Dawn breaks later the further west you go. I woke in a strange bed at my normal time, but sunrise was still an hour east of the summerhouse Dave Barus found for us on Chautauqua Lake. Working for Chautauqua County, that includes the lake plus several harbors on Lake Erie, he invited eight writers to come for a few days of fishing for walleye and bass.
That first morning, Tuesday, Wade Robertson, writer for the Bradford, Pennsylvania, paper and I boarded Tj and Zack Yetzer’s charter boat at Dunkirk Harbor and headed beyond the break wall.
Tj and Zack explained that we were their first charter of the season, and couldn’t promise we would catch any walleye, but they would try.
I’ve never fished a full-blown trolling boat before, but watched as Zack steered the boat and Tj dropped the downriggers to 50 feet, each with a different lure. Then, he started working line out on side-planners until he had two off each side. Finally, he hooked different lures to surface planners and we were trolling.
Dave and I took turns, whenever a rod hooked-up with a walleye. We each caught five, and I caught the biggest -- a 23-incher. I reminded Dave that we agreed that whoever caught the biggest fish didn’t have to clean them when we returned to the rental house where Dave put us up for the week (the secret is, we never actually agreed, but Dave cleaned the fish).
The next morning, Dave and I drove to Barcelona Harbor and met Ken Christie and his bass boat. Ken isn’t a guide, but he hosted us for a morning smallmouth bass trip in the rain. It wasn’t the best morning, but Ken and Dave caught seven sheep head and I managed to hook what Dave said was a 6-pound smallmouth bass.
I was scheduled for a morning on Chautauqua Lake but I thought I might rather drive the seven hours home instead, since rain was forecast.
Dave can probably help find a place to stay or camp, and he knows the lakes intimately so he can suggest charter captains who can find a limit of walleyes almost anytime, since there is an explosion of walleyes in the western basin of Lake Erie.
They have an excellent travel guide and a great map of western New York.