Key leaders in the Erie and Chautauqua county legislatures had a good time while trolling for walleye on Lake Erie off Dunkirk Harbor on Wednesday morning during a VIP Day of fishing and a lunch gathering.
In a brisk off-shore wind, 14 charter boats headed out of the harbor that morning to get over walleye schools moving in 70- to 100-foot waters off Dunkirk.
Capt. Roger Corlett, a Hamburg angler well set up with a 31-foot Sea Ray, and first mate Joe Jemiolo, an active fisheries programs promoter, put together a trolling program for four legislators and me that morning. Corlett’s vessel, named “89 Surprise”, offered considerable comfort in a 3- to 4-foot wave chop that built up some five miles from the harbor.
County Executives Mark Poloncarz (Erie) and Greg Edwards (Chautauqua) accompanied Legislator John Mills and Erie County spokesperson Peter Anderson aboard 89 Surprise, a boat named for Corlett’s daughter who arrived unexpectedly in 1989.
Unexpected winds made things difficult for trolling slowly in bumpy white-capping waters, but all boats put a few walleye in the box (iced coolers) before the 11 a.m. finish.
While this was not a contest, Poloncarz reeled in the first and biggest fish aboard our vessel. Edwards, of Jamestown, took second with an eater-sized ’eye about 20 minutes later. Poloncarz, an involved golfer, does some fishing when time allows. Edwards, an avid angler and hunter, will devote more time to turkey and deer pursuits around his home in Jamestown after the November elections and his departure from office.
Mills of Orchard Park, a strong supporter of Erie County’s youth fishing programs, finally hooked into a respectable walleye at 10 a.m. Anderson, perhaps the most active angler on board, took a pass on this outing. Rising waves and an 11 a.m. finale cut things short for Corlett; he would have preferred to stay out for limit catches, which have occurred often off Dunkirk in recent weeks.
During a luncheon at the North Chautauqua Conservation Club, emcee and retired assemblyman Dick Smith, coordinator Zen Olow and others pointed out the economic and recreational plusses in promoting Lake Erie’s fine fishery prospects off Chautauqua and Erie counties.
While legislators described their catches during this event that did not include a weigh-in, Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon offered the best line in her report, saying, “My walleye was one ounce heavier than the next biggest fish caught today.”
Don Einhouse, Unit Leader at the DEC Lake Erie Unit at Dunkirk, pointed to a newly produced DEC “Guide to Great Lakes Fishing,” which accompanied a copy of the “Greater Niagara Hot Spots Map” placed with all luncheon-table settings.
The first half of this new guide focuses on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario destinations that are all less than two hours from downtown Buffalo. The free guide can be downloaded or ordered online at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishing.html.
The free Niagara Frontier Hot Spot Map is available with a call to (877) 325-5787 (ext. 2) or go to Niagara-usa.com/hot-spot-fishing-map/.
Meanwhile, entrants in the NCCC Ninth Annual Walleye Derby faced similar and even greater high-wave woes at times during that competition held August 2-4. Friday afternoon presented the roughest seas, but all competitors were able to get out and catch fish. After the three days many impressive numbers went on the board for winnings.
Three Day Total Weight honors saw Jim Dolly Sr. as team leader accept a first-place finish with 75.63 pounds. Bob Vandette scored a solid second with 74.75; Jim Tunney’s team took third with 74.44; and Adam Zwack was not far back with 72.33 pounds for fourth place. All four leaders also posted one fish in the list of 15 heaviest walleyes caught.
The top three entries for Heaviest Walleye prizes were Dennis Gaul weighing in a 10.21 pounder, Barry Ball with a 10.15-pounder, and Roger Corlett third at 9.97 pounds.
VIP Day participants and walleye derby entrants look forward to sunny, enjoyable summer gatherings on Lake Erie in 2014 — with possibly lighter breezes.