Spring Walleye Hotspots

Spring Walleye Hotspots

Empire State biologists predict great things for walleye anglers in 2007. These are the top places to be when New York's walleye season opens this spring. (March 2007)

Photo By Ron Sinfelt

It's never too early to start thinking about New York's walleye opener in May. It's been months since the season closed, and whether it was a banner year of fishing on open water or through the ice, anglers know that once the walleye season opens in May, the game is on.

The spring opener is the best time to be on the water in hopes of catching that walleye of a lifetime. Fall usually produces walleyes with a little more girth because they feed heavily before they enter their "lethargic state" for the winter.

Once ice-out begins, the water begins to warm, and the walleyes once again go on the attack for food to kick off their annual spawning season.

Here's a look at where you'll have your best chances for prime walleye action in New York this spring. Each lake has its attractions: Some hold high numbers of fish, while others produce massive walleyes. But in any case, it's time to drop the lines and wet the net!

HONEOYE LAKE

Honeoye Lake is a warmwater fishery and the perfect place to begin your spring walleyes trail. Honeoye is shallow, so weeds can be an issue. But there's nothing better than getting on the water at this time of year, before the weeds take over.

Sean Hanna, regional director for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Region 8, expects Honeoye to have better fishing this spring.

"We introduced a size restriction, thus anglers are going to be seeing bigger and more stronger fish," he said.

Some 30 miles from downtown Rochester, Honeoye has an average depth of 30 feet, yet produces some amazing 'eyes.

The best place to look for spring walleyes is midway up the lake, off the points. The walleyes will be patrolling these points as they forage for baitfish. Try launching your boat at dusk and start long lining the shoreline between these areas.

A public boat launch is at the southeast corner of the lake off East Lake Road. Parking is available for 30 cars with trailers. The New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation operates the launch. Winter maintenance allows for ice-fishing access.

At Sandy Bottom Beach, launching is available for small trailered boats, cartops and canoes off Sandy Bottom Road, at the northwest corner of the lake. Lakeside parking allows for about six cars. There is additional parking near the baseball diamond. The town of Richmond operates the launch, and winter maintenance allows for ice-fishing access.

For more information on walleye fishing at Honeoye Lake and accurate angling reports, contact Dan Sharp at Honeoye Bait and Tackle at (585) 229-2266, or you can visit him at 4864 County Road 37, Honeoye, NY 14471.

SILVER LAKE

Silver Lake is tucked away in the hills of Wyoming County. Anglers here normally target bass and sometimes overlook its abundant walleyes.

Periods of low light are the ticket for filling your livewell with Silver Lake walleyes. The eastern shore of the lake is where the majority of fish will spawn. Long-lining stick baits after dark and jigging the dropoffs at dusk can be deadly.

Mark Hoak has fished Silver Lake for many years.

"The DEC has done a decent job with the population of walleyes in Silver Lake, which can be tricky to fish. But working the weed lines at dark has proved productive for me."

To find Silver Lake, follow U.S. Route 20 west from Canandaigua through the village of Avon and the intersection of Route 246, which leads south to the village of Perry and the Silver Lake outlet. There is a state boat launch on West Lake Road.

The lake has a maximum depth of 37 feet and a mean depth of 25 feet. For a contour map of Silver Lake, contact the DEC's Region 9 office in Allegany at (716) 342-0645.

For travel information, contact the Wyoming County Tourism Promotion Agency at (716) 493-3190.

CONESUS LAKE

Conesus Lake inlet is a prime spawning ground for walleyes, and as they make their annual run up the inlet each year, they can be easily seen from shore.

Once the season opens, the majority of the fish go back in the lake, and anglers have a great opportunity to catch a trophy-sized 'eye.

Conesus Lake covers 3,400 acres and has a maximum depth of 69 feet.

"Historically, Conesus lake has had a strong population of big fish," said biologist Hanna. "They're big, they're fat and they're happy. We have also added a new walleyes hatchery on the south end of the lake. Students from Finger Lake Community College raise the fish, and we disperse them to the various lakes."

Getting to the lake is simple. Take the New York State Thruway to the Route 390 (Rochester) exit. From there, take Route 390 south to Exit 9 and then proceed on Route 15 into Lakeville, at the north end of the lake. The inlet is at the south end and can be reached via Sliker Hill Road.

