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Collapse of river Walleye fishery?


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Probably not the best place for this  post as there seems to be almost no mention of any Southern Tier fishing, but here it is anyway, looking for thoughts/opinions from  others.

 I have lived in Tioga County [Candor } since 1991.. 30 years this coming June...
 I have fished the Susquehanna for Walleyes every year since  the early 90's. I knew little about Walleyes then, being a salt water guy from NJ, but they responded well to techniques I used for decades in salt water...It was nothing to catch a dozen in an hours time from shore, Lots of shorts and juveniles I called "spikes" as I used to call juvenile Weakfish or Whiting in my salt water days...

Water was FULL of them, sometimes one every cast... Guys would be lined up, and everyone caught, every trip.. Some were kept to eat, but many were returned  as well... Then I noticed a slowdown as we got closer to around the year 2000... In the next 20 years, the fishing got slower and slower, each year showing less and less fishing success, and fewer and fewer people even fishing for them... This year I caught one very fat 28 incher in March, returned to the river of course, and I think one 9 inch spike.. Thats it,,, for the YEAR..
 I recall, that when a light was shined into the water as it got dark,  the bottom was paved with glowing eyeballs... Today, NONE show up.. The fish are simply gone..


 One thing thats a constant anywhere.. Where there are fish, there are fishermen.. These days, you see very few boats on the river, and only guys that do fish are Musky or SMB fishing.. I recall a sunny Sept afternoon in bright sun many years ago at a river "hot spot" I knew, catching 26 keeper sized Walleyes in about 2 hours, while standing on the same rock... This past year, I have caught none  at the same place .. all year...

Just wondering what could have happened?.. Its not pressure, because even in areas with very poor access, the fish simply are no longer there, and as long as I have been here in NY state, river has never had much pressure along much of its length.

 

 I am planning on contacting the DEC and asking them where this fishery has disappeared to.
 I really began to worry in earnest a fall season  about 20 years ago... That fall I caught ONE keeper Walleye, and FOUR Tiger Muskies as long as my leg while fishing for Walleyes in a 2month period... I am getting old I know, and maybe my lures and methods are outdated, but still, something is wrong... When there are fish, there are ALWAYS people trying to catch them.. No longer,- when I do fish the river for Walleyes these days, I am always alone, and the water  itself and the boat ramps that serve it are desolate... bob

 

 

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Bob, I am in Steuben County.  Some holes remain the same but where I caught them last year all the structure left with the high water.  Even the bass relocated.  I do not know much about Susky and how much change it goes thru with high water but rivers can change.  I thought I saw that there are good numbers of young fish up in Vestal.

 

I have always found river walleye fishing challenging but rewarding as well. 

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You know I think if we step back a bit and look at all of these watersheds they all have changed to varying degrees and much of it is the result of human interactions of various types and degrees. Everything from the salmon runs in Alaska and the northwest, shut down of the Cod fishing in the Atlantic and problems with the Finger Lakes fishing (e.g. Seneca lake and many others). The climate is changing, and we've had many invasive species of both plants and animals that have upset the natural balancing act of Mother Nature. Land development and use along the lakes and waterways and pollutants of varying types and concentrations have entered these waters. Even things that may be ignored or that some are unaware of is our own boat motors potentially contributing to problems; especially in smaller bodies of water because most water treatment processes don't fully take out all of the potential pollutants. Regardless of political views etc. this is the reality and it has been creeping up on us for some time now and this situation is global in nature if you carefully look at science and the glaring disappearance of many species of animals and plants and changes in land masses. The disappearing frogs and honeybees are just "canaries in the coal mine" and many folks aren't listening or perceiving their demise. Sorry for the rant but we seem myopic and may not be fully looking at the main problem (climate change in conjunction with human interaction with the environment)..

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1 hour ago, Sk8man said:

You know I think if we step back a bit and look at all of these watersheds they all have changed to varying degrees and much of it is the result of human interactions of various types and degrees. Everything from the salmon runs in Alaska and the northwest, shut down of the Cod fishing in the Atlantic and problems with the Finger Lakes fishing (e.g. Seneca lake and many others). The climate is changing, and we've had many invasive species of both plants and animals that have upset the natural balancing act of Mother Nature. Land development and use along the lakes and waterways and pollutants of varying types and concentrations have entered these waters. Even things that may be ignored or that some are unaware of is our own boat motors potentially contributing to problems; especially in smaller bodies of water because most water treatment processes don't fully take out all of the potential pollutants. Regardless of political views etc. this is the reality and it has been creeping up on us for some time now and this situation is global in nature if you carefully look at science and the glaring disappearance of many species of animals and plants and changes in land masses. The disappearing frogs and honeybees are just "canaries in the coal mine" and many folks aren't listening or perceiving their demise. Sorry for the rant but we seem myopic and may not be fully looking at the main problem (climate change in conjunction with human interaction with the environment)..

