WNY: The Land Of Opportunities

It has been a long-kept secret that our part of the world offers sportsmen — whether they enjoy hunting or fishing — just about anything that will keep them busy almost year-round.

I was brought to believe that April showers bring May flowers. My question has been, “What does an April snowstorm bring, besides frost-bitten buds on early flowers.” But it wouldn’t be opening day of trout season without at least a little bite in the air. As Grandpa Robbins always said, “Welcome to western New York.”

A drive and some boot leather laid down the past days has shown that some trees were already beginning to bloom, and with a few turkey tracks and lots of deer signs, it looks like we are at the doorstep of spring. Now if we can get Mother Nature to understand, then we all should be in good shape.

With trout season starting this weekend, crappie beginning to run the shoreline and bass anglers getting ready for early season action, walleye season is not far off and, of course, spring gobbler season is weeks away — if you count the Youth Season weekend.

Let’s start with spring turkey hunting. It has been a crazy spring, to say the least. Chautauqua County has experienced one of the easiest winters in recent years and the time for spring turkey hunting isn’t far off. In fact, in less than three weeks youth will be hunting. For those of us who chase the pea-sized brain turkey around, it looked like the season was going to be a good one.

Fortunately, Mother Nature tends to straighten herself out, and with any luck spring gobbler hunters should have plenty of opportunities to fill their tags this season. April is starting off to be cold and wet, which will all but shut down any breeding activity that has been reported.

Back in the day, opening day or night of trout season was an event. For many reasons this hasn’t been the case for many anglers. There is no particular reason except maybe many of us are saving our early mornings for something different.

For the walleye fishermen, a lot has changed 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 one would reach their limit in no time.

It’s been many years since the great walleye hatch’s of the late 1990s and late twenty teens. But don’t let anybody fool you, there are plenty of nice walleye in Chautauqua Lake.

There are a couple things one needs to know about trolling in the evening for walleye. First, have proper lighting on your boat. It’s 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 save a major mishap. Colored lights on your bow and clear or white taillight on your transom is a must, for safety and it’s the law on motorized boats.

Knowing the proper trolling speed is just as important as which bait or color of lure. I was always taught to troll slow enough 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.

Trolling the weed edges in the lower basin can be 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 bait fish are hanging out.

Chautauqua Lake walleye primarily feed on perch and sunfish, so when you’re 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 as 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.

If you are a spring gobbler hunter in Western New York you all know doubt have done your homework and know where the birds are or at least where they’re going to be.

Weather plays a lot in hunting spring turkeys. Some believe when the sun is up the birds are more vocal. On the other hand, cloudy days often times keep the gobbling down. Personally, I believe when a turkey wants to find a new girlfriend he is going to gobble. Experience has proven that some of the toughest gobblers to kill on “good days” are taken on nasty days.

One thing that I would you all to think about this spring is the wind. Recently I have been reading a few studies that say wind is important to turkey hunting. It’s not that turkeys can smell; that myth was disproved long ago. What I’m talking about is how far a bird’s gobble carries on windy days. The wind is blowing, we have found that hunting downwind of the bird will help hearing the gobbles better. Like anything else, the sound of a call into a the wind will not carry as far as one that is upwind and blowing the sound towards you.

Again, there are no rules in hunting, but this spring on a windy day try setting up downwind of the where the gobbler is and you will no doubt be able to hear him better. It’s worth a shot, if at all possible.

Anglers and hunters from here know the opportunities they have in regards to outdoor pursuits. This season I ask you all to get out and take as much advantage of what we have right in our own backyard. If you really want to make it special, take a child with you and introduce them to the outdoors.


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