The Livingston County Chamber of Commerce at (585) 243-2222 will direct anglers to nearby accommodations.

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE

Considered the jewel of western New York walleye waters, Chautauqua Lake has been one of the best and most productive walleye fisheries in the last decade.

DEC biologists have done a fantastic job of keeping the walleyes stocked and refreshed in the lake for many years. Numbers of walleyes are well up, but anglers may need to sort through numbers of sub-adult 'eyes to catch a legal creel limit.

Mike Clancy, a Region 9 fishery biologist, said that Chautauqua Lake has been stocked with walleyes since 2003, and he noted that they should be legal-sized by spring of 2007.

Chautauqua Lake received a stocking of 160,000 walleyes in 2006, and a similar number of fish is scheduled for the 2007 stocking. During spring and fall lake surveys, biologists have seen fair numbers of older walleyes up to 25 inches, and received reports of good catches of walleyes last season.

As usual, the best action occurs early a

nd late in the day.

The best areas to cast from shore or troll imitation stick baits are Mission Meadows, the Bell Tower, Prendergast Point, Long Point, Warner Bar, Greenhurst, Cheneys Farm, Bemus Bay and Toms Point.

Access to the lake is via the Prendergast Boat Launch, Long Point State Park or the Bemus Point Boat Launch.

For more information on Chautauqua Lake and its surroundings, contact the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 1441, Chautauqua Institution Welcome Center, Route 394, Chautauqua, NY 14722. Call 1-800-242-4569 or you can log on to info@tourchautauqua.com.

BEAR LAKE

Nestled down in the hills of Chautauqua County is the relatively small but productive Bear Lake.

With the deepest part of the lake running about 27 feet, there's plenty of room to work the weedlines and shorelines to produce some spectacular fish.

Although Bear Lake isn't well known, the walleyes from this lake are impressive. It's not uncommon to put a few 6- to 8-pounders on the stringer after a day of jigging and trolling.

The best option for catching these fish is jigging by day and trolling at night. A 1/4- to 1/2-ounce jig tipped with a night crawler or leech will work wonders off the weedlines and dropoffs.

At dusk and night, try utilizing some mid-range crankbaits (perch colored) and work the 10- to 12-foot range. In the evening, don't be surprised if you get tangled up with a muskie.

Bear Lake was stocked with walleyes in 2004. Local fishermen claim that the walleye fishing is good, and note that there are some large muskies in the lake. Bear Lake will be surveyed again in 2007.

For more information on Bear Lake, contact the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce at 10785 Bennett Road, Dunkirk, NY 14048; or call (716) 366-6200.

ALLEGHENY RESERVOIR

Bordering the New York and Pennsylvania border, the Allegheny Reservoir is one of New York's top walleye hotspots.

In fact, one of the largest walleyes in state history -- a 16-pound, 7-ounce monster -- was caught here.

"Depending on the weather, it's not uncommon to fill the livewell with decent-sized fish," said Dan Waterstreet, who fishes the reservoir throughout the year. "Spring is usually the time to cast from a boat with stick baits or work the dropoffs with jigs and crawlers.

"There is a lot of room here for walleyes. When the DEC drains the lake in the fall and winter, I study the bottom so I know where to look for them in the spring," Waterstreet added.

In New York and Pennsylvania, Allegheny Reservoir provides anglers from both states with some amazing opportunities. The best access is in Pennsylvania at Webbs Ferry and Willow Bay. Launching at the Onoville Marina in New York is another option, but make sure to obtain a Seneca Indian Nation fishing license for this section of water.

For more information, call the Kinzua Wolf Run Marina in Pennsylvania at (814) 726-1650, or the Onoville Marina in New York at (716) 354-2615. The reservoir is a few minutes from Allegany State Park, eight miles south of Interstate Route 86 at Exit 17.

CUBA LAKE

With a surface area of 445 acres and a maximum depth of 40, Cuba Lake is easy to explore and offers a mixed bag of species. But the walleye fishing can run hot and heavy when the conditions are right.

Access to lake is somewhat restrictive. On the east side of the lake, the DEC maintains a small lot for about 20 cars and trucks. This is one of the best places to fish on the lake. A nearby dam offers good fishing at the 15- to 25-foot depths that are usually the ticket to success.

