Fall gets marked on the calendar officially today. Summer is still seen and felt while on the water, but most fish species are falling into autumn-like activity on the big lakes, inland lakes, rivers, ponds and smaller streams.
Slightly cooler nights have yet to drop water temperatures. Warm days hold the degrees close to summertime readings. But just slight drops in surface-water temperatures and reduced hours of daylight have triggered fall feeding patterns and breeding activity for fish in pre-spawn modes.
The fishing experts/pros like to refer to this time and features period as a “transition” period for fish finding and catching. Warm waters have slowed the entrance of spawning and egg-eating salmonids into feeder streams and rivers. Bass, walleye and musky targeting types suggest differing depths and distances from weed edges and shoreline structures. Deep-water dunkers troll closer to shore for trout, salmon and walleye. Panfish pursuits in deeper water might be best around bottom bumps or patches of the right temperatures to hold bait schools and their forage.
Whatever the quest – big fish, big numbers or just nice fights – fish are on the move, feeding or pre-breeding like crazy, and can be caught at the right time and place.
The solar-lunar charts had peak feeding periods set close to sunrise and sunset earlier this week. The remainder of the week and weekend could see the bite turn on any time of the day.
Perch hunters harvest good numbers one day and take a boat ride the next day. Walleye trollers still bring in a few good fish. Bass busters enjoy a bonanza over anything made of rock, rubble and gravel.
Crayfish still provide the best bass outcomes, but jiggers using tubes, plastic and bucktails, and even the whacky worms (plastic worms hooked in the middle and fished vertically) work at varying depths. Take along a bucket of bigger minnows and you will have a triumvirate of bass biters.
Walleye trollers and tightly suspended schools of fish are few, but boaters can still connect with a good mix of mature and mid-sized ’eyes at depths of 70 to 90 feet west of Cattaraugus Creek.
Those same depths could be good for perch, with the right presence of bait schools. Boaters did poorly this last weekend, but previously the schools of bigger ringbacks were showing in tight but sizable patches. Tuesday saw few good perch catches, according to Ricky Miller at Miller’s Bait & Tackle in Irving, but the weekend could see another turnaround similar to last weekend.
The long awaited arrival of bitter steelies in the Catt is still on hold. Casters have seen a few good jacks and an odd hookup with something over 5 pounds, but low, clear, warm waters have slowed the trout run in all Erie feeder streams.
Niagara River/Lake Ontario
Bass dominate the upper and lower Niagara River, with a few kings showing off the Power Vista platform. Waters holding at and just below 70 degrees has slowed what now should be a good run of king salmon.
Boat trollers see and catch kings and trout stacked at 40- to 100-foot depths. Shore casters see some action at low-light conditions mornings and evenings.
Trollers have hit into most of Chautauqua’s popular game-fish species in both basins of the lake. “The walleye have really turned on this past week,” said Skip Bianco at the Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle Shop.
Musky trollers have had a spectacular summer. The walleye bite began showing in deeper waters of the north basin and in shallower areas of the south basin, with wobbling crankbaits such as Hot ‘N Tots a popular favorite.
While making turns in north-basin waters at and near Mayville, boaters have started hitting into a few crappies along the way. “That fishery should start up soon,” Bianco said of the panfish run. He added, “They,” mainly boaters “have been getting numbers of good-sized perch, some in the 9- to 12-inch range.”
With trout and salmon running up rivers and streams, the Lake Erie perch run picking up, and many an inland lake showing good shoreline activity for bass and panfish, anglers might be considering a license renewal for fall fishing.
The renewal date for most sporting licenses has been moved from Oct. 1 to Sept. 1; however, newer regulations set the renewal/duration for resident and nonresident yearlong license purchases as the date of purchase, similar to regs set in many other states.
Check the date on that fishing-license tag to make sure it is current, and consider buying a Habitat/Access