Buffalo’s Lake Erie: The cool place (literally) for walleye to spend the summer

By T.J. Pignataro | Published August 29, 2018 | Updated August 29, 2018

DUNKIRK – The walleye around here tend to stick around, spending their whole lives on the eastern side of Lake Erie.

The walleye from Ohio?

They’re roamers. They’ll show up on the Buffalo side of the lake for the summer before heading back to their home waters to spawn in the spring.

“A lot of these fish are still around, even into the fall,” said Don Einhouse, leader of the state’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit in Dunkirk, about the fish from the Toledo side of the lake.

What scientists have learned about the comings and goings of Lake Erie walleye matters because it helps their agencies manage a vibrant walleye population – important for recreational and commercial purposes.

“When you’re trying to manage a species, you have to know the reproductive stressors,” things like pollution, habitat and overfishing, said Jeff Jondle, president of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.

Overfishing, for example, wiped out the blue pike and drove down populations of lake sturgeon and lake trout.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation wants walleye to remain vibrant in Lake Erie, so the information its biologists are gathering isn’t just interesting, it’s useful.

“We don’t have to guess,” Jondle said. “We can fine-tune what we know.”

Fishing for walleye on Lake Erie
Scientists from several government agencies are tracking the fish by using acoustic transmitters that have been implanted in the walleye and receivers anchored to the bottom of Lake Erie in a grid pattern across 241 miles between Toledo and Buffalo.

Tracking their movements began about five years ago with a few fish and receivers. Since then, the scientists have tagged about 1,044 fish in Ohio’s western basin and 532 in the eastern basin including the Canadian shoreline.

Here’s what biologists have found so far:

• Most walleye tagged in the western basin spawn there and then fan out over the entire lake over the summer before returning to the Ohio side in fall to spawn there again the following spring.
• Most walleye return to spawn in the same places from one year to the next.
• Many individual walleye make similar migration patterns every year – some stay close to home, while others travel across the lake.

Biologists have also learned that not all of Lake Erie’s walleye behave the same.

While the western-basin fish roam widely, walleye born closer to Buffalo tend to live their whole lives in the eastern basin. That improves their chances for survival because it reduces their vulnerability to large fisheries in the western part of the lake, biologists said.

“We wouldn’t have known that, except for this study,” Einhouse said. “This really documented that walleye do come to the same spawning sites every year.”

‘Always walleye here’

“Walleye are thriving right now,” said Jason Robinson, a fisheries biologist at the DEC’s Lake Erie Unit in Dunkirk. “They’re doing as well as they’ve done in a generation.”

Walleye reproduce in large numbers in Lake Erie, and they survive to adulthood.

Ron Duliba, a charter captain who runs a fishing boat of Dunkirk harbor, knows all about the walleye bounty.

Duliba and a companion reeled in two dozen fish last weekend in 90 minutes.

“There’s always walleye here,” Duliba said.

What’s even more remarkable is that New York’s walleye harvest is tiny – representing only about 1 percent – of all walleye taken from Lake Erie.

“In 2017, there were almost 5 million walleye harvested in Lake Erie,” Robinson said. “New York harvested 70,000 of those.”

Search and research

The technology provides biologists a unique opportunity to study fish movements and preferred locations, and to answer questions to ensure sustainable management of walleye.

It’s a golden opportunity for scientists who want to learn anything about fish movement, Einhouse said.

“Whether it be sturgeon, or muskellunge, walleye, lake trout – you name it – if you want to understand the dynamics of movement of these fish, there’s no better place than this than Lake Erie right now,” he said.

The tagged fish are surgically-implanted with telemetry devices – about the size of a AA battery – in their abdomen.

When they pass within approximately a mile of one of the more than 100 acoustic receivers anchored on the lake bottom, the receiver registers the fish by an identifying number as well as its location, and the date and time. Biologists usually retrieve each receiver once per year, download the data and install fresh batteries, Robinson said.

Using that information, biologists can track where the walleye came from, as well as its comings and goings on a computer-generated map of Lake Erie.

Collaborating on the project are the DEC, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, U.S. Geological Survey and the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System.

Agency cooperation

In New York waters, tagging focused on five spawning shoals from the state’s most westerly shoal near Ripley, to its most easterly shoal near Lackawanna, Robinson said.

Robinson said biologists also tagged walleye not associated with any particular spawning shoal.

Each tagging effort – the western basin, eastern basin and the Grand River – is a separate effort by multiple agencies, and a part of a larger overarching international study into walleye populations.

“Obviously, each agency has its own questions about local spawning stocks,” Robinson said. “There is definitely cooperation going on using our combined data to address whole-lake population dynamics questions.”

There’s still plenty to learn.

“These tags have a five-year battery life so we will be collecting data on these fish for years to come,” Robinson said.