You forgot the internet.  I believe the internet has changed fishing faster than anything else.  Instant reports, guys jump in their trucks and beat them up.  The old days, you had to go and find fish on your own.  Today, hotspots are at your finger tips. Techniques are also at your fingertips.  The learning curve is smaller because of the knowledge shared on the internet.  

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I tend to agree, with both Les and Brian, we’ve taken a lot out through social media the past few years, including environmental impacts with evasive species etc and not as much has been put back, with natural reproduction not being able to sustain. Changes in how we manage ourselves are soon coming I’m sure. Might not be tomorrow but......


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All points are well taken of course, and I won't argue with any of them.. All are valid.. The susky is, was, and has always been a VERY lightly fished river here in NY state along most of its length, so I don't think its a problem of internet lurkers going and cleaning out  a spot...That DOES happen no doubt, in many waters,and its  a major problem.

 In any case, I put a call in to the DEC Region 7 in Cortland to ask a few questions, but big surprise, I got a voice mail and they never called back...I will report  back if I hear anything.. Meanwhile, looks like my days of Walleye fishing are at an end..... bob

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Perhaps an email to the DEC would get a better response.

All points are well taken of course, and I won't argue with any of them.. All are valid.. The susky is, was, and has always been a VERY lightly fished river here in NY state along most of its length, so I don't think its a problem of internet lurkers going and cleaning out  a spot...That DOES happen no doubt, in many waters,and its  a major problem.
 In any case, I put a call in to the DEC Region 7 in Cortland to ask a few questions, but big surprise, I got a voice mail and they never called back...I will report  back if I hear anything.. Meanwhile, looks like my days of Walleye fishing are at an end..... bob


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Walleyes in rivers are migratory and move around a lot.  I have caught/released limits of keeper walleyes on accident while bass fishing in the chemung....and the next week they’re gone.  Don’t disagree maybe less fish but if you stand on one rock in a river fishing for walleyes....not surprised you aren’t catching.  There are a lot of guys up and down the river that are on walleyes all the time....most in boats, many fishing at night....most keeping all their fish.

 

Also seems like walleye spawning success is very sensitive to environmental conditions and can boom or bust like what’s happened in Erie....might be even more sensitive in a river system.

 

water this year was mad low....I know it mad the bass fishing much tougher than usual

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I don't fish the river like I used to but during the fall/winter some of my spots are just gone, but several are better than ever.  Last season was excellent for me I averaged double digits in 10 trips let's say.  I think the 2 floods are what ruined a few spots for me as the current and depth are definitely different now.  Only thing I would say is fishing changes over time as fish change and rivers change.  Therefore, we often have to adjust to be effective over the long haul.  There's no doubt I can help you get on fish, but I'm a night guy only on the river.  I just refuse to shore fish with people outside my circle as I see so many things I don't want to see, and I don't want to have to either say something or make a call as I can't just do nothing.   Not to mention the river is a much cleaner place at night when you can't see!

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I went to school in Binghamton back in the late '80s, and while we caught walleye in the Squashed Banana, it wasn't somewhere I'd put on my bucket list. It sounds like you were blessed to get on some great fishing soon after you arrived to the area. I was not. I had a few honeyholes where I could pull out two or three fish in an average evening. If I had to compare my personal experiences then with now, I'd deem the river comparable.

 

Just saying that two people's experience of a fishery and its evolution can be dramatically different...and it's possible that your experience is more representative of the whole than mine. I don't know. But it is something to keep in mind. Glory days, right?

