Exploring the Genny
Exploring new areas around New York State for different species of fish is always exciting. Sharing that with a son-in-law and a grandson offers great satisfaction. Reacquainting with a friend is a bonus. Put it all together and it becomes a memorable outdoor adventure.
It started when fishing buddy Wade Rowcliffe of Rochester invited me along for a fishing trip on the lower Genesee River north of Rochester. He told me that he had figured out a pattern on walleyes in the river and he wanted to share it with me.
I had fished the Genny once before with Capt. Warren Welch of Reel Easy Charters and we caught some king salmon power trolling in the fall. That was probably 25 years ago. I had never heard about walleye fishing in the Genny, and I was excited to give it a go. Rowcliffe had also been catching smallmouth bass, channel catfish, sheepshead, and northern pike.
When I told my 9-year-old grandson Parker Costello of Lockport of the road trip, he immediately shouted “can I go?” His father Kyle would be accompanying us after he left work. It was an hour-long road trip down Route 18 and the Lake Ontario Parkway after we stopped to pick up a loaner life vest from the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott.
Young Parker is still obsessed with fishing. He’s up to roughly 20 species of fish on his wall poster of freshwater sportfish of North America that adorns his wall. He was looking for a walleye and a sheepshead on this trip.
It didn’t take long for us to launch Rowcliffe’s boat, to motor upriver a few miles. The scenery was spectacular once we cruised past the marinas around Charlotte. We immediately noticed a wide variety of bird life flying around. It wasn’t long before we encountered Turning Point Park, 275 wooded acres with a waterfall, paved hiking and biking trails and a boardwalk over the Genesee River. We were soaking it all in on a beautiful afternoon offering us mid-70s temperatures and a light breeze to help keep any bugs off. We couldn’t have scripted it any better.
Rowcliffe grabbed his rods and started to set things up. He was simply longlining off the back and side of the boat, using a bow mount trolling motor to provide his preferred speed of 2.0 to 2.2 mph. No weight was put on any of his lines.
“We’re coming into a pretty good area here,” said Rowcliffe, based on his past experiences. “I use all sorts of different lure brands, small body baits that will dive. Colorations like perch, firetiger, and silver/purple are my best colors. I run my deeper inside lines back like 40 and 50 feet. Then an outside line on a longer rod that is about 100-plus feet back.”
How far back you run your line and what speed you run will affect the depth the lure runs. “My lures generally run between 8 and 14 feet down, which is perfect for the depths of the river in this section,” he continued. “They are lures that have a little larger lip that are designed to run that deep. You want walleyes to be looking up at your lure. It’s usually 15 to 20 feet deep in the areas that I will focus on.”
Almost immediately, Parker was reeling in his first walleye ever – a chunky 23-inch fish that was healthy looking and fun to fight on lighter tackle. It put a big smile on his face.
“I can mark another fish off on my poster,” young Parker said as we staged some photos.
As we worked the area over with a mix of body baits, one particular lure stood out on this day – a Strike King Walleye Elite Bonsai Shad Deep Diving Crankbait in Purple Tiger, weighing a ½ ounce and measuring 2-3/4 inches. It caught 3 of the 4 walleyes that we boated in just a couple hours of fishing. It took a couple of other hits, too.
“I’ve caught fish here using Kwikfish, Flicker Shads, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows and Storm Thundersticks,” said Rowcliffe. “It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day whether or not the fish cooperate.”
It wasn’t long before Parker started to ask about the chances of catching a sheepshead.
“I catch them here all of the time,” insisted Rowcliffe.
Well, maybe not all the time because we had not hooked one before it was time to leave. It sounds like another road trip is in our near future. Maybe we will hit a different body of water and a new area to try and catch a sheepshead. Then again, maybe not. Who would have thought we’d actually be trying to catch a sheepshead? As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.