Last week we offered prepping props for early fall fishing; this week we bemoan the prospects of an extended summer fishery.
But don’t be misled by this heat and seemingly deceptive midsummer-like water, especially on inland lakes. Many of the larger, shallower inland lakes last year suffered early in the season with algae blooms. Some were green, some were blue, Honeoye and Conesus Lake viewers got to see both versions of this disturbing surface gook that annoyed swimmers and turned off both the fish and fishermen.
Earlier this season we exalted in seeing open waters void of this invasive aggravation. Prolonged cold water in the spring, following a long winter with thick ice coatings on lakes, rendered setback in the spring startup. By midsummer, most lakes, especially good bass waters on the shallower of lakes, were algae-free and showed slower growths of shoreline weeds that bass, muskies and assorted panfish seek for cover and predation.
All went swell until this last round of 90-degree days and above 70-degree nights, which got the algae bunch blooming. Right now, many shallower areas of inland lakes have retained their algae mats floating out to depths well beyond the shoreline shallows.
The good news is that once surface waters cool, the algae disappears almost as fast as ice melts on a warm spring day. As an added plus, fish generally tend to go on even more intense feeding forays as waters drop below 60 degrees and daylight hours shorten. Not all lakes will provide washes of warm-water species or a cornucopia of cold-water feeders, but the bite improves as many outdoors folk begin looking at hunting options and back away from angling outings.
For now, deeper areas of inland and Great Lakes waters offer a better option of enjoying catches for the table or camera lens.
With heavy schooling of walleyes out deep by early August many trollers thought the ’eyes would have had it by now. Not so. Not every troller out of Sturgeon Point, Cattaraugus Creek, Dunkirk and Barcelona Harbor comes in with limits of walleye in assorted sizes, but schools of mixed sizes of ’eyes can be found within a mile of shore from Hamburg to the Pennsylvania state line.
Bait schools had held close to bottom throughout the summer, and now those schools are lifting to depths where walleyes, and incoming rainbow/steelhead trout, can see and feed on them. As a result, the migrant schools of Ohio fish that are usually moving westward in early September – out of reach for Western New York anglers – are holding in New York waters and hitting at and near the bottom in 45- to 55-foot depths close to Buffalo and 70- to 90-foot depths west of Sturgeon Point.
Both worm harnesses and hard baits resembling yearling smelt have been the best bet for trollers. Drifters need a nightcrawler to bump bottom and work walleyes.
Perch prospectors are digging around much like walleye wanderers. Anchored boaters did not see the numbers taken last summer, but diehards had pulled a few fish most days out. Now, the feast-or-famine foray is rife. Some boaters have gotten over bigger perch in fair numbers at 65- to 75-foot depths between Sturgeon Point and the Catt. Problem is: Perch schools move daily, the nice catch site of yesterday might be void of bait and ringbacks the next day with exact same winds and waves conditions.
Take a tub of crayfish, get big responses from smallmouths. Shore casters and boat drifters in the upper river are seeing bronzebacks along piers, around weed edges and along channels mainly home to muskies.
Lower river bass are abundant, but spinner-and-worm drifters are seeing fair numbers of monster walleye along drifts that will soon see incoming salmon. For now, the water is warm, the salmon are staging off major Lake Ontario feeders and the warm-water fishery prevails on the lower river.
Lakers are moving onto the outer edges of the Niagara Bar, king salmon still hold closer to bottom at 80- to 100-foot depths, but the shoreward moves are in progress.
Lake Ontario Counties Derby entrants pulled most of their winning fish from the bar. King salmon catches broke even for anglers fishing west and east of Rochester. In all areas, spoons continue to take trout and salmon, but cut bait and flasher-fly rigs are starting to take over.
Kings could be found from Fort Niagara to well east of Point Breeze, but the nicest mix of trout and salmon for Western New York waters came from either side of Olcott Harbor.
Early morning had been most productive for winning entrants in the LOC Derby, but as daylight decreases and as waters cool, boaters could see improved afternoon outings.
Look for a detailed summation of the Ontario fishery and derby winners’ insights on the Sunday Outdoors Page.