| Black River Bay "Walleye Bonanza"

.....When fishermen think of Lake Ontario, it conjures images of tackle busting Salmon and Trout. When a Chinook slams a spoon trolled at high speed “Hang On”! Most freshwater anglers have never seen a (30 lb. plus) fish rip 100yds. of line on the strike. While this is an entirely captivating situation, Walleye anglers should brace themselves for what is potentially the best trophy Walleye hot spot in the lower 48.
.....The eastern basin of Lake Ontario is home to this burgeoning population of Marble Eyes but the hottest spot of all is Black River Bay. The time to be there is the month of May. Walleye use shallow water expanses along the eastern end to spawn during the spring of the year. When May arrives they begin a two month journey which will lead them to many of the deep water haunts where they will hold for much of the summer. The struggle to replenish energies lost through spawning lead the Walleye to the dinner plate every spring and this willingness to feed is an advantage for anglers looking to lock up with a huge Walleye. There are two distinct fisheries that exist in Black River Bay during the spring of the year. We call one “The inside fishery” and the other “The outside fishery”. Lets examine the inside fishery first.

...............................The Inside Fishery

.....The inside fishery occurs at the mouth of the Black River and is accessible with almost any size boat. It is a hands on approach where fishermen can use more traditional tactics to slip a net under a really big “Eye”. Techniques that work year after year would include drifting worm rigs across the big river’s delta. The delta is marked by entrance buoys leading into the Black River from the bay. The top of the delta is approximately 4-6ft. in depth and it slopes to 12ft. on either side. Anglers usually drift from deep water, up the slope of the delta and then back down the other side. This gives them the opportunity to present their baits to the fish holding on the delta’s edge. How you work your drift depends entirely on the weather. The Black River is a powerful force but the big river begins to slow near the entrance. On calm days the flow will definitely move from the inside out (Northeast to Southwest)and this usually corresponds with the way that it should be drifted. Since winds generally come from the South West this situation could be reversed, especially on heavy wind days. River waters in the Black are tea colored on even the calmest of days (this is primarily due to the rivers iron content). During calm clear conditions traditional colored spinner

blades are what work well on the worm rigs. Silver/Blue and Gold can be deadly choices when used under the right conditions. When heavy weather rolls in, the river’s water will turn milky brown and this will call for a slightly different approach. Under these conditions more vibrant fluorescent arrangement usually get the nod. Local anglers will switch to spinner blades that are colored with International Orange, Chartreuse and Hot Pink. The size, shape and number of blades is purely the anglers choice but local bait shops will be able to tip the visiting angler to what is

working best. Worm rigs are not the only technique that will put fish in the boat during this time. Crankbaits such as PRADCO’s Wally Diver and deep diving Bombers will also account for their fair share of fish. Luhr Jensen has attacked this Walleye market with its own series called the Power Dive Minnow. These baits really get down and are a great choice for
spring Walleye fishing. Carolina rigging of any scented plastic bait such as lizards can also be used to give these fish an alternative look. Many fishermen realize that a different presentation is sometimes all that is needed to send these waiting fish into a feeding frenzy.
.....There are times during the spring fishery that anglers will encounter Walleye’s that exceed the 10lb. mark while fishing the delta. When this occurs it will test the limit of the lightweight sensitive gear used to feel this fish’s subtle pick-up. Usually, the delta produces Walleye that are somewhat smaller than those found in the deeper areas of the bay. This should not be a deterrent since small delta walleyes would be considered trophies almost anywhere else. Expect to encounter fish in the 3-7lb. range on a regular basis.

.............The Outside Fishery

.....Trolling is the key to accessing big walleye in the outside fishery. Huge post spawn females comprise most of what is taken in the main expanses of Black River Bay. These fish haunt the deeper, open water, where vast schools of alewives can be easily found. You won’t find the Walleye of the eastern basin feeding on the traditional diet of spineyback panfish and chubs. These fish key on the fat rich alewife much like a trout or salmon would as they raid schools along shoreline expanses during the spring. I am sure that the abundant schools of alewives are the primary reason that Lake Ontario Walleyes grow so big so quickly. It is not uncommon to see a six year old fish reach the 10lb. mark. The beauty of fishing Black River Bay is that the post-spawn movement of these big fish corresponds directly with the incoming waves of pre-spawn Alewives. When these two groups meet, spring anglers are the

