Summer signs linger, but fall fishing shows more than yellow and red signals.
Fall, just a week away on the calendar, makes things easier for shoreline and near-shore anglers looking for everything from the biggest of salmon to tight schools of panfish.
Panfish (perch, bluegill and crappie) have yet to make their mass moves into shore-casting range shallows, but spinner and spoon chuckers now have as good a chance at salmon as most passing boaters.
Experts vary in their opinion of the fall approach to a peak run, but some casters have become kingly at catching Chinook salmon.
The walleye run is far from done. Boaters have to travel 12 or more miles to find schools still feeding along U.S./Canada border waters anywhere from Sturgeon Point to well west of Dunkirk. Lancaster regulars Gus "The Scaleman" Grossman and Conrad Domalski have been taking limit and near-limit catches each day they can get trollable waves.
"The watermelon or black and purple worm harnesses take most of the fish, and I've done all my fish on deep Dipsy Divers rather than down riggers," Grossman said.
Salmon excitement hit a peak Sunday morning along the Cattaraugus Creek breakwater. Shore casters began bringing in 16- to 18-pound salmon early Sunday morning, said Rick Miller at Miller's Bait & Tackle.
"Trollers can get good fish with Rapalas, but the shore guys have been doing even better with either the Double Loon Spinner or the blue and silver Cleo spoons."
One savvy salmon run watcher observed that the Lake Erie feeder stream salmon run each year seems to start at about the same time in early fall that black-backed gulls begin showing during their migration south. Ron Rezabek of Grand Island leads the bass division of the Greater Niagara Fall Class with a 6.02-pound fish he took on Seneca Shoals.
An international effort went into winning the third Greater Niagara River Classic Team Bass Challenge last weekend. Gaspare Costabile of Niagara Falls, Ontario, teamed up with Joe Andrews of Angola to bring in a team total weight of 29.26 pounds for their two-day, 10-fish entry. The Costabile/Andrews team won $1,000.
Terry Seyler of Niagara Falls and Robert Seyler of Youngstown took the $500 second prize with a total of 28.31 pounds. Third place went to Mike Gribben and Jim Tedesco of Niagara Falls. Their 26.76 pounds netted $200. Mike Kucan's 3.91-pound bass took big fish honors for Saturday and Phil Ptak weighed in a 4.04-pounder on Saturday. Each got $150 for their big bass.
Salmon keep moving into the Niagara River and staging around the mouth between the green buoy a half mile from shore and the red can some four miles out. The deep drop does not start until outside the red can, so trollers set up for kings down 20 feet, but no deeper than 50 feet. Spoons lead all lure offerings, but cut bait gets considerable use when spoons don't show the right wobble.
Rough days force boaters of even the 30-foot class and greater to hold near shore. In all but a direct north wind, the Niagara Bar still holds solid numbers of fair-sized smallmouth bass. Both live bait and jigging plugs connect.
The 22nd Greater Niagara Fall Classic Fishing Derby begins Saturday and goes until Sept. 19. Six species are eligible: Smallmouth bass, salmon, brown trout, rainbow/steelhead trout, lake trout and walleye. The grand prize ($2,000) goes to the winner of a drawing of the top entries in the six categories. Senior entries are $15 and juniors (15 and younger) are free. Juniors can pay and enter as senior entrants.
Rob Ray, this year's Classic chairperson, plans to be at the awards ceremony Sept. 19 at the Olcott Fire Hall, Route 78 in Olcott.
Chautauqua: The better walleyes (20-26 inch range) have been holding in 18- to 24-foot depths between Dewittville Bay and Warner Bar. Smallmouth bass show best in the south basin, hitting Rat-L-Trap and smoke-colored jigs around Bly's Point and Arnold's Bay.
Jason Miller and Mike Weaver, a team from Ohio competing in the Professional Musky Tournament Trail last weekend, took home the first place prize of $6,000 with a 48 3/4 -inch fish taken in deeper waters of the north Basin on Sunday. Ohio anglers swept the top three places, according to tourney coordinator Craig Robbins.
Honeoye: Walleye length reduction talk has been steady but regulations were not established in time to be entered in this year's Regulations Guide. DEC Region 8 fisheries supervisor Bill Abraham looks for the Honeoye Lake walleye length limit to be changed from the current 18-inch size to the statewide 15-inch limit in the 2000-2001 regulations.
Walleye fishing has been spotty during daylight hours, but good bluegill numbers have been showing steadily in 15- to 18-foot depths since Labor Day weekend.