Gearing up for fall walleye fishing on Chautauqua Lake
It was 5:50 a.m. and I was walking along the docks extending out from the Harbor Hotel on Chautauqua Lake (www.TheChautauquaHarborHotel.com). My ride for a morning foray on the lake would arrive around 6 a.m. and I wanted to be early. I immediately noticed baitfish breaking the surface.
Almost on cue, predator fish arrived making big splashes as they sought out breakfast. I made a mental note – make sure I bring my fishing rod with me next time I am on these docks. Maybe in the morning.
The Harbor Hotel is the newest addition to the chain of Hart Hotels taking advantage of the outdoors. The three that I have visited personally are all located on the respective waterfronts for those areas. In addition to this Celoron site outside Jamestown, Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake and Clayton on the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands are outstanding destinations for the outdoors lover. It’s a great way to pamper yourself and your spouse or significant other.
Capt. Frank Schoenacker of Infinity Charters (585-406-5764) arrived at 6 a.m. via his 1775 Lund Pro-V and off we went up the lake to some pre-determined walleye spots to see if we could get any to go.
“This time of year, walleyes are moving into some of the deeper holes and jigging is the way to go,” said Schoenacker. One of his favorites is a Moonshine Shiver Minnow, but a variety of Rapala jigging lures will trick fish into hitting this time of year, too.
As the water continues to cool, it will not be long before the lake flips and sets up for the winter months. “I can fish in this lake until late December if the weather will let me,” insists Schoenacker. He will only run two people at a time unless it is a mom or dad and a couple of younger kids.
“With more people spending time outdoors this year, I’ve been giving some on-water lessons for new people to the lake and to the sport.”
Because our time was limited, we stayed relatively close to the hotel. One of the deeper holes in the South Basin was 18-19 feet and we drifted our way through the hole, taking advantage of an east wind that was a little stronger than was forecast predicted. While we marked some fish on the fish finder, we didn’t have any luck.
“I picked up a couple here yesterday,” said Schoenacker. The combination of the east wind and a front coming through didn’t help matters any.
It was off to the other side of Long Point for another deep water spot. Again, we were marking fish on the electronics, but no walleyes were boated. After a few yellow perch and a couple missed hits, it was back to the hotel for a tour of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown.
Had the time not been a factor, Schoenacker would have headed further up into the North Basin where deeper and more productive holes can be found. The lake, at over 17 miles long and 2 miles wide at its widest point, is a top destination for muskellunge, bass, crappie, perch and walleye.
The combination of successful stocking and natural reproduction has significantly improved the fishery. Walleye are doing so well that the special 18-inch minimum size, three per day fishing regulation was changed in 2017 to the statewide regulation of 15-inch minimum size, five per day.
The next morning I was up early. I was going to grab my fishing rod and make a few casts off the docks (docks that are free to use if you are a guest of the hotel). However, it was raining. Make a mental note – next time bring my rain gear. I will be back.