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I would suggest covering new water to anyone struggling.  Just about every spot you can access the rivers around me where you can move up and downstream some will produce fish.  Most of these spots are not a big secret, but the actual techniques successful walleye guys are using there typically are not shared.  I've put a ton of info on this forum about night casting and it all applies to the river as well.  Ralph Barton, he is a member on here, has tons of you tube videos that will help.  Search his name on you tube and I think you probably will pick up some ideas.  He fishes very different from me, but is pretty much a river expert on walleye and catfish and has consistently caught tons of walleye every year for probably 30 years.  Maybe he will chime in?  The fall bite has definitely started and both numbers and size are showing up.   Recent rain and higher, colder water has really gotten them moving.  Right before this current weather combined with the current moon phase I guarantee had some big girls chewing.  Doesn't matter weather you use plastics, or bait on jigs...with or without a float, sticks, or ripping raps.  What matters is doing it correctly at the right location and right time.  No one technique is universally better.

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 Ok then. I guess its just my problem.. I DO use a boat at times, but it has not helped much in my case. past few years.. Never needed one years ago, shore fishing at dusk or dawn was always productive from mid sept onward, and then from early May into early June...


However as I said, we would catch dozens of shorts every single trip year after year, day and night... I have caught about 10 juveniles  total in the last  5 years.. The areas I fish and were historically really good, are totally devoid of fishermen these days as well, and as we know, where there are fish there are always fishermen.... Maybe next year... bob

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I fish Owego down to Barton..  It was all I ever needed for many years, and  I never moved around much.. I might have to  learn some new areas...  The guys that fished alongside me for years, are all gone, most just gave up.. I seldom see any fishermen any more except in the rocky bottom

Barton area, as the SMB fishing is very good in the late fall.. Only heard one guy say he caught a Walleye there this fall.. Most caught none, and for years they were caught regularly with bass, and then as it grew towards twilight the Walleyes would take over.. Lots of shorts, but they were there by the hundreds, for many years...  No longer, at least not for me... The river has had several massive floods since 2006, and the contour has changed.. Might be as simple as the areas I fish the most are simply no longer attractive to walleyes... bob

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The two floods in the 70s created huge holes very deep in most cases in the Chemung watershed.  The flood control reservoirs has reduced high water and the DEC very seldom lets property owners fortify their shoreline so water is spreading out and filling in those deeper holes.  I remember the hole above Patterson bridge in Corning was like a lake and you couldn't see bottom.  Now I see geese standing in the middle of it in the summer.

 

Coincidentally, My best Walleye catching years are from wet years with big storms and not dry like this year.

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 pretty much closed out the  year this past week, -couple of trips without a hit last week or so.. Not even one fish the entire fall, and caught just  one fish this spring a month before the season opened-[returned to the water of course], and I think one short this spring, maybe two. That only keeper size fish was a VERY nice 28 incher.

 


Glad some guys are still catching fish in the river, but for me, I have never seen anything like this.. Went from catching hundreds of fish every fall years ago, to not even one this fall, and I think 3 last fall.

 

  I have also not seen even one other  fisherman Walleye fishing the river since early October, so others are having a similar experience to mine I would imagine.... bob

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  • 2 months later...

Im not getting the size I'd like to see, fish over 25 and really 30's, but numbers are there considering the pressure.  I've never seen so many people out fishing as I did this year.  We are talking 5x the angling pressure.  It's been all season I think since   either Kevin or I has had a skunk.  I can say the population will definitely see an impact from this winter.  Only saving my grace is it's been males most are catching.  As of late the cold has really set in and bite has gotten downright tricky on many occasions so lately it's just Kev and I most of the time and it's definitely more fun when it's difficult.  I don't care for it when it's easy as it only dulls your walleye tools.  Im definitely thinking we should all be calling region 7 DEC and see what they can do for the river fishery.  It gives me concern when I hear it's not good in many areas and the one area that in good shape is getting crushed.  Seems like a 3 fish limit over 18 instead of  5 over 15 would help tremendously.  Just wondering if anyone else has seen any positive signs?  We are seeing all the year classes from 8" to about 25-27 inches and I've had just 1 above that at 29 1/4.  

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 I  called, emailed DEC 7 several times, left messages, but they aren't working at the office, working from home I was told, and they can't be bothered taking the time to reply.. I envy the fact that you are aware of areas that are holding fish.. I personally  have no idea where to go as my section of the rive is mostly ice floes,  floating masses of slush and no fishing  access due to the depth of the  snow, even if the river itself was clear enough to fish..

 

 Obviously, there are some sections that still hold fish if they are getting that much pressure at this time of year..I have not seen a fisherman down here in 3 months.... bob

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