sole beneficiaries. It is hard to say, exactly why there is a size differentiation between the fish of the Inside Fishery and those that are found Outside. One explanation might be that the post-spawn females (generally the larger fish), locate on the Outside so that they can get to incoming schools of baitfish more quickly. This could help them replenish fat stores and weight lost during spawning.
.....Everyone knows the Walleye’s reputation for being elusive and hard to catch. This can be especially true when there are undue amounts of fishing pressure. Several boats working a tightly packed group of fish can cause the action to diminish before it even gets started. Successful fishermen in the eastern basin employ trolling techniques which include planer boarding for these suspended fish. Planer boards such as the Super Skis made by Prince Mastercraft will position lines away from the disturbance of the angler’s boat. This takes advantage of the fish’s natural movement and presents the bait in an area where the Walleye feels comfortable. When these fish are on the hit expect the action to be very fast. Doubles and triples are not uncommon when using these very effective methods. Most fish encountered in the Outside Fishery will weigh between 7 and 13 lbs. While these sizes may seem an exaggeration to many, those who fish the Black River Bay area see this scene repeated time after time. Most veteran anglers agree that long lines are a key to success. It is not uncommon for fishermen to troll 200-250ft. behind their boats. Preferred baits include body baits such as the Bomber Long A, Rapala J-11 and the Storm Thunderstick. All of these baits can be obtained in both shallow and deep diving models. Adjusting the bait to the depth of suspended fish is the key to getting the rods to fire. While anglers can match various diving models, some experts use on-line weights such as the Snap Weight System to vary the depths at which their shallow divers will run.

...............................A Few Added Tips

.....There are some important aspects of fishing the Black River area that all anglers should be aware of. The first important point is that you do not have to access these fish at night. It is not uncommon to make contact with the Walleyes of this region throughout the entirety of the day. there are many instances when fishing during the day is far better than what could be experienced at night. The best time to try for a trophy Walleye is Monday through Friday during the month of May. Everyone is free to fish on the weekends and pressure can be heavy. Since pressure and Walleyes don’t mix, the alternative is to be there when others are not. We have been encouraging our Walleye fishing patrons to try the weekdays for the last three years. Most who have taken our advice have benefited from the decision that they made. Unstable weather conditions seem
to be the best for fast action. Bluebird days can be good fishing days but there is no doubt that when the dark overcast weather rolls in, the Walleyes come unglued. Sportsmen should realize that most of the fish they are catching are naturally reproducing Walleyes that will need our help to maintain their strong foothold in Lake Ontario’s eastern end. Small Walleyes usually provide the best table fare so anglers are encouraged to release the largest females. When a mounting fish is your goal, try some of the fiberglass reproductions that area taxidermists can provide. Marty’s Taxidermy in Evans Mills, New York (315-629-4682) is an expert with fiberglass mounts. Marty suggests taking a good photo of your fish along with some key measurements and the fish’s weight. When this is done a match can usually be made within 4 ounces of the actual fish. Fiberglass mounts look great and a great reproductive resource can be live released.
.....In 1995 the Cabela’s Pro Walleye Tour journeyed to Lake Ontario for it’s championship tournament. The waters that these anglers fished were the waters of the eastern end. Competitive anglers quickly realized that it would take daily 3-fish limits in excess of 30lbs. to even be in the running. Pro fishermen such as Rick LaCourse (Ohio) believe that Lake Ontario’s Eastern End is perhaps the best trophy fishery in the U.S. The Black River and its bay areas should be the first stop on this years Walleye pilgrimage. It truly is a Walleye Bonanza!

-Sackets Harbor Town Launch, located on the southern shore of Black River Bay (Best Access Point for Bay Fishing).
-Dexter Town Launch, located on the Black River below the dam in Dexter. This ramp is ideal for fishing during heavy
weather or when fishing the Inside Fishery.
-Perch River Access, located in the Northeast corner of Black River Bay is excellent when fishing either of the two fisheries.

-Eckerds Sporting Goods, located on Arsenal Street in Watertown, New York. Fays has a full line of Walleye fishing tackle and updated reports of what is currently hot! (315) 782-8202 (sporting goods)
-B & J Bait Shop, located in Dexter, New York. next to the town launch. B & J is very handy for any last minute items that

you might need. (315) 639-3686
-Henchen’s Marina, located in Henderson Harbor, New York. Proprietors Bob and Diane Gamble stock a full supply of the
hottest Walleye baits and also offer lodging and boat dockage for visiting anglers. (315) 938-5313.