State record walleye taken

By on June 18, 2018
Brian Hartman shattered the previous New York State record walleye by 1.5 pounds when he boated this Godzilla walleye in the St. Lawrence River on May 5. The fish weighed an amazing 18 pounds 2 ounces. Mr. Hartman caught the big female on a Trigger-X swimbait. Provided photo

Brian Hartman shattered the previous New York State record walleye by 1.5 pounds when he boated this Godzilla walleye in the St. Lawrence River on May 5. The fish weighed an amazing 18 pounds 2 ounces. Mr. Hartman caught the big female on a Trigger-X swimbait. Provided photo

The St. Lawrence River has produced another New York state record fish this year. The 2016 record tying 8-pound 4-ounce smallmouth was caught up there just two years ago and now on May 5, 2018 Brian Hartman caught a humongous 18-pound, 2-ounce walleye, shattering the old 16-pound 9-ounce record from January 2009.  Hartman was using a Trigger-X swimbait in 20-25 ft. of water, not too far from the Thousand Island Bridge.  The St. Lawrence River holds the state muskie record as well. In 1957, Art Lawton caught a 69-pound 15-ounce monster.

We here in Western New York have some of the best walleye fishing in the country, all within a few hours’ drive east or west. Lake Erie, Oneida Lake, eastern Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are all fantastic walleye water.

To the west we have Lake Erie, considered by most serious walleye fishermen as the best walleye lake in the U.S. The huge eight-lane launch at Small Boat Harbor is only an hour and twenty minute drive from Rochester. The walleye bite is hot on Lake Erie right now. I saw many limits of nice 2-4 pound walleyes coming in to the fish cleaning station at the harbor.

The Small Boat Harbor is part of the newest state parks in the system, and Buffalo Harbor State Park is the first state park in the city of Buffalo. The park is home to a 1,100-slip marina, a restaurant, boat launches, personal watercraft launches and a fish cleaning station.

If you want to give Lake Erie walleyes a try, launch at Small Boat Harbor and motor a mile to the west until you see the huge windmills on shore. Fish right in front of those windmills in 28-30 ft. of water, you will see plenty of other boats doing the same. Troll or drift worm harness or stick baits, you must be moving or the gobies will drive you crazy. If you plan a trip, get the wind forecast and be sure the winds aren’t going to be blowing too strong from the west or northwest as that lake gets rough quickly with those winds.

Reports from Oneida Lake so far this walleye season continue to be good and anglers have been getting them in 10-35 feet of water. Blade-style baits and bucktail jigs have been working well. Shallow water seems to be better early, and then the deeper water action picks up as the day progresses.

At the eastern corner of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, walleye fishing was slow this spring compared to last May. June and July are tough months to catch walleye in that area, but the walleye fishing will heat up again mid-August and it will then be fantastic for at least a month.

I spent a few hours with Gene Bolton of Sunken Treasures Charters this May and picked his brain about the walleye fishing in eastern Lake Ontario and the adjoining bays. Gene is one of the top walleye charter captains on the eastern end of Lake Ontario. I asked Gene about the record-breaking smallmouth and walleye recently caught in the area. He believes the main reason is that the bass, and now the walleyes, are eating the protein rich gobies.

“The goby is an invasion species that entered our waters from the bilge tanks of international freighter ships traveling the Great Lakes. For years they were believed to be nothing but a negative to the fishery, but we have found that the bass were eating them and growing larger, quicker … and now the walleye are eating them. The gobies have actually helped our game fish grow faster.”

Gene went on to say, “We are also benefiting from many of the anglers now practicing catch and release on the bigger fish, so obviously the fish live to grow bigger for somebody else to catch.”

If you’re heading east and want to book a trip with Captain Gene, you can contact him at Sunken Treasures Fishing Charters on Facebook or call 315-486-8463.

Don’t forget the bass season opens Saturday the 16th as well.  The Finger Lakes are your best bet for largemouth and most have good smallmouth fishing as well. Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are hard to beat for their big smallmouth bass. When it comes to the bass, practice CPR – Catch-Photograph-Release. Walleyes are a different story because they are much better eating; so keep the two- and three-pounders, and let the bigger fish go after you get your photo. Remember those are the big female fish carrying all the eggs each spring. Now go get on the water, this is the time of year we fishermen have been waiting for.

 

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