A combination of heavy stocking, productive spawning and conservative management means more great walleye angling for Empire State fishermen this season. Our expert has the story. (March 2009)
Typically, long before the spring season opens, New York's die-hard anglers have their favorite walleye honeyholes mapped out. It could be a lake down the road, a river connecting to a major lake or a weekend getaway across the state.
Wherever, it's getting to be time for big walleyes to begin feeding in earnest after a long winter.
Whether the following lakes and rivers are around the corner from you or hours away, it's still well worth your time and effort to visit them.
Keep in mind, there may be special regulations in effect for each body of water. Before you head out, review the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's regulations guide for the current rules and laws on walleye fishing.
For years, Oneida Lake has been a hotspot for spring walleyes. Measuring roughly 22 miles long by five miles wide and covering about 52,000 acres, Oneida gives anglers a great opportunity to limit out on these tasty fish.
Oneida Lake's walleye population is estimated at some 400,000 adults. Jigging the bottom of the lake in 35 to 45 feet of water should consistently produce strikes. Trolling stick baits in the early-morning hours or at dusk should prove to be effective.
Shore anglers have great luck casting stick baits into the shallows during low-light hours. While casting from shore, work your baits and lures into the 12- to 15-foot range and you'll have good success.
Jeff Loukmas is the Warmwater-Coolwater Unit leader for the DEC's Bureau of Fisheries. He said that last year, researchers at Cornell University conducted a population assessment on the lake, indicating a rebound since the late '90s.
This should mean a productive 2009 spring season.
Oneida Lake lies north of Syracuse via Interstate Route 81. State boat launches at Toad Harbor and Godfrey Point on the north shore and between Bridgeport and Lakeport on the south shore are among the dozens of great access points.
The DEC's Region 7 weekly fishing hotline at (607) 753-1551 usually includes an update on Oneida Lake's action. You can also get tips on local accommodations from the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce at (315) 470-1800.
Just 30 miles away from downtown Rochester, Honeoye Lake has an average depth of 30 feet, giving anglers the advantage over some amazing 'eyes.
For spring walleyes, two of the best spots are midway up the lake, off the points. Schools of walleyes patrol these points while foraging for food.
Local anglers show up at dusk, long-lining minnow imitations and working the shoreline between these two areas.
Honeoye Lake's public boat launch lies at the southeast corner of the lake off East Lake Road. Parking is available for 30 cars with trailers.
Launching is also 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's additional parking near the baseball diamond.
For more information on Honeoye Lake's walleye fishing and accurate reports, contact Dan Sharp at Honeoye Bait and Tackle at (585) 229-2266, or visit him at 4864 County Road 37, Honeoye, NY 14471.
Information about the area is available from the Finger Lakes Tourism office, 309 Lake Street, Penn Yan, NY 14527. Call 1-800-548-4386, or e-mail them at email@example.com.
Lake Erie is undoubtedly one of the world's most productive fisheries for both size and quantity of walleyes.
Early spring tends to draw fish in numbers, rather than the 10-pounders that most anglers are hoping for.
Even so, a limit of 20-inch fish makes for some good table fare!
Biologist Loukmas noted that 2003's productive year-class of Lake Erie walleyes should mean an excellent fishery in 2009.
While casting from shore, work your baits and lures into the 12- to 15-foot range and you'll have good success.
When the season opens, the trick is to find concentrations of walleyes in shallow water (four to 15 feet deep) where the fish have not yet roamed far from spawning shoals. Two of the more popular locations are the Woodlawn area near Hamburg and Van Buren Bay near Dunkirk.
In Erie's eastern basin, the Van Buren Reef, the rockpiles east of Barcelona, Battery Point, Meyers Reef, Seneca Shoal and the rock jetties around the NFTA Small Boat Harbor should all be good starting points.
There's also good walleye fishing near the roundhouse at the head of the Niagara River. Typically, these are going to be hotbeds after dark, because fishing during the day can sometimes be frustrating and futile.
Stick baits and worm harnesses are usually the go-to methods of choice for walleye anglers on Lake Erie.
Hamburg Beach has a boat launch for residents only. The next available launch is Sturgeon Point in Evans, or try the NFTA Small Boat Harbor in Buffalo. Each is about a 15-minute boat ride from some fantastic spring walleye habitat.
For more information about fishing for walleyes in Lake Erie and its tributaries, contact the DEC's Region 9 office at (716) 851-7200. Or call the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-BUFFALO.
If the water on Lake Erie is too rough, Chautauqua Lake is your next best choice for walleye action.
Last year, anglers were still having some difficulties in catching legal-sized fish, but this spring should be different. Biologists expect a good harvest of stocked fish reaching legal size.
In 2003, the DEC began stocking the lake. In 2006, Chautauqua Lake received 160,000 walleyes. Creel surveys have revealed fish up to 25 inches. If these walleyes survived the winter, the spring bite should be fantastic.
Early-morning or dusk-to-dark angling provides the best action. The best areas for casting from shore or trolling imitation stick baits are the Bell Tower, Prendergast Point, Long Point, Mission Meadows, Warner Bar, Greenhurst, Cheney's Farm, Bemus Bay and Tom's Point.
Access to the lake is via the Prendergast Boat Launch at Long Point State Park or the Bemus Point Boat Launch.
For more information on Chautauqua Lake and its surrounding waters, contact the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Route 394, Chautauqua, NY 14722. You can e-mail the office at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-800-242-4569.
Ronkonkoma on Long Island has been flying under the walleye radar for some time. The good thing about this lake is that the DEC has done a remarkable job of controlling the walleye population, thus making it a great destination for spring anglers.
Covering 230 acres to a maximum depth of 69 feet, Ronkonkoma is a good lake to manage in a day or weekend. Fish in the 18- to 20-inch range are being caught on a regular basis now, thanks to the DEC's consistent fingerling stocking program.
However, fishing deeper than 20 feet is usually unproductive because of a lack of oxygen down there.
Lake Ronkonkoma lies north of the Long Island Expressway and east of Ocean Avenue in Ronkonkoma. Gasoline motors are not permitted.
To reach the DEC-managed boat launch, take Ocean Avenue north to Rosevale Avenue. Turn right onto Victory Drive. The boat launch entrance is on the left, marked with a wooden DEC sign.
The DEC runs the launch on Victory Drive on the western shore.
For more information, contact the DEC's Region 1 office in Stony Brook at (631) 444-0280.
For information on accommodations, contact the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800- 441-4601.