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YOU HAVE TO WORK TO POCKET SOME WALLEYE

Lake Erie walleyes shine.

The main schools of Ohio fish have yet to arrive in New York waters, but sizable pocket schools of 'eyes have shown in 60-foot depths west of Barcelona - just in time for Southtowns Walleye Association's 17th Walleye Tournament starting at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Anglers must be preregistered. For entry details, call 825-7619.

Lake Erie

Those 'eyes just keep opening, slowly but solidly. Early contestants and recreational anglers had to troll long distances to find a fish or two. Now, better off-bottom bait schools and fair pocket-schools show in U.S. waters. Last year, open-water trollers had to wait for those schools of large walleye to move along north shore structures in Ontario waters before arriving in mid-July. This year, bait schools have held many 'eye schools on southern shoreline waters.

Walleyes draw SWA contestants in hopes of taking one of the top 200 prizes, but perch have made an impressive comeback. Boaters cannot expect the sizes and numbers of 1980s fishing, but Lake Erie perch have begun a run. Waters off Sturgeon Point, Cattaraugus Creek and Dunkirk Harbor have drawn bottom-feeding ringbacks starting in 40-foot depths.

Big bass dig deeper each day as water temperatures rise. Boaters start at 20-foot depths and work deeper each morning. Big minnows draw good bass bites. Smaller minnows draw gobies.

Lake Ontario

Niagara Bar bass casters had less moss (algae) to deal with while drifting off the river mouth.

Salmon and steelhead have slowed, but lake trout hold tight to the bottom along 70- to 90-foot ledges of the outer Niagara Bar. Spoons, mainly silver based, draw hits when trolled slowly at 1.5 to 2 mph.

Inland lakes

Silver - Shallow- and deep-water moves make bass a challenging but enjoyable search, with blur-flecked casting baits (tubes and grubs) most effective. Perch and bluegill hold in 4-6 feet along weedlines.

Conesus - Weed edge structures hold both largemouth bass and respectable panfish - mainly bluegill - that go for small worms, minnows or waxworms. Either dig deeper into weed pockets in south basin or go for deeper north-basin waters for walleyes. Temperatures near bottom reach 65 degrees in south basin calm waters.

Honeoye - Big bruiser-class bluegills dominate 10-foot shallows at many spots. Walleye have gone on a hunger strike, but 'gills measuring more than 10 inches hit in good numbers at the base of weed edges. Waxworms work best, but spikes and mousy grubs tipped on a 1/1 6-ounce Twister-tailed jig gets the hits. Bright colors - pink, white, yellow or chartreuse - draw their attention.

Tourneys and derbies

Fourth Six Bang Fishing Derby, Saturday and Sunday. Call 695-2269.

New York Walleye Association's eighth Amara-Can Walleye Classic, a three-angler team tourney, runs July 14-15 at Dunkirk Harbor. For more information, call 897-1522 or 874-2522.

Scotty Downriggers International Walleye Championship, July 20-22, Port Colborne. For entry information, call Mike Mongan (773-3395) or Doug Stein (774-0077).

In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Tournament Trail competition goes from Aug. 8 to 10 at Dunkirk, with pro staffers making presentations beginning Tuesday of that week. For details, call 1-218-829-0620 or see the Web site: www.in-fisherman.com.

Greater Niagara 2001: A Fish Odyssey goes from Sept. 8 to 23, with divisions set for salmon, rainbow trout, brown trout, walleye, bass and even carp. A guaranteed prize structure of $100,000 makes this the largest New York State derby. Five counties have entry information: Erie, 1-800-BUFFALO; Niagara, 1-800-338-7890; Orleans, 1-800-724-0314; Genesee, 1-800-622-2686; and Wyoming, 1-800-3919. Visit the Web site at www.niagara-usa.com.

Winners

Walleye competitors had to do some hunting and make several lure changes to bring in weighty entries in earlier contests, but Western New York 'eye catchers were able to bring in big ones.

Among the 149 boats were entered in the 4-4-4 walleye tourney at Port Colborne on June 16-17, 86 boats came in with no fish. Teams that could connect caught few but hefty walleyes. Two Canadian boats took first and second place: Capt. Wayne Baddawey's four-angler team weighed in 35.26 pounds; Mark Paine's crew amassed 34.26 pounds; and the Western New York team (Dick Hurd, Don Gerow, Bill Butera and Randy Helf) took third with 34.24 pounds. Gerow sees better walleye odds for the week to come.

A Corfu team of Larry Johnson and John Fincher weighed in a five-fish limit of 14.87 pounds to win the U.S. Fishing Association's Team Walleye Tournament Circuit Oneida Lake leg held June 17. The next USFA New York site will be Chautauqua Lake on July 22. For details, call tourney director David Pratico (518) 399-0185.

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