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Rod, Gun and Game: Walleye can be fast on Lake Erie

DO YOUR FISH HANG LOW? — Fishing with Charter Captain Don Walter aboard Eerie-Eyes Sportfishing, Walter’s 8-year old grandson, Ben DiLullo caught walleye and trout on Lake Erie, near Brocton Shoal.
WESTFIELD — For the second time in the last five years, walleye anglers looking for fish have hooked up their boat rigs with rods, reels, assorted baits and two large coffee cups of determination, then set course down the New York state thruway for Barcelona Harbor in Westfield, N.Y. This year, the walleye schools are spread out off Barcelona.

Several northeasterly wind storms, through the middle part of July, are receiving the fickle finger of angler blame.

In-the-know anglers said that this sustained wind direction inverted the lake, a few times, and may have caused the big walleye schools to swing away from the New York shoreline and go around Barcelona waters, while still swimming east from Ohio. Most walleye anglers have learned that the largest number of daily limit walleye catches are coming 25 – 35 feet down, from between the Buffalo departure buoy and the mid-lake waters, off Point Breeze.

Smelt-sized lures, such as the 5-inch long shallow-running Renosky, in the chrome Crystalina finish colors of leopard, pink lemonade or silver chameleon, have been popular, for anglers catching fish, as have other shallow running baits, such as the new Rapala® “mad flash” and some of the old baits from a decade ago, such as the Long-A bomber lures. Some anglers remove the front hook from the Renosky baits, to add a wider wobble to the lure. Some anglers also add half of a nightcrawler to the middle hook or the tail hook, for more attraction, while many anglers add no worm at all and catch as many or more fish.

Other than stickbaits, spinner worm combinations have also caught the lion’s share of fish, with the hatchet blade style spinners leading the pack in orange/black, purple/black and pink/green bead color combinations.

The best fishing has historically been from sunrise through the early morning hours when many fish are on the feed, but anglers, this year, report their best catches are happening during walleye banker hours, from 10 a.m. – noon. Dave Dart, an avid walleye angler who seems to catch more fish than some charter boat operations, has been fishing with his grandson, accessing Lake Erie from the Cattaraugus Creek boat launch. Dart warned that the water depth in the creek is “very low” and advised anglers in boats to make sure they are trimmed up, to avoid damaging their motor units.

Dart said that he heads his boat out toward the middle of the lake, heading due north, then drops lines, to reach the fish at about 35 feet down in 70 – 80 feet of water, using a variety of methods – including old-fashioned monofilament line and snap weight systems that seem to be working, right now. He said he likes to fish spinner and worm rigs and said it is best to keep it simple.

Charter Captain Jim Tunney of Looney Tunes Sportfishing hooked up with more than 20 walleye, during a charter last Sunday.

If you are running big planer boards or in-line boards, lead core line or not, or spinner/worm (meat rigs) lures, or stickbaits, you need to realize what is out on your lines and check them for weeds, change them up, make a switch in location, or make a change to zone in with local preferences.

I been fortunate to spend some time on the water with several charter captain folks, in the last few weeks, and was amazed that so many of them are still using big, side-planer boards with 17-pound monofilament line and clip-on weights from one to seven ounces.

Captain Don Walter of Eerie Eyes Sportfishing said, “Let’s face it, the simple objective is to get the lines down to the desired depth, any way you can. New marketing methods show us new ways to do that, with equipment most of us don’t have; that’s their business! They’re good at convincing us that we need a new gimmick and many of us jump in and it’s OK.”

Walter added, “Some folks use 6-color leadcore line; some use monofilament line and clip-on weights, with 50 feet out to the clip and 50 feet or more, back to the board. Others run specialty lures; others run dipsy-divers, mini-disks, side-planers and slip-divers. It really doesn’t matter, but you need to fix yourself on one method and learn it. Learn how to modify it, adjust it and really fine-tune it to where the fish are, for any day you might be fishing.”

I fished with Walters aboard his 24-foot Thompson boat, as my grandson and his grandsons were the benefactors of his fish-catching set-ups on the water. After walleye number four, an assortment of eight white perch, silver bass and yellow perch and one 7-pound brown trout, Walter’s youngest grandchild on board, 8-year-old Ben DiLullo added, “I’m getting a little tired from all this fish-catching and reeling; these fish are so big!” So, after just three hours of fishing, we headed in from fishing the Brocton Shoal area of Lake Erie and to the cleaning table.

We plotted many suspended schools of baitfish, yellow perch and other smaller fish schools located 40 – 60 feet down in 70 – 90 feet of water. While we took most of the fish off the dipsy-diver set 120 feet, using a spinner/worm rig with a hatchet blade set-up or a stickbait on 6-colors, off the planer boards, Walters sweetens his trick mix to catch fish with human cover scent. He adds a drop of neutralizing secret formula scent bought at Bill’s Hooks, a fully-stocked tackle store located on Route 5, three miles south of Dunkirk, to each lure and rubbing it in.

The nicest thing about fishing with a knowledgeable charter captain is that they know all the rules, for catching the most fish, staying safe and staying comfortable. They communicate with each other to find the active fish and they take care of each other and you, out there on the water. You don’t have to worry about your trailer, drain plug, gas, emergency flares and about a thousand dollars’ worth of extras, that everyone who owns a fishing boat has to keep in mind, whenever they trailer their boat to a new access site.

To contact Walters, call 753-07874 or visit, to look up more than 20 other safety-rated Lake Erie fishing charters. Visit the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Fishing Boat Association at, for a listing of charter captains that submit to mandatory annual coast guard safety inspections and random drug testing, a measure of affiliation designed to assure safety and professionalism out there, on the water.

Outdoor Calendar

July 25: Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, monthly meeting, outdoor issues and regulations, fishing – hunting reports, meet at Niagara River Station, Grand Island, 7 p.m. For more information, call 440-6995.

July 27: New York State Archery Certification class, Southtowns Walleye, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Call 627-0147 to register or for more information.

July 27: Sunset Bay Walleye Shoot-Out, Lake Erie at Sunset Bay. Email or call Bob Rustowicz at 830-6394 for more information.

July 29; Aug 2 – 9: NYS Hunter Safety Certification Course, Wood and Brook Sportsmen, 13721 Genesee St., Alden, Register July 29 at the first class at 7 p.m.

July 31: 3D Archery Shoot, East Aurora Fish and Game, 1016 Luther Road, East Aurora, 5 p.m. – dusk, unlimited shooting and target bunks, open to the public. Call Nadine at 982-7069, for more information.

Send information for the outdoor calendar to Forrest Fisher Column, 10 days in advance, to

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