Fish spawning cycles have anglers peddling in all directions.
Trout spawning is fairly settled but phases for warm-water species depend on waters fished. Lake Erie walleye and perch have finished spawning. Walleye move earlier, but now that perch spawn in Erie’s deep water, signs of the spawn show in catch changes.
Inland lakes spawning runs provide the most perplexing reads for fish catching. Bass and ’gills fight for the same bedding areas, which is usually sometime in later May or early June. But this suddenly summerlike streak of hot days and warm nights has some fish off the bite and on a bed of eggs.
For panfishing, expect to see a continued run of smaller males on the move and the big breeder females less likely to feed. Annoying spinners, spoons and wobbling lures work better than live baits at times when fishing catch-and-release bass as well as the bigger ’gills, sunfish, and crappie.
A new musky season start, the last Saturday in May, has trophy trekkers setting up for May 30. But increased minimum length limits and all-out efforts to make musky a catch-and-release fishery put the emphasis on a fun pursuit rather than a trophy or consumption quest.
Northern pike can serve as an enjoyable alternative to musky fillets. The pike fishery has picked up at several sites around Western New York in recent years at places such as the south end of Conesus Lake and Wilson Harbor.
In general, the wave of heat may have moved bite and spawn cycles ahead slightly, but water warms and cools 20 to 25 times slower than air temperature reports and surface readings in blazing, direct sunlight might have a 65-degree reading on the top drop to well below the 55 degrees bass need at depths of 10 to 20 feet.
Time your retrieves, bobber moves and trolling speeds to account for fish moving in cooler, deeper water, fish entering or completing spawning cycles and winds that move things around below as well as above water surfaces. This time of year can be productive and perplexing with all mid-spring fishing things considered.
Once these winds subside, walleye trollers can get back and check for a dayside bite. But, before the breezes, night outings were more productive for ’eye popping.
Water clarity, sometimes bottom-visibility down to 30 feet, has bass moving up and down shoals and shorelines. Tube jigs, live baits, well-presented casting spoons and other rigs connect, but the biggest bite has come on drop-shot setups. The vertical moves of a drop shot, often akin to ice fishing, attract fish on the move and those that give baits a casual tug in cool waters.
Most perch have completed the spawn, but feeding patterns change and schools move like pack trains. Out deep, best catch numbers came from depths of 44 to 56 feet from Sturgeon Point to just west of Cattaraugus Creek.
Bass have moved into the lower river, but a solid run of steelies continues for boaters and shore casters. Water clarity curbed casters this past week, but stained waters could push trout and bass closer to shore later in the week to the weekend. Shore guys have been sending out heavier casting spoons (e.g. Little Cleos) and jigs for trout and bass, with a few lake trout still showing at Devils Hole. Boaters can find bass around most of the drift at and down current from Lewiston.
King salmon mix in with lake trout at depths as close as 40 feet early mornings, but the more consistent depths have been 80 to 150 for hits close to bottom. Speeds vary, but slower moving has brought up kings as well as lakers. Perch numbers are fair, with Wilson Harbor showing the most. Shore and shoreline anglers from Fort Niagara to Oak Orchard are concerned with the number of cormorants affecting bait schools and shallow-water game fish.
Silver Lake – Crappies moved off channels and skirt perch schools at depths of 8 to 10 feet. The ’gill bite is slow.
Conesus Lake – Night trollers can stick walleyes, dayside casters mainly work bass. Bluegills are smaller, but the northern pike bite is good at the south end.
Honeoye Lake – Crappie schools nearly number those of good-sized bluegills. Most boaters cast for bass.
Chautauqua Lake – Walleye numbers improve; crappie schools hold near shore, hitting live minnows and either black or white jigs.
The Randolph Hatchery has stocked these sites with yearlings this past week in time for weekend angler outings:
Tonawanda Creek (Orangeville) 770 brown trout; Buffalo Creek (Java) 860 browns; Great Valley Creek (Great Valley) 1,200 brown trout; Forks Creek (Great Valley) 770 browns; Dyke Creek (Andover) 1,030 browns; Cryder Creek (Independence) 940 browns; East Koy Creek (Gainesville) 6,680 browns; California Hollow Brook (Bolivar) 260 browns; Little Genesee Creek (Bolivar) 1,280 browns; and Elton Creek (Freedom) 860 browns.