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Angler gatherings on June 22 brought together young and kid-like adults to learn more about fishing and reward winners of prize catches.

Each year, volunteers with the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and Department of Environmental Conservation fishery staffers present a pond-side program of learning and fish-catching at Chestnut Ridge Park. Later that day, Southtowns Walleye Association presented awards to top finishers in its Annual Walleye Tournament.

Kids clinic

Just a few minutes after New York Walleye Association volunteers had the Lunker Pool set up next to the new fishing pier that Saturday morning at the Chestnut Ridge pond, Edward Hajduk brought in a lunker bluegill he caught from that pier.

The 4-year-old showed mom, Mary Hajduk, his big fish and headed to the pool to make sure his fish remained alive for release later that morning.

Young anglers, 86 in all, signed on for a series of learning stations and then headed to the pond for a nice day and a solid bite from both panfish and the occasional lunker bass.

For Ethan Godfrey, 10, of Cheektowaga, things began slowly but picked up as the morning progressed; Ethan lost a big one at first but hung in there to catch the biggest fish of the day, a 16.75-inch bass.

Alisa Gauld, 11, of Tonawanda, worked intently and brought to the pool a total of 14 catches to take the Most Fish Award for the day.

All caught fish, and for many kids, this was their first day of fishing at Chestnut Ridge. Jack Kielbasa, 6, got into some nice ’gills with dad, Bill Kielbasa, on a day just clouded enough to bring fish close to shore and hold them there throughout the time allotted for fishing.

Most-traveled honors went to Harith Alkhalaf, 10, formerly of Iraq. Fishing the pond for his second time, Harith enjoyed the steady bite as Jason Kempski, a neighbor from Amherst, made sure his gear was in catch-worthy form.

Michael Todd, DEC fisheries biologist, manned an exhibit of popular fish species anglers could identify when caught in area waters. Along with the fish tagged with their proper name, Todd also had a reproduction of a mystery fish that looked something like a mixture of a lake trout and a brook trout, a species that is often called a speckled trout. Yes, there is a crossbred fish called a “splake.” But you will have to ask Todd for an explanation at the next kids clinic. Look for a license-free fishing day set for Chestnut Ridge Park on Aug. 10 at which DEC officials may have an exhibit.

Dave Barus coordinated all the learning stations and saw to it that each kid participating left with something after the free lunch and awards presentations.

Barus was pleased with the attendance to an event day in conflict with 11 other outdoors events and/or gatherings. He and other Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs staffers are putting together plans and props for next year’s kids events that will show kids and accompanying adults ways to more effectively enjoy the fun of fishing.

Walleye tourney

Big fish topped the leader board in the Southtowns Walleye Association’s 29th Walleye tournament. Entrants needed a fish weighing nearly 11 pounds to finish in the top 10.

Those 10 winners and more registered anglers and friends gathered at the Southtowns clubhouse in Hamburg on June 22 for a Saturday afternoon of awards presentations and story-sharing about the June 8 to 16 contest doings.

Typically, boaters gang up on Barcelona Harbor for this early-season contest. Migrating ’eyes from the western and central basin of Lake Erie often appear in good numbers and sizes around Barcelona before heading to waters off popular ports at Dunkirk, Cattaraugus Creek, Sturgeon Point, Hamburg and the head of the river at Buffalo.

This year, a generous supply of ’eyes came from ports east of Barcelona during the Southtowns Derby and thereafter.

When all entries were weighed and measured, Glenn Hubman of Westfield brought in the biggest walleye – by weight and length – with a 12.3-pound, 33-inch lunker.

The remainder of the entries all measured more than 30 inches and weighed in closer to 11 than 10 pounds to finish in the top 10.

Top winners are: (2) John W. Amidon, 11.59 pounds, 31.25 inches; (3) Timothy J. Fedeson, 11.18, 30.25; (4) Thomas J. Christen, 11.17, 30.75; (5) Roland M. Bergler, 11.16, 31; (6) Ray Adamczyk, 11.04, 30.5; (7) Randy J. Edwards, 11, 30.75; (8) Guy Masocco, 10.91, 31.00; (9) Wade Oram, 10.88, 30.75; and (10) Jennifer Kostyszyn, 10.87, 32 inches.

The Southtowns tournament is the largest gathering for a walleye competition on the lake. Held early enough in the summer season, results from this contest often point anglers in the direction of good outings to come.

Other results

It happens nearly every time a big-fish tournament/derby is held. Either someone not in the contest catches a bigger fish than the winner, or an angler not entered hooks a humongous hog.

This year, Randy Jaroszewski at Lake Shore Hardware took out his friend Brian Davis for a trolling stint the day after the Southtowns awards picnic.

Running what Jaroszewski called a cheap, small Matzou 3-inch stick bait, Davis hooked into a nice fish off Point Breeze in 55-foot waters. Once netted, the fish was weighed on an official scale and went 14.18 pounds with a 20-inch girth and a length of 33 inches.

The walleye fishing has gotten so good on the U.S. side between Dunkirk and Buffalo that Jaroszewski and others are trying Mepps spinners and other odd combinations along with the usual slate of worm harnesses, Rapalas and Renoskys.

Capt. Bob Rustowicz, longtime fishing partner of Jaroszewski, missed the Southtowns Walleye tourney picnic to fish the inaugural Budweiser Can-Am Walleye Challenge out of Port Colborne, Ont., on June 22.

“We found most of our big fish in New York waters near Point Breeze that day, and had six big fish in time for the 20-mile ride back to the port,” Rustowicz said after his team finished second with a total of 46.23 pounds.

The Budweiser tourney was put together quickly after officials canceled the 444 Tournament held each year at Port Colborne.

After the event, which drew a full field of 60 boat-teams, coordinator Capt. Dave Malloy at Erie Tracker said plans are already in place for a second annual Budweiser contest in 2014.

Walleye schools move in mysterious ways at the start of each summer season around the east end of Lake Erie, but results from recent contests bode well for the New York Walleye Association’s Amara-Can at Dunkirk Harbor on July 13 and 14 and for other contests and recreational outings this season.

Look for detailed results on next Sunday’s Outdoors Page of the bass and walleye fishing during the BassEye Celebrity Challenge.

email: odrswill@gmail.com