Labor Day Weekend marks the end of “summer” fishing, but knowledgeable anglers, especially shoreline savvy fisher folk, know the best access is yet to come.
The latest Southwick Associates poll of anglers notes some interesting generalizations for shore guys. Overall, freshwater anglers spend more time on the water (about 70 percent to 17.5 percent) and shore-bound casters had a slight edge in numbers over those aboard boats.
For Western New York anglers, shore sites reach their heights when leaves and water temperatures begin to fall. On the big lakes, trout and salmon start heading into rivers and feeder streams; on inland lakes, ponds, creeks and embayments, everything from bass, walleye, pike, musky and other larger game fishes join the panfish that held around docks, piers and shoreline weed edges during much of the summer.
Not all spots are hot; not every stream pours forth a horde of hits and buckets of bounty. But well chosen casting sites along shorelines can be found and enjoyed. From the public access points, piers, docks, breakwaters, and banks along the Great Lakes to a quiet site on the smallest of inland ponds, the fall feed is on the rise.
Peak periods for fish activity occur during the change-of-light periods mornings and evenings. Sunlit hours are becoming shorter; slightly cooling waters – not the result of cold fronts – trigger fish movement closer to shore and either good spawning or feeding sites in those shallows.
Some of the best lure options now resemble more of an annoyance than simply a good feeding source. The Southwick Survey points to greater sales of live bait during the warming periods, but an early autumn approach might be more productive with the right kinds of spinners, spoons and body baits that bother more than seem a supper item.
As always, vary retrieval speeds; check out a lure’s action as it moves through the water, on the way down as well as when it is being pulled to the surface for another cast. Sometimes, closing the bail on a spinning reel or thumbing the spoon on a level-wind at the end of a cast will send that lure in the direction of your cast and give it a quicker drop to fish moving in a shoreward direction.
Don’t let this current round of hot days and warm nights prompt summer-like prospects for fishing forays. Slight changes in sunlight and a cooling rainfall or two could trigger many a fish school shoreward with varying speeds of movement and bite responses this Labor Day Weekend.
Cattaraugus Creek showed a short spurt of jack-sized rainbow/steelhead trout before the warm spell moved through; the heat canceled trout treks, but boaters are out in good numbers.
The better bite for both perch and walleye has been westward ho for boaters out of Buffalo Harbor, Sturgeon Point, Cattaraugus Creek and points west. From Buffalo, the walleye bite has been at 45- to 50-foot depths at and west of Myers Reef.
Trollers out of Sturgeon and the Catt, head west and look for 70- to 90-foot depths; walleye schools, in general, are moving at mid depths. The best catches have been with longer minnow-type baits or worm harnesses with extreme bead colors – black and purple one hour, green and/or chartreuse the next.
Rick Miller at Millers Bait & Tackle in Irving runs out of perch bait on the bluebird days such as Tuesday, when about 50 boaters came through. The best ringback bite has been at 70-foot depths, but catches average closer to the 15-to 25-keeper range and a limit per angler.
If you want to catch bass, find a rocky bottom at depths of 25 to 40 feet, drop any kind of rig that sports a crayfish and you will probably come home happy with fish caught and/or released.
Best spot in the Niagara River for bass right now is right of the fishing platform in the lower river, according to Bill Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle.
Warm waters have bass moving to more oxygenated waters, and the platform at the Power Vista provides the right mix.
For access, painting is still going on at the Ferry Street access, which requires a mile-long walk. But the Ontario Street ramp is now open and anglers will be testing the waters there this holiday weekend.
Boaters drift crayfish in the upper and lower river. Smaller (12-to 14-inchers) are abundant in the lower; upper river drifters have done well along Donnelly’s Wall and around Strawberry Island.
The LOC (Lake Ontario Counties) Derby continues to Labor Day, with an awards ceremony at Capt. Jacks at Sodus Point starting at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
Leaders so far in the salmon division have come from Western New York waters, taken on flasher-fly rigs. As seen last week, trollers are starting closer to shore and remaining shallower longer. Shore casters still have to get up early to be on piers by false dawn for true catches.
To check on the latest Lake Ontario Derby entries, visit loc.org.