May offered anglers conditions more akin to June. Advanced temperatures have affected shallow-water fishing most.
Bass activity has had more mention than trout, salmon or any of the other popular warm-water species in Western New York waters. Spawning bass have been caught and released in every Great Lakes feeder offering open water at its lake mouth.
Bass season statewide will not open officially until June 16, but catch-and-release fishing is allowed for smallmouth and largemouth bass in most areas, and anglers must use artificial lures in most places. Check the "New York Freshwater Fishing 2011-12 Official Regulations Guide" for bass-fishing lure use and details of the new baitfish regulations that allow live-bait users greater mobility with bait taken and used in the Great Lakes.
A close second to bass has been the run of Lake Erie's deep-water perch and Lake Ontario's shoreline perch and northern pike.
Add an extended bullhead and catfish count, bluegill and sunfish forays around bays and inland lakes, and steady schooling of trout and salmon along the Lake Ontario shoreline and this warmer-than-normal spring fishing season has been hot in so many spots.
> LAKE ERIE
Perch hold deeper and walleye are setting up shallower. In general, the take is a westward movement. Holiday weekend anglers hammered ringbacks just west of Sturgeon Point; walleye trollers saw some schooling setups west of Dunkirk Harbor during daytime runs.
Minnow sales are up, and so are perch catches. Boaters headed to depths of 55-65 feet from Hamburg to Cattaraugus Creek in search of perch. Fair numbers showed west of Pinehurst, but the Evans-Angola Bar was crowded at 59-foot depths all weekend, according to Dave Watts at Dave's Bait & Tackle in Derby.
Creeks have dried out to the extent that bass are moving out to open Lake Erie waters, Watts noted.
Contestants in the Southtowns Walleye Association Perch Derby and flotilla followers gathered over grounds where many weighty perch had been hauled in during the Derby earlier in May.
The best shot has been a minnow rig worked close to bottom with an occasional, gentle lift and sometimes dropping the entire rig (with all hooked minnows) on the bottom for a few seconds, followed with a light lift to check on "holders," fish that mouth the bait rather than give it a shake. It works-sometimes.
Walleye trollers are rigging up in 40- to 50-foot depths with an assortment of terminal tackle. Gerri Begier at Bill's Hooks in Dunkirk has good reports from the Van Buren "trenches," waters between Van Buren Point and Brocton Shoals.
> NIAGARA RIVER
Moss buildup is a menace, but boaters and casters see good catch counts and willingly pull goop between casts to get to the fish.
Upper river bass activity remains warm-to-hot and steady. With boaters mooring at marinas and private docks and piers, access is limited.
Lower river access is greater and the bass bite has been good for shore-bound and boating anglers alike. Jeff Pippard at Niagara Outdoors in North Tonawanda added an uptick in a walleye bite along the Stella Niagara drift. Pippard gets good reports for jigging (with or without an attached minnow) on these 'eye drifts.
> LAKE ONTARIO
Moss has been a greater concern for boaters running trolling rigs. "The stuff is out to 300-foot depths," said Wes Walker at Slipper Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott.
Nonetheless, good schooling of brown trout at 50- to 60-foot depths and steelies near the surface at less than 250-foot depths keep boaters working relatively close to shore.
Shore casters have seen lowering creek waters but solid runs in a variety species and sizes. Bay and creek-mouth areas at Wilson, Olcott, and Oak Orchard Point have seen a run of northern pike unlike many recent spring seasons.
Perch anglers have had to wait out a pike presence to get to a restored ringback run. Catfish are spawning and bass are onto and off of their spawning beds. A full-moon phase next week should have bass spawning peaked and fish ready for a solid feed for the June 16 opener.
For now, artificial baits work well on catch-and-release bass that bite anything annoying right now.