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Busy outdoor weekend for fishermen of all ages

By Forrest Fisher

The Southtowns Walleye Association 9-Day Lake Erie walleye tournament is coming to a close on Sunday, Father’s Day at 4 p.m.

This year marks this renowned annual WNY community fishing event for the 40th year (in a row). That’s amazing. Way back then, I was one of the 17 original founding members of this group. It all started when we met in the tiny basement of Herb Schultz’s house on Woodlawn Beach. The group was focused on eliminating the gill nets in Lake Erie at the time, which was the primary reason for forming the group. Schultz was a cornerstone bait supplier to local tackle shops and a custom rod builder that everyone in WNY seemed to have met at one time or another.

Our first mission was to entice Bud Riser, editor and publisher of Walleye Magazine, to visit our first meeting and provide verbal and printed support for this effort to remove Commercial Gillnetting. We succeeded, and the rest was history. The group grew from our first 17 original board members to more than 2,400 members in that first five years. The tournament was formed after the first year, so this year, the 40th Annual is a notable community achievement that deserves recognition and support.

On several days, this week’s tournament was hampered by nasty weather, but the derby committee reported 508 registered anglers. That’s about the same as in 2023, but it also means that the prize payout structure will be slightly reduced by 25 percent, as 865 anglers were necessary to achieve the fully advertised payout structure. Of course, there is no reduction in Calcutta payouts, as that is a separate optional side of the fishermen in the mix.

The reduced number of anglers is partly due to our economy and the cost of gas, lures, boat registrations, license plates, insurance, launch fees, and much more. It takes hard, cold cash to fish. This tournament has grown and is popular because it offers more than $100,000 in cash and prizes (WOW!). The big fish of the day for each of the nine days is a $1,000 prize and many other prizes for the general tournament. Good for the simple registration fee of just $50. It’s a single big fish tournament, meaning anyone can win. Luck is involved, which makes everyone equal. I like that.

Photo courtesy of the Southtowns Walleye Association Pictured, from the left at the Barcelona Harbor weigh-station, are captains Bill and Kathy Shaffer, and Dunkirk weigh-station captain Gary Belote with a few nice walleye from last week.

Adding to the reduced participation possibilities is a new walleye group that has recently formed. Called the WNY Walleye Association, the new WNY Walleye president is affable Charter Captain Ron Kucinski, the former president of Southtowns Walleye Association. His departure in providing leadership for a new walleye group delivers the message that something may have gone amiss with the old management group, the Southtowns board of directors. Hey, people are people, we all know none of us is perfect. The new group sort of reminds me of all the division groups we have in support of hunting, firearms, and recreational shooting – such as the NRA, the Guns of America (GOA), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and many more. The increasing numbers of independent groups tend to weaken and dissolve the overall effort of any specific mission in focus: Constitutional 2nd amendment firearm rights.

The question for me is, does one more walleye group help or hinder management efforts for Lake Erie, and does it help or hinder angler and youth education to know more about the fun of the outdoors through fishing? Or any number of additional focus missions or other reasons. In any case, I wish both groups all the best in the future. The Southtowns Walleye Association will hold its annual post-tournament celebration and awards ceremony next weekend at their clubhouse, 5896 Southwestern Blvd., in Hamburg, on Sunday, June 23.

On top of all this walleye hoopla, this Saturday is the opening day for the NYS black bass season. Yep, not everyone fishes for walleye. And there’s more. See the calendar below for youth and Father’s Day events. Gotta love the outdoors.

Outdoors Calendar:

June 8-16: Southtowns Walleye Association of WNY Annual Walleye Derby, $110 entry fee, visit https://www.southtownswalleye.com/.

June 15: Opening Day for NYS Black Bass and Great Lakes Musky fishing.

June 15: Father’s Day 100-bird shoot, Hanover Fish & Game Club, 780 Overhiser Rd., Silver Creek, Info, Bill Scott – 716-480-2202.

June 15: Youth Fishing Derby, 9AM-2PM, fun for all, open to the public, hotdogs and hamburgers provided free, prizes for kids 4yrs-15yrs old. Westfield Fish & Game, Ogden Road, Westfield; info: 716-326-2289.

June 22: Student Bass Open Tournament, Long Point State Park, 7AM-2PM, $55 entry fee, looking for sponsor help. Info, Dillan LaBarbera, 716-499-7545.

June 23: Southtowns Walleye Association annual tournament awards ceremony, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg.

June 29-30: NYS FREE Fishing Days, no license required for residents and non-residents.

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