During a recent presentation in Dunkirk, Einhouse highlighted the behaviors of two walleye in Lake Erie with very different traveling habits.

The first one, 24.5 inches long, was spawning on Toussaint Reef in western Ohio when tagged with a transmitter.

For three years in a row, the fish spawned on the Ohio reef before covering more than 200 miles over 20 days to the eastern basin – where the fish spent most of the summer. Then, the fish returned to the western basin for spring spawning.

Meanwhile, scientists tracked another fish over five years, a 28-inch-long homebody that also spawns at Toussaint Reef.

This fish never travels more than 40 miles from the reef, with most of its life spent between the reef and Ohio’s Bass Islands.

“There’s a lot of individual behaviors going on, and they’re repeatable behaviors, which is something that I don’t think we previously knew,” Einhouse said.

What anglers suspected

For the last three decades or so, biologists relied on numeric metal jaw tags, but now they can follow the paths of walleye movements electronically.

The data shows that most walleye born in the shallow western basin, remain there to spawn then head east by mid-summer as water temperatures warm and possibly because forage fish become more plentiful in the lake’s cooler, deeper waters between Erie, Pa., and Buffalo.

For those walleye that are native to the eastern basin, spawning happens during the spring on shallow rocky shoals near Van Buren Point and Smokes Creek in Lackawanna.

These fish live mostly on this side of the lake, looking for food and returning to their usual spawning areas every year.

Additional data shows that a Canadian cohort out of Grand River at Port Maitland, Ont. – about 15 miles west of Port Colborne, Ont. – stays close to the Canadian shoreline.

That insight is important from a fisheries management perspective.

“Because walleye is a very popular sport and commercial fish that supports one of the largest freshwater commercial fisheries in the entire world, it’s really important to understand how we share these fish,” Einhouse said.

Anglers have been making anecdotal observations for years.

They suspected that fish found in certain streams and tributaries returned there every spring to spawn, and that there’s an influx of Ohio walleye that mix with the eastern basin’s walleye every summer, said Rich Davenport of the Erie County Fish Advisory Board.

“Simply enough, they’ve nailed it,” Davenport said. “It’s nice to be able to see it. It makes a lot of sense. It’s a good confirmation.”

Deep Structure Vs. Shallow Grass : Late Summer Bass Fishing

Matt & Tim hit the water together for the first time in months! They start out fishing deep structure with a jig and wobble head. When they’re done they head to the shallows in search of topwater action. Come along for the fun!

Most bass fishermen find themselves drawn to a particular Summer pattern. They find themselves focusing on deep fish on hard cover or they find their interests lie in shallow grass and structure. The fishermen that can combine both methods into a day on the water consistently see better success. 

Matt’s Baits… 
Wobble Head Jig (3/8 oz 4/0 Hook): http://bit.ly/2jOY1Ns
Creature Bait- Zoom Z Craw: http://bit.ly/2vW7Jo5
Frog- River2Sea Bully Way 2: http://bit.ly/2axyR2a
Frog- Jackall Gavacho: http://bit.ly/2L7KsWS

Tim’s Baits…
Jig- 1/2 oz Dirty Jigs Pitchin Jig (Norcal Craw): http://bit.ly/2amL3of
Trailer- Sweet Beaver (Green Pumpkin Red): http://bit.ly/29W3RZW
Shaky Head- Canterbury 1/4 oz Black: http://bit.ly/2aFOs0V
Frog- Evergreen Soft Shell: http://bit.ly/2NChzTZ
Frog- Bully Wa 2 (Ghost): http://bit.ly/2axyR2a

Matt’s Wobble Head Setup… 
Rod- Megabass Orochi XX Tour Versatile: http://bit.ly/2OSVNwH
Reel- Chronarch MGL 7:1 Ratio: http://bit.ly/2n8DghB
Line- 50 lb Maxcuatro Braid: http://bit.ly/2clBRiQ
Leader- 20 lb Maxima Ultragreen: http://bit.ly/2ae97J9

Tim’s Jig Setup…
Rod- Dobyns Champion Extreme 744: http://bit.ly/2ab2kRX
Reel- Metanium MGL 7:1 Ratio: http://bit.ly/2L8anRQ
Line- 65 lb MaxCuatro Braided Line: http://bit.ly/2clBRiQ
Leader- 20 lb Sunline Assassin: http://bit.ly/2h4LNjm

Need Apparel? Tacticalbassin Gear is in stock! Get your hats, Hoodies,  and sunshirts by emailing Tacticalbassinapparel@gmail.com

‘Extremely rare’ orange bass caught on Muskegon River

A Michigan man recently caught an “extremely rare” fish on the Muskegon River.

It was Saturday, Aug. 25 when Paul Gillis caught the unique specimen during a fishing trip with his brother and daughter.

