Rod, Gun & Game: How to fish for Lake Erie walleye – Free seminar - Springville Journal

By | on January 19, 2023

It’s a new year with a new look. It’s mid-January and unless you want to drive to northern Minnesota, there is no ice for ice fishing. What’s a hearty angler with a passion for fishing to do? Here’s one thought: Release the brakes and head west for the Southtowns Walleye Association meeting on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. to learn how to fish for Lake Erie walleye from the best, for free. National Walleye Tour champions Craig Sleeman and his co-angler partner Mike Yarema will present a walleye fishing seminar when they address January SWA meeting attendees. Sleeman and Yarema fish from a high horsepower boat rig, smaller than many local anglers use. Yet, they catch fish more often than many other anglers. They fish using a system focusing on lure position and boat control, varying boat speed, lure choice, line weighting and other factors. They’ll talk about rods, reels, line brands, lure choices and the decision-making logic to catch fish with varying weather factors. The Southtowns Walleye clubhouse is located at 5895 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg. Bring a notepad. Fishing Box

Rod, Gun & Game: How to fish for Lake Erie walleye – Free seminar - Springville Journal

Lake Erie walleye fishing champion, Craig Sleeman, will present a free walleye fishing seminar Thursday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m., at the Southtowns Walleye clubhouse, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg.

While you are there, note that the SWA is under the positively-minded leadership of second-year president Ron Kucinski and his new board of invigorating directors. Everyone there is affected by the optimism that Kucinski brings to the floor of the club membership. He is a knowledgeable charter captain and part of the volunteer staff taking such groups as military veterans and others to catch fish at no charge. That’s commendable, based on the price of gas and lures these days. 

While there is no charge to attend the meeting, the annual membership fee is $50, allowing you to participate in multiple fishing derby events throughout the year. It’s a great way to learn more about “how to do” from others in the know. You can network with others attending the monthly meetings to learn more about how to fish for walleyes, including tackle, techniques, rigging your boat and more. The members can help you answer questions you need answers for. There are many tournament anglers and charter captains in the membership, so there is plenty of knowledge to share. 

The geographic focus for boater and angler access to Lake Erie walleye tournament and derby contests is Dunkirk Harbor.

If you like to fish with others and vie for prizes, the club offers a four-pack of one-day fishing derby events. These include an ice fishing derby on Feb. 25 at Chautauqua Lake, a spring perch fishing derby in Lake Erie on April 22, a junk fish derby on July 23 and an end-of-the-year Lake Erie walleye derby on Sept. 9. Contact Tom Chiavetta at 716-208-4845 for more info on the 1-day events. Above all these special 1-day fishing events, the SWA also runs the largest amateur walleye fishing derby in the United States, a 9-day walleye contest event. 

For 2023, the 9-day SWA Lake Erie walleye contest will run from June 10-18, offering more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. The cost to sign up for this 9-day event is $50 for SWA members. You can register in person at any monthly meeting (third Thursday of month, 7 p.m.) or register online at . Hard to beat this lower-cost derby, and great for us locals who enjoy catching walleye for the table. Many other local walleye fishing contests cost $500 to register. If you don’t win one of the top 200 SWA cash prizes, there are also additional merchandise prizes, but in the end you will usually have a well-stocked freezer of walleye filets at your home. The winners are announced at a picnic event usually slated for one week after the derby concludes. The annual amateur walleye tournament began in 1985. 

Lure choices can be confusing when color, size, action and cost affect decision-making at the tackle shop.

Over all that time, SWA is less well known for its humble and effective mission than its fishing contests. SWA activities reach out to everyone in the WNY community, not just sport-fishermen. Way back when, I was one of the 17 guys who founded the SWA club with the purpose of saving Lake Erie walleye from over-harvest by commercial fishermen working the New York State waters of Lake Erie. At the very first public meeting of the club at a very small restaurant in Athol Springs, there was so much interest that over 600 new members joined that night. Bud Riser, editor of Walleye magazine, was the guest speaker. As a result of SWA efforts, gill netting was banned in the New York waters of Lake Erie. SWA was also instrumental in getting the walleye designated as a game fish in New York, protecting it from further commercial exploitation. As the club grew, SWA expanded its mission to include the conservation of all species in the lake and ecosystem, outdoor education of our youth, boating safety, access to Lake Erie, youth scholarships, youth summer camps with NYSDEC and promotion of the WNY region as a premiere tourist destination. The club has now grown to be one of the largest in the country, with over 2000 members.

