,000. The largest walleye takes home $7,500 with payouts to 5th place. The Big Fish Friday payout is $5,000 with payouts to 5th place.

One week later, on July 27-28, Part 2 of the Bart’s Cove Walleye Duel from Dunkirk Harbor takes place. This is Part 2 of the Integrity Walleye Series (IWT-2) with Chairman Mark Mohr. This is a 2-day competition event with a 3-fish bag weigh-in on each of the two days. There is a $500 entry fee. Contact Mohr at 716-998-9871.

One week later, on Aug. 2 – 4, 2024, Chairman Zen Olow will host the 20th Annual Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Walleye Tournament from Dunkirk Harbor. This is a 3-day competition event, with a 3-fish bag per day, and is one of the most popular fishing contests of the year for competitors. The contest picnic grounds at the club located at the foot of Mullet Street features affordable food, with hot dogs, sausage, salads and garment ware for all in attendance. Contact Olow at 716-640-2776.

Then on August 16-17, Captain Jim Steel will chair the Innovative Outdoors Walleye Challenge from Dunkirk Harbor at the Clarion Pavilion. This event features a “big fish” Friday event, a 1-day competition event with a 6-fish bag on Saturday, Aug. 17, with the option for a Sunday “blow day” is weather interrupts the Saturday competition event. There is a $500 entry per boat. To register, visit https://innovative-outdoors.com/ or contact Steel at 716-481-5348.

With each of these tournament competition events, good sportsmanship and good competition is expected by the individual tournament competitors. Each of the tournaments have specific rules for the number of rods deployed, fish handling procedures, cooler handling, locations where fishing is allowed, and the use of forms of ice. Each of the tourneys also feature extra optional Calcutta events that may include big fish of the day, big bag of the day, etc. Some of the events may require polygraph testing at the option of the tournament committee or chairperson. Each of the events has a registration deadline, so don’t wait to enter.

For all of these events, there is one 2024 walleye competition event that encompasses many of them – the NY Walleye Derby 2024. This walleye contest runs from June 21 – Aug. 11, 2024. Cost is $35 and the registration deadline is Friday, June 21. 2024. Register online by mail. Google New York Walleye derby 2024 for details, or visit https://innovative-outdoors.com/, or contact Captain Jim Steel, tournament chairman, at 716-481-5348. .

Anglers catch Lake Erie walleye mostly using deep-water techniques, including trolling, drifting, or casting, but trolling is the predominantly accepted method of finding fish in this expansive walleye fishery. Live Scope sonar is another recent electronic fish-finding innovation that can identify fish locations where anglers can cast to the fish. Just a few miles off the shoreline from Chautauqua County, millions of Lake Erie walleye reside during the summer months. The deep thermally stratified waters of Lake Erie are found here. Angler access to suspended walleye schools feeding on smelt and alewife forage is not far from shore. Daily walleye bag limits are typical, with fish 20 to 28 inches long and weighing 3 to 8 pounds. Trophy fish exceeding 30 inches and 12 pounds are among occasional catches, too. Lake Erie walleye anglers can harvest 6 fish/day, 15 inch/minimum. Go get’em!

Outdoors Calendar:

May 3-12: Lake Ontario Spring Trout/Salmon/Walleye derby, visit www.loc.org.

May 11: Fly Fishing 101, 9AM-11AM, Orvis Buffalo, Free, gear provided, 4545 Transit Rd., Williamsville. Call 276-7200 to reserve a spot.

May 11: Hunting Heritage Banquet, Springville Strutters Chapter of the National Wild Turkey federation, St. Aloysius Church hall, 186 Franklin St., Springville, 5PM start, Info: 592-2388 (Jim Gamel).

NOTE: Submit Calendar items to forrestfisher35@yahoo.com.


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