“We were catching a ton of smallmouth, walleye, trout and suckers,” he said. “We decided to hit a hole we were fishing earlier. As I was about to set anchor my brother David said ‘Hey Paul, what is that? Is that a fish?’ I said that’s a fish and grabbed my pole, thinking someone let a goldfish free in the river.”

But this was no goldfish, but rather a rarely-seen, orange-colored smallmouth bass. Kevin Wehrly, Ph.D, fisheries wildlife biologist for the Department of Natural Resources identified the fish on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

According to Wehrly, the fish is exhibiting a genetic condition known as Xanthism in which yellow pigments are expressed more than usual.

Xanthism is known to naturally occur in several fish families as well as in birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals although it is more common in the pet trade where they are selectively bred and highly sought after.

Bright orange goldfish you see in the pet store are a good example, as are domesticated yellow parrots, frogs, and snakes, Wehrly said.

“In the wild, Xanthic individuals rarely occur because they are created by a rare genetic combination, and because brightly-colored individuals are easy targets for predators,” Wehrly added. “Although we can’t say that this gold Smallmouth Bass is a one-in-a-billion catch, we do know that it is extremely rare.”

Nicknamed “Sharktooth” by Gillis’ daughter Anna, the fish was released back into the river unharmed. It’s a fishing experience they won’t soon forget.

I’ve caught a bunch of muskies,” Gillis said. “But this fish tops them all.”

A Camper Van Conversion That Won’t Cost a Mint

Maryland-based brand will build you a spanking new adventure rig, van included, for less than you’d think.


If you’re in the market for an adventure van but you’re lacking the time, inclination, mechanical know-how, tools, or workspace needed to kit out a van yourself, you’re also staring down the barrel of a stomach-churning $100k purchase price, or thereabouts, for a custom-built off-the-grid capable van. Rear-wheel drive and 4×4 vans are already expensive as it is, and that price shoots way, way up into the stratosphere when you start fitting them out with sinks and beds and solar panels.

But now there’s a Maryland-based company that promises a selling price dramatically less than the mortgage for a house, for a custom-made adventure rig.

Off Grid Adventure Vans is building camp-ready vans for around $60k. And they’re taking orders.

Started by Aaron Fensterheim, a sound engineer who’d spent years living in vans himself, the idea is simple. Build (relatively) inexpensive adventure vans for people who aren’t sitting on piles of cash. He also wanted to focus on the east coast market, figuring there were already plenty of #vanlife options out west.

Off Grid builds their rigs primarily on the Dodge Promaster platform, both the 1500 and 2500 models. Fensterheim likes the Dodge because it’s front-wheel drive and a bit cheaper than the 4×4 models lots of #vanlifers run; the base van itself costs only about $30k. The build out is another $30k, depending on options.

The local dealership Off Grid gets their vans from also finances the van plus the conversion, putting one of these rigs in reach for people who don’t have tens of thousands of dollars in cash just lying around.

The conversion looks well-thought out and well-appointed too. That $30k gets the buyer: Full-size bed, wood-paneled living/dining area that can seat six, full kitchen with sink, Dometic fridge/freezer combo, propane tank, composting toilet, two-burner stove, and a 200w solar kit, among other goodies.

The vans are built in Maryland, but they’ll deliver them wherever you like. Though, a van like this really needs to be driven back to your home, preferably in a trip taking weeks, touring plenty of public lands.

Photos: Off Grid Adventure Vans

Topwater Bass Fishing – Use Follow Up Baits to Catch More Bass

Topwater Bass Fishing – Use Follow Up Baits to Catch More Bass
Published: 08/27/18

Article by ANGLR Expert, Hunter Utley

You wake up on a summer morning and have been waiting all week to get out on the water. You grab some coffee and breakfast on your way to the boat ramp. As the sun starts peeking over the horizon, you’re driving away from the ramp, headed to your favorite morning topwater bass fishing spot.

You get there, it’s flat calm and the baitfish are popping left and right. The water seems to be boiling and your heart starts beating out of your chest. It’s game time.

You chuck out your favorite topwater bait and start your retrieve. A few twitches in and BOOM!

Your bait gets launched 5 feet up in the air and to your horror, the big ol’ bass missed your bait!!!

Your gut reaction is to reel in your bait and fire it right back out there. If you’ve experienced this before, you know that isn’t always going to work, and can even hinder your bite sometimes. So, what do you do instead? Get out your follow up bait!

What’s a Follow up Bait?

A follow up bait is something that you will have tied on and in your boat ready to throw in case a bass misses your topwater..usually something finesse or something totally different from what the bass just tried to hit. The idea behind this can be summed up fairly easily. The bass is in a feeding mode as it was clearly eating baitfish and tried to choke down your topwater bait already. But, presenting the same bait might make that bass wary and alerted to the fact that something isn’t quite right.