On the south end of the lake, there is another DEC lot designed for cartop boat launching. This spot is small, so parking can fill up quickly. Most fisherman prefer to fish the north end of the lake for 'eyes, as opposed to the south end.

Fishing this lake requires the use of basic setups: a decent medium-action rod and 6- to 8-pound monofilament. You're not going to pull any record-setters out of the lake, but the action can be consistent.

Jigs tipped with worms or leeches seem to have the best impact over the deeper water. Trolling is an option, but weeds can sometime be an issue. If you do plan on trolling, work the 10- to 15-foot depths with a mid-sized crankbait.

Cuba Lake is easy to get to off the Southern Tier Expressway (Route 86) at the Cuba exit. Signs will point you in the right direction to the lake. The lake itself is only about two miles up the road from the expressway.

RUSHFORD LAKE

Rushford Lake can be extremely productive. Other days, it might take some extreme patience and skill to hoist a few keepers eye-up into your livewell.

Experience says that the majority of 'eyes are taken after dark. Trolling and working the shoreline and varying your speed can often produce some explosive results. The key to fishing Rushford Lake is to change your pattern and presentation if something isn't exactly working.

Try running stick baits back off the shore in 10 to 12 feet of water. If you're not getting any hits, drop out to 15 to 20 feet of water, change speed and change lures. Like everything in fishing, the key is patience and persistence.

More information can be provided by calling the DEC office in the town of Allegany at (716) 372-0645; or by contacting the village of Angelica, 21 Peacock Hill Road Angelica, NY 14709. Or you can call (585) 466-7431.

ONEIDA

If you're from central New York, you pretty much know that when it comes to inland lakes, Oneida Lake is the mecca of walleyes fishing.

Oneida has been the hotspot for chasing marble-eyes when the May opener arrives. Measuring roughly 22 miles long by and five miles wide, and covering about 52,000 acres, Oneida waters give anglers probably the best opportunity in the Northeast to limit out on fish.

Oneida is estimated to have close to 400,000 adult walleyes. Jigging the bottom of the lake in 35 to 45 feet of water should consistently produce walleyes. Trolling stick baits in the early morning hours, or at dusk and dark, should also prove productive.

Most anglers will be working the channel markers, and most seasoned veterans of the lake have their favorite spots mapped out.

The key is to do some research on the lake ahead of time. Pick up a contour map and troll the lines where there are steep dropoffs. It doesn't hurt to ask at local bait and tackle shops, or to watch the locals on the lake itself.

Oneida Lake lies north of Syracuse via Interstate 81. The state boat launches at Toad Harbor and Godfrey Point on the north shore and between Bridgeport and Lakeport on the south shore are just three among dozens of access points.

The DEC's Region 7 weekly fishing hotline at (607) 753-1551 usually contains an update on Oneida Lake action. Readers can get tips on local accommodations from the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce at (315) 470-1800.

LAKE ERIE

By now, everyone should know the history of walleye fishing on Lake Erie. Spring means some great opportunities to catch resident walleyes as well as the early run of the migrating fish.

Night-fishing is the key. One of the very best spots to target walleyes in spring is the flats off Hamburg Beach about 10 miles south of Buffalo.

The average size of Lake Erie walleyes was down in 2005 and 2006 because the catch was dominated by the 2003 year-class, which averaged around 14 to 15 inches in 2005, and about 17 inches during the summer of 2006.

Although the size was down, walleye abundance has been very high because this 2003 year-class was the most abundant hatch produced in many years.

When the season opens on the first Saturday in May, the best bet for walleye fishing is near concentrations of fish found in shallow water (4 to 6 feet deep). Two of the more popular locations are the Woodlawn area near Hamburg and Van Buren Bay near Dunkirk.

"We expect walleye abundance to remain high again next spring, largely because of the continued high abundance of the 2003 year-class," said biologist Clancy.

For the best results, fish the 4- to 6-foot depths by long-lining sticks baits.

Hamburg beach has a boat launch, but it's for residents only. The next available launch is Sturgeon Point in Evans, or try the Small Boat Harbor in Buffalo. Each is about a 15-minute boat ride to this fantastic spring walleye habitat.

For more information about walleye fishing in Erie County, contact the Dec Region 9 office at (716) 851-7200, or call the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-BUFFALO.

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