When it comes to nighttime walleye regulars, few have the work and fishing schedule Clarence angler Lou Budik maintains once the season opens on Lake Erie waters.
Budik, a practicing veterinarian by day, makes nightly runs with partner Greg Borgosz of Clarence Center to shoreline trolling spots whenever water conditions turn on in Erie’s shallows. Mainly focusing on shore areas well west of Hamburg and Sturgeon Point, Budik may be out trolling the first night of the open season.
“It depends. Walleyes start to hit when the water temperatures move into the low 50s,” he said of season-opening forays.
Last year he recalls the mild winter and early spring heat that raised water temperatures and brought walleye schools in at the season’s start.
Partner Borgosz keeps detailed loggings of weather conditions, walleye moves, and successful outings.
Successful they are. Many an outing ends with a limit of walleye, which now is six fish per angler in Lake Erie. As for this the opening weekend for walleye, Budik said, “We could go out at the start of the season looking for post-spawning males.”
His trips are aboard his new 21-foot Lund Baron with a 200-horsepower main motor and a 10-horsepower “kicker;” both are Honda 4-stroke engines. He cautions that the early, near-shore bite can be tricky.
“The males often come in at dusk and move out quickly,” he said. “At the beginning it’s hit and miss; the better night trolling turns on in mid-May when the plankton begins to grow, which brings in the minnows and the walleye go on the feed.”
This shoreline fishery generally continues until the moss begins to build up. His night trolling program consists of running planer boards with glow sticks to watch lines and keep them separated.
“Trolling speed is essential; I run speeds down around 1 to 1.2 mph,” he said.
A Rapala lure devotee, he likes to move just enough to get the Rapala to wobble at a depth of about four feet below the surface. His color-pattern preferences are clown and fire tiger in size 11. But he will switch to the larger number 13 or the smaller size 9 models at times and run the lures 40 to 50 feet behind the planer board clips.
Night fishing typically tails off around Memorial Day and Budik switches to day trolling as water temperatures reach 60 degrees, which is usually about the time the Southtowns Walleye Association holds its annual tournament. Budik and Borgosz do not enter competitions but suggest the better odds for big fish in early June would be bouncing bottom or close to bottom with worm harnesses.
As walleye schools begin heading west in late summer, Budik and Borgosz head to Ohio ports such as Geneva and Conneaut where they spend much of their fishing time in late August and September. Fishery biologists see good numbers for both trophy- and eating-sized walleye in Lake Erie waters throughout the warm-weather season. Erie waters could be a destination during the spring and summer for walleye anglers.