The fishing season for walleye and pike family fish species will not open until May 5, but inland trout, Great Lakes salmonids and a panoply of panfish prospects greet anglers all around Western New York and nearby waterways.
Boaters must continue to have all passengers aboard their vessels wear life preservers while in New York State waters until May 1. That regulation is a good suggestion for boating, especially alone and away from shore on open waters, throughout the fishing season.
> Lake Erie
Perch possibilities expand each week that boaters can get on the water and poke around for sizable schools of ringbacks.
High winds most of last week kept boaters off open waters, but the bite continues at and west of Cattaraugus Creek. Some deep-water areas hold both mature and young fish, but most bites from bigger fish have come from 55- to 62-foot depths. Pods of boats lined up between Sturgeon Point and Point Breeze in previous weeks. Last week, the good numbers were coming from east of the Catt to just west of Evangola State Park. With some slow trolling or drifting, boaters can find nice sizes and numbers west of Silver Creek now.
Experts discussed steelhead dynamics, the state of perch and walleye spawning successes, sea lamprey management and efforts to reduce drug presence in Lake Erie during the State of Lake Erie meeting at the Southtowns Walleye clubhouse Thursday evening. A detailed account of that meeting will appear on the Outdoors Page on Sunday.
> Niagara River
Marinas and private docking areas in the upper river are being set up for vessel mooring, and many good shoreline areas are no longer open to public-access fishing. However, piers at shore-access sites, such as the foot of Ontario and Ferry streets, can get busy as panfish move closer to shore. Check along the Buffalo, Tonawanda and Grand Island shorelines for places where perch, bluegills and the occasional school of crappies move in to spawn.
Rainbow smelt are moving upstream heavily in the lower river, and anglers with dipping gear have good access to the action at Lewiston Landing and the stairway at Artpark.
Some evenings, dippers find good schools just after dark. Even more anglers do well after 11 p.m. at netting an 8-quart limit of these tasty fish, which work well as bait for trout and salmon.
> Lake Ontario
Shore casters are seeing better runs of trout and the odd salmon from piers at Wilson Harbor, Olcott Harbor and Oak Orchard Creek.
When the big fish move away from docks and piers, the perch bite can be great at Wilson, Olcott and Oak Orchard.
Trollers are doing well along shore from Canadian waters west of the Niagara River to the head of the St. Lawrence River. Along with some nice steelie catches, shallow-water trollers have been running minnow-type baits for brown trout.
The spring brown run produces larger fish each year. This year, many of these spotted trout have exceeded 10 pounds. Most of the action occurs at depths of less than 15 feet.
> Inland lakes
Silver/Conesus/Honeoye lakes -- Bluegills are there for the finding and taking. Silver Lake crappie schools have been hiding, but 'gills are in plain sight along shoreline shallows and in channels.
Conesus has shown a good 'gill presence after a winter with little ice fishing. Honeoye crappie schools are on the move, with few regular bite sites. The bluegill bite is more reliable.
Chautauqua Lake -- The crappie bite is slight and the bluegill is no great thrill, but panfish seekers lakewide have been hitting solid numbers of bass, mainly largemouth bass, says Lisa Green at Happy Hooker Bait & Tackle in Ashville.
Shoreline shallows -- where crappies and bluegills usually cruise -- have been mainly a perch pavilion, with a steady intrusion of big-mouth bass. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed for bass, with artificial baits only.
> Trout stocking
The Randolph Hatchery has stocked these sites in time for weekend anglers:
Allegany County -- Belmont Rod & Gun Club Pond (West Almond), 90 brook trout; Vandermark Creek (Scio, Ward), 1,020 brown trout; Chenunda Creek (Willing), 250 brown trout; and Genesee River (Wellsville), 1,270 brown trout.
Cattaraugus County -- Maples Club Pond (Otto), 280 brook trout; and Crandall Pond (Ashford), 280 brook trout.
Wyoming County -- Oatka Creek (Warsaw), 1,590 brook trout; Parry Park Pond (Perry), 90 brook trout; and Letchworth Park Pond (Genesee Falls), 280 brook trout.