So when you throw out a finesse worm, small swimbait, or a different style of topwater, that feeding bass might be keen on continuing its feeding frenzy, thus attacking your bait and being on the receiving end of a dirt nasty hookset!

Where to Throw a Follow Up Bait

There are two main places that bass will usually stage when feeding in the top of the water column. Close to the bank and offshore off of points or humps. Realistically, it depends on the forage of your specific body of water. A body of water with shiners, minnows, shad or any other type of baitfish will usually be known for bass pushing a ball of baitfish up towards the surface around points, humps, channel swings, or ledges.

In a body of water containing shallow grass mats, lily pad fields, or shallow timber along the shoreline, the bass will stage under or around the cover and structure and lay in wait for their prey to make it’s way over their hiding place.

Either way, once you locate the locations that the bass like to feed high in the water column, you’re going to want to go topwater fishing. It is the most exciting way to catch em, and when you go, you’ll want to take your follow up bait with you!

Offshore Topwater Bass Fishing Action

When the offshore topwater action begins, usually in the heat of the summer, the bass are schooling on shad or other baitfish. I feel that the best way to approach a bass that has missed a topwater bait offshore is to follow up the strike with a small 3.5 inch Primary Tackle Swimbait or even a finesse double willow blade spinnerbait preferably ¼ ounce to ⅜ ounce.

Keep in mind, the bass that missed your topwater is already looking up in the water column, so you want to follow it up with something that’s stays higher in the water column and might entice that second strike!

If the moving baits don’t get the job done, having a secondary follow up bait like a wacky rigged senko or a small finesse worm on a shaky head might do the trick, but keep the weights light as the fish will most likely eat your bait on the fall.

Shallow Topwater Bass Fishing Action

Now, this is where the majority of my topwater strikes will occur mainly in the morning and late in the evening. Places to look for when locating topwater fish is shallow areas are around pieces of cover or structure that the baitfish or other forage may be relating to. I love to find docks with lights because the bass will already be relating to those docks due to the bait fish feeding on bugs attracted by the light.

Another great place to look for bass feeding on top is around grass lines and shallow wood. My favorite follow up baits to have tied on when fishing these locations are a shaky head with a finesse worm, a spinnerbait, and a swimbait. Below, I will break down what baits are optimal for each location.

Follow Up Baits: Swimbait and Spinnerbait

In my opinion, these two are some of the best follow up baits you can throw. Normally, I prefer a weedless style swimbait and a 3/8 spinnerbait when fishing around grass or offshore. Depending on the time of year, I will normally be throwing one of two different colors. A bluegill color pattern for when the bluegill are spawning and a shad color when the shad spawn is on or in the late fall when the bass are feeding on shad preparing for their winter doldrums.

Follow Up Baits: Texas Rigs and Shaky Heads

When fishing topwater around wood, rocks and steep banks, having a Texas rig and a shaky head selected as your follow up baits is never a bad option. When you’re around this kind of structure, the bass will usually be feeding on crawfish and worms. When the bass strikes your topwater in these locations he will probably go straight back down to the rock or lay down you were retrieving your bait over.

Casting in a Texas rig or shaky head and having it fall right back into his face will likely be all it takes to have him lock in and take a bite. When using these techniques, always remember to use a more natural color bait in clear water. The opposite can be applied in dirty and stained water where more of a black-and-blue presence will prevail.

How I Use the ANGLR Bullseye to Find Topwater Spots

With all of the technology that goes into fishing these days, it can be hard to find the right fit for you. However, some companies, like ANGLR, have found a way to provide anglers with an easier way to pattern fish on any body of water!

When that morning bite is on, it can turn off in the blink of an eye! Saving time while recording the details of a catch can be difficult with the old method of pencil and paper log books.

With ANGLR, all I need to do is click my Bullseye and it records all of the water and weather data with a simple click of a button!

After I get off the water, I can review my trip and see what trends may have occurred to get those topwater fish fired up and that allows me to replicate those amazing topwater days!

High school bass fishing: It’s a new sport in VT

(RNN) – The scale of high school competition in Vermont is about to grow with the addition of bass fishing as an exhibition sport.

The Vermont Principals’ Association thinks it will have some allure.

The organization approved a two-year trial period for the new high school sport, with at least eight schools prepared to compete in 2018, the Barre Montpelier Times Argus reported.

“We got 16 schools who expressed initial interest, but with the timeline some schools couldn’t start right away,” VPA Bass Fishing Committee Chair Jeff Goodrich said. “We will start small, but I expect we will have growth moving forward.”

High school bass fishing is a popular sport across the country.

The Bass Federation says more than 20,000 anglers participated in high school fishing programs last year. More than 30 states will hold championships in 2018.

For those that question whether bass fishing is an actual sport, the Times Argus reports that school uniforms must be worn during the competitions in Vermont.

There’s no word yet on cheerleaders.

Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.