Among other reasons, the SWA success for the last 39 years with fishing contest events is dedicated support from local and national resources. To learn more about the sponsors with direct access to their websites, visit A local gentleman, Ivo Coia, and the team at Thundermist Lure Company are among the SWA support groups. Coia is the show host of the popular YouTube website fishing series about how to fish Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake. Visit to learn more about precision details and simple tactics from Coia, who makes it all look so easy. I enjoy the simplicity of his hands-on TV shows.

While the SWA meeting will officially start at 7 p.m., Craig Sleeman and Mike Yarema will be on hand for a “Meet and Greet” beginning at 6 p.m. Stop in, say hello, and grab a seat to brush up on what to do when the fish don’t bite your offerings. You can make a night of it, as you will find a kitchen menu that includes BBQ hamburgers, baked beans and more. The clubhouse bar can provide coffee, water, soft drinks and other beverages of your choice. 

NYSDEC angler survey: Related, from saving Lake Erie walleye from commercial overharvest in the 1980s, it appears we now have too many walleye. The NYSDEC is in the early stages of evaluating the possibility of lowering the minimum size limit of walleye in Lake Erie from 15 inches to 12 inches. As a first step, DEC is conducting a survey to determine angler thoughts on this possible regulation change. Over the last decade, the Lake Erie walleye population has consistently produced strong hatches resulting in an increase in the number of sub-legal walleye (less than 15 inches) caught and released by anglers. Survival of these fish is low due to barotrauma; this results in anglers having to release sub-legal fish that are already dead or not likely to survive. Barotrauma is internal damage to the fish, including bulging eyes and a protruding stomach, caused when fish are reeled up from deep water. Angler input will help inform the decision-making process. Take the Lake Erie Walleye Minimum Size Survey at this link: . The survey deadline is Jan. 27, 2023.

NYSDEC Summer Camp for youth: The 2023 NYSDEC summer camps will open online registration on Sunday, April 2, 2023, at 1 p.m. Youth campers aged 11 to 17 years of age will have the opportunity to learn outdoor skills including backpacking, camping and canoeing. Camp locations include Camp Rushford (Western New York), Camp Colby (Northern Adirondacks), Pack Forest (Southern Adirondacks) and Camp DeBruce (Catskills). The kids will explore the diverse habitats found in New York, have the chance to learn basic ecological concepts and how human activities affect the environment. Campers will solve fun but realistic challenges, explore environmental concepts, practice outdoor skills and spend the week immersed in nature. DEC camps combine environmental education with outdoor recreation and include the option of hunter education programs. Instructors use a hands-on approach to teach about the environment. Of course, the camps also include skits, songs, campfires, swimming and recreation games to round out the week. Many of the games and activities at camp are from environmental education programs like Projects Learning Tree, Wild & Wet and others. Camps run Sunday afternoon through Friday afternoon. The camp cost is $350/week which includes all meals, programs and overnight backpacking trips. If you want financial help with camp costs, contact a member of the West Falls Conservation Society (55 Bridge St., West Falls) or the East Aurora Fish and Game Club (Luther Road, East Aurora). West Falls holds their monthly meetings on the second Monday of the month at 8 p.m., and East Aurora on the first Tuesday of the month at 8 p.m. 

Here is to sharing the peace and fun of the outdoors in 2023. God bless America!    

Jan. 19 – Southtowns Walleye Association of WNY, monthly meeting, 7 p.m. start, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg. Visit for info. 

Jan. 21– Learn to Cross-Country Ski, Reinstein Woods, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., Register: 716-683-5959

Jan. 26 – Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, monthly meeting, 7 p.m. start, Elma Conservation Club, 600 Creek Road, Elma. 

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Rod, Gun & Game: How to fish for Lake Erie walleye – Free seminar - Springville Journal

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