Here's a look at where to go for some exciting spring walleye fishing on New York's top-rated lakes and reservoirs. (March 2006)
New York's waters provide some fantastic spring walleye fishing, and although the fishing doesn't really heat up until later in the spring, now is the time to start preparing to ensure success once the season opens May 6.
In most Empire State waters, the minimum length for walleyes is 15 inches and the daily limit is five fish. Some exceptions do exist and will be listed for the waters mentioned below. Check the 2006 freshwater fishing regulations before a trip.
Lake Erie is home to some of the best walleye fishing in the world, and the waters from the Pennsylvania border all the way to the Peace Bridge in Buffalo offer some excellent spring fishing.
Lake Erie has excellent boat access along its shoreline bordering Route 5. Heading east to west, the best public boat launches include Small Boat Harbor in Buffalo, Sturgeon Point Marina in Derby, Silver Creek (near the mouth of Cattaraugus Creek), Dunkirk Harbor and Barcelona.
When fishing the daylight hours, keep in mind that walleyes tend to move into 30 to 35 feet of water where they can be caught by drifting or trolling.
If you do not have access to a boat, there is some good spring walleye fishing available by wading at Wanakah Beach off Route 5 in Hamburg. There is also access for shore-casters at the mouth of Smokes Creek in Lackawanna. The daily limit on walleyes in Lake Erie is four fish.
When planning a walleye fishing trip on Lake Erie, be sure to check the weather forecast, as it can be extremely rough when the wind gets above 15 miles per hour and unsafe when the wind gets above 20 miles per hour. It is also wise to have an alternate plan to fish a nearby inland lake in the event that a prolonged windstorm blows in.
Accommodations are plentiful in the greater Buffalo area as well as in Dunkirk. Check with your favorite hotel chain because most are close to the lake.
For local fishing information, check with Miller's Bait and Tackle in Silver Creek or at the pier in Dunkirk.
In southern Chautauqua County, this lake offers great spring walleye fishing. The fun begins with the annual walleye tournament at 12:01 a.m. on opening day.
Chautauqua Lake, known for its great muskie fishing, has been a spring walleye hotspot for a number of years, producing excellent sizes and numbers of fish.
The Interstate Route 86 bridge divides the lake almost in half, and spring walleyes may be found in the shallows along the shoreline of both the northern and southern basins.
Daytime walleye fishing is rarely productive. Trolling or casting from dusk until sunrise will provide the best opportunities for catching a limit of walleyes, which in Chautauqua Lake is three fish with a minimum size limit of 18 inches.
Prendergast and Dewittville creeks, feeding the north basin of Chautauqua Lake, have great runs of spawning walleyes. Early in the season, the mouths of these creeks are two of the best spots for walleyes coming off their spawning beds. Other hotspots in early spring are the shoreline surrounding Long Point State Park, the I-86 bridge, and the water off Maple Springs on the eastern side of the northern basin.
Later in the spring, walleyes move away from the shorelines and into the weedbeds. They can be found by fishing the edge of any weed line, with two of the most noted hotspots being off the tower at Chautauqua Institution on the western side of the north basin and Cheney's Point on the western side of the southern basin.
Free boat access is plentiful on Chautauqua Lake, with five of seven public launches not charging launch fees. Perhaps the best and easiest of these is the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's launch at Bemus Point off Route 430, just a few miles from I-86 and a short drive from I-90. Because most of Chautauqua Lake is shallow, it can get pretty choppy on windy days, but it is rarely too rough to fish.
Long Point State Park offers some great opportunities for wading. Accommodations are plentiful in Jamestown at the southern end of the lake.
For local information on what baits or lures are working, two of the best contacts are the Redwood Ranch Bait Shop in Bemus Point on the eastern side and the Happy Hooker Bait Shop in Ashville on the western side.
ALLEGHENY (KINZUA) RESERVOIR
Off I-86 over the Pennsylvania state line, the Allegheny Reservoir offers some great spring walleye fishing. Although typically known more for the number of walleyes caught than their size, the state-record walleye was caught here in 1994, a fish weighing 16 pounds, 7 ounces. Two Pennsylvania state-record walleyes were also caught in these waters in the 1980s.
Because the water is not clear, spring walleye fishing here is not limited to the nighttime hours. The reservoir also offers 40 miles of shoreline in New York waters, almost all of which hold spring walleyes.
Spring walleyes will be found in heavy concentrations near the mouth of the reservoir in 5 to 15 feet of water. A couple of other hotspots include the mouth of Pierce Run Creek as well as the area around the I-86 bridge at the north end.
Later in spring, the water will begin to recede and the walleyes will move out to slightly deeper water away from the extreme north end of the reservoir.
There are four launch sites in New York waters with two free, limited- capability sites. The launch site at the Onoville marina (approximately eight miles from I-86) is probably the most accommodating for the majority of boaters, and a fee is charged.
This is also the best area to obtain local information on current conditions as well as license information. It is also important to know where the state line is, unless you possess a valid Pennsylvania fishing license. A large portion of the reservoir is within the Allegheny Indian Reservation and requires an additional license.
Accommodations are available in nearby Salamanca and Olean. Camping is also available in Allegheny State Park.
One of the smallest Finger Lakes, Honeoye Lake is a big producer of spring walleyes. Heavily stocked with walleyes (8.7 million fry annually), good fish can be caught virtually anywhere in shallow water near the lake's many inlets
and run-offs in spring. Like most other areas, the best walleye fishing occurs after the sun goes down.
Although it doesn't produce quite as many walleyes as it has in recent years, the fish caught in the last year or two are consistently larger than average.
There are two public launch sites on Honeoye Lake, including Sandy Bottom Beach at the north end off county Route 36 and Honeoye Lake Public Boat Launch off Route 20A. Working the shoreline on either side of the lake should produce good numbers of walleyes.
The daily limit on walleyes on Honeoye Lake is three fish.
For accommodations near Honeoye Lake, interested anglers should visit www.fingerlakes.worldweb.com.
Perhaps the best-known walleye producer in New York, this central New York lake is just a few miles north of Syracuse. It has seen its walleye population range from 200,000 to one million fish, and anglers have harvested as many as 450,000 walleyes in a single year.
The DEC is currently stocking between 100 million and 200 million walleye fry into Oneida Lake each year to maintain its reputation as the state's top walleye fishery.
As with most walleye fisheries, the best spring angling typically occurs after dark in shallow water. Trolling is the preferred and most successful method, although drifting is popular with some anglers.
Check the weather forecast, as the lake surface can be rough on windy days.
Boat access on Oneida Lake is plentiful, with 26 public launch sites. There are two free public launches: the DEC's South Shore boat launch and the Godfrey Point launch on the northeastern end of the lake.
Accommodations are abundant in the greater Syracuse area, as well as in the town of Brewerton on the eastern end of the lake.
The DEC's Web site at www.dec.state.ny.usis a good source for walleye fishing information, maps and regulations changes.
Traveling anglers should visit www.iloveny.comfor more trip-planning assistance.