Lessons learned on every fishing trip
One of the best things about being an outdoor writer is that you have an opportunity to fish with a wide variety of angling professionals, be it of the charter captain or guide variety or people who could be captains or guides but won’t or can’t for several reasons.
Seeing how they approach any given situation is an educational lesson in and of itself – how they deal with weather, rough conditions, calm conditions, a tough bite and more. A new one popped up for this trip – high water. Lake Erie is currently at an all-time high-water mark, just like neighboring Lake Ontario.
Fellow writer Dave Barus of East Aurora had organized a fishing trip for a few press folks for Chautauqua County through one of the popular Media Fish Camps. I was able to hook up with Capt. T.J. Yetzer of Warsaw, who helps his son, Zacorey, with Reel Time Charters out of Dunkirk. Also on board was writer Mike Joyner of McGraw and Julie Szur of Ellicottville, a fly-fishing guide looking to expand her media and angling horizons.
Since we were launching out of Dunkirk at the main launch in Chadwick Bay, Yetzer realized it was going to be a bit tricky. The launch area docks were being worked on due to the high water and there was no place to tie up a boat. He managed to rope his 2150 Crestliner off at the end of D Dock and came looking for us.
Yetzer had been focusing his efforts out front of his home port. He started in 50 to 67 feet of water to find active fish. His approach involved 3, 5 and 7 colors of lead core line behind in-line boards. Divers were 85 and 100 feet back and his riggers ranged from 35 to 50 feet down, eventually settling in on 40 and 48 feet for the most consistent levels. Best baits were worm harnesses that he ties up himself, as well as some EyeFish harnesses in watermelon color. Renosky stickbaits also produced some tasty walleyes. Szur picked out a rainbow trout-color stick that turned out to be a hot lure for the day.
Speed played a key role in hooking up, on a day when fishing was a bit tough because of a front coming through. Speed was 1.8 to 2.0 mph. Yetzer was able to work his magic as we reeled in a dozen fish on a day when fishing was off a bit. However, the company was great, the stories almost believable and the time went too quickly.
One unique tool that Yetzer credited to Jim Skoczylas was a little gimmick involving attaching some bells on the tip of a diver rod off the side of the boat. All you needed to do was to listen to the tinkle and it would allow you to pounce on the rod a bit quicker. It worked several times, and it seemed to make a difference whether we got the fish.
By 2 p.m., it was time to head in and figure out how we were going to put the boat on the trailer. The plan was to back the trailer in far enough and allow for me to sit on the tailgate as T.J. drove on. I would attach the clip to the bow of the boat and crank it in and then I would jump off the back of the pickup and drive the boat and trailer out into the parking lot.
As we were loading up, others were watching as they were worried about having to do the exact same thing. It wasn’t going to stop them from giving it a try to go out and catch some walleyes.
With everything secure and ready to go, we grabbed the cooler and the fish and headed over to the fish cleaning station. When we arrived, the station was out of order. It sure was making things difficult for us.
Because of the construction going on all over in Chadwick Bay, we were pushed out into a parking lot that didn’t have electricity. Yetzer couldn’t use his electric knife so he was forced to go old school on cleaning. To take it easy on him, I just grabbed my share and headed home.
Don’t let the high water keep you off this Great Lake. With an estimated 45 million walleyes in the waterbody, make every effort to take advantage of the phenomenal Lake Erie fishery. The summer is when you want to be there. The lake is coming off a record catch rate in 2018 and all indications are showing a repeat performance for 2019. It’s a great way to expand your fishing knowledge, too, if you need the help of a charter guy.
Now that I think about it, maybe the high water was because there are too many fish in the lake. You might have to do your part and take a few out to lower the water level. For more information go to www.tourchautauqua.com or call at (716) 357-4569. For information on Reel Time Charters call (585) 764-1554.