Outdoors

While it looks like that “white stuff” has officially left Chautauqua County, at least for the time being, local sportsmen have a laundry list of items to fill their down time.

Between getting the yard ready for the upcoming season, projects around the house, getting the boat ready for that first trip, prescouting for spring thunder chickens, going through the turkey vest and respooling reels, sportsmen have their plate full.

This is a crazy time of year for Chautauqua County sportsmen and next weekend kicks off the 2013 hunting season.

Youth hunters from across the region are taking to the woods with a parent or legal guardian, deemed so by the New York State Conservation law, in search of the weary wild turkey. Saturday begins the 2013 spring turkey season for the youth, with the regular season beginning May 1.

Trout season is in full swing and walleye season kicks off on May 4 with an 18-inch minimum and three-per-day legal limit for Chautauqua Lake. Also, remember the addition of a catch-and-release and artificial-bait-only rule for bass season until the regular opening day on the third Saturday of June.

So the next few weeks will be busy for Chautauqua County sportsmen.

Walleye fishing has changed a lot on Chautauqua Lake over the years. It used to be all one had to do was find a weedline and throw a stick bait near it and you would have your limit in no time. Over the years the limit has changed from 12 to 15 inches and now is 18 inches.

There hasn’t been a good walleye hatch on Chautauqua Lake since the mid-1990s and the majority of the walleye we are catching today are stocked fish. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of “eyes” in Chautauqua Lake. We just have to be willing to be patient and to use a few different techniques.

I have always loved trolling in the evening for walleye and I still do much of that style of fishing today with clients who travel from across the country to fish Chautauqua Lake.

There are a couple of things one needs to know about trolling in the evening for walleye. You first must have proper lighting on your boat. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a 10-foot row boat or a 21-foot deep V, knowing where you are and letting those around you know you are there could prevent a major mishap. Colored lights on your bow and a clear or white tall light on your transom is a best for safety and is the law on motorized boats.

Knowing the proper trolling speed is just as important as which bait or color of lure you use. I was always taught to troll slow enough to where your rod tip is just moving a little. Another way of checking your speed is to use the wind. I have found that trolling into the wind is more productive during the first part of the season.

A good 6-foot, medium-action spinning rod with an 8- to 10-pound mono will do the trick and handle just about any walleye that Chautauqua Lake will dish out.

Oftentimes trolling the weed edges in the lower basin is more productive during the early part of the season. When the water temperature starts to rise, I use the same technique in the upper basin. It seems the warmer the water gets, the deeper the walleyes like it.

Walleyes like rock and vegetation and when the water temperature gets about 70 degrees, they like deeper water close by. During this time, walleye will move up to the shallower water where baitfish are hanging out.

On Chautauqua Lake, walleye primarily feed on perch and blue gills, so when choosing colors and action, you’ll need to keep that in mind. Keeping a bait in the area where walleye are hanging out is important. Also remember that changing the speed when trolling can draw strikes. Over the years we have caught more fish on the turn than I can remember. Just that slight change in speed made them bite.

For those who have fished for walleye in Chautauqua Lake, you know that there is not nearly the number of “eyes” in the lake that there used to be. The good news is that they are bigger and still just as tasty.

For all the hunters who will be chasing longbeards around this spring, remember to know your target and what is beyond before you pull the trigger. Please remember that once that shot leaves your barrel, nothing on earth will bring it back.

Be safe out there.