We pulled into the Dunkirk Marina and parked. A few early gulls wheeled and cried, a light mist rose from the harbor’s waters, which softly lapped at the concrete walls.
I was eagerly looking forward to another excursion to experience the incredible walleye fishing of Lake Erie.
The fantastic fishing in the lake isn’t a chance thing. Hundreds of concerned people in government agencies had to work together to create the conditions and water quality needed to produce such a rich harvest, and all were being honored at a luncheon later in the day — from the writers who inform, question and investigate, to the DEC, lawmakers, the biologists, county dignitaries, charter captains who are so aware of conditions and threats to their industry as well as city officials who insure they are doing everything possible to keep the flourishing industry the lake provides moving smoothly and progressively forward.
Lake Erie is a vast, complex living organism that’s constantly undergoing change. Industrial challenges, invasive species, fluctuating native species and year-to-year random climate variations all have to be watched and evaluated. The battle never ends nor do the threats. We mustn’t take for granted what we have and defend it.
The most recent potential threat comes from officials who are pushing hard to erect wind turbines in the lake. To learn more go to www.sharetheoutdoors.com, go to conversation and look for an article by Tom Marks. Canada has already put a 10-year moratorium on Lake Erie turbines.
Ken and Maria Perrotte (Kmunicate.outdoorsrambler.com) would be fishing with me today. Ken is a widely respected and experienced writer and I soon came to enjoy the company very much.
Today we’d be fortunate to be fishing with captain Jim Steel (firstname.lastname@example.org). His boat, a well-appointed 31.5-foot Tiara is 12 feet wide, very stable and smooth riding. The twin 350 Crusader engines move it right along as well. It’s a joy to fish from especially if you’re new to large water.
JIM IS A FORCE to be reckoned with in the lakes many tournaments. Recently he won several divisions including heaviest weight caught in a three-day tournament and, considering the very stiff competition, winning consistently is quite a feat.
Jim’s also a tireless worker continuously seeking to upgrade and maintain the fishing industry and supporting city charities. He derives great satisfaction introducing people to fishing and especially watching the enjoyment and satisfaction his guests enjoy interacting with each other as they reel in big walleyes.
Once on board we idled out of the harbor just as the sun rose red above the skyline, the gulls crying and circling the boat. It was a breathtakingly beautiful sunrise, a moment to cherish and remember. I was deeply touched by the grandeur of it all.
As the harbor breakwall drew astern, Jim opened the throttles and the deep roar of the engines quickly put us on plane. We turned west and after a short run slowed to trolling speed. Rich, the mate, began putting out lines. He was a tireless worker and after some heroic efforts soon had four planer boards on each side of the boat, along with two downriggers and two Dipsy Divers astern. That’s a total of 12 lines.
We were running nightcrawler harnesses, spoons and various natural stick baits along with some very bright-colored ones such a “clown,” with its dazzling pink, blue and yellow dot pattern.
NOW, STRIKES are not always easily detected. Sometimes you see the rod tip bounce when a fish strikes, at other times, especially on the planer boards, a strike isn’t obvious. I’ve been on several charters and have learned a thing or two, but Rich and Jim were able to detect things I couldn’t.
Maria was up first and when one of the starboard planer boards bent she shed her sling and grabbed the rod. Her arm had been bothering her, but for a walleye, no problem. Soon she had a beautiful 20-incher in the boat and was all smiles. Ken was next and then my turn. Soon we had a dozen walleyes in the live well.
Then a Dipsy went off and Ken grabbed the rod. This fish was very heavy and took a while, stripping drag out and head shaking. When Rich finally slipped the net under it the walleye turned out to be 29 inches long. What a beauty — the biggest fish of the day.
Soon we had our limit of 18 and turned back. We ate our lunches, had a few drinks and truly enjoyed the return journey. Back at the dock Jim cleaned our fish and we left with freezer bags full of gorgeous fillets. What a day it turned out to be.
THAT EVENING, Dave Barus, our host, treated us to dinner in Fredonia. The food was great and they had a wide variety of custom brew to choose from along with local wines.
When we made it back to our rented home I was as full as a tick and barely awake. An early rise, time on the water, reeling in fish and a comfortable afternoon followed by a great dinner had me purring.
(Wade Robertson is an award-winning outdoor writer whose articles have been published in Pennsylvania Outdoor News, Pennsylvania Game News, Fur, Fish & Game and other publications. His email is email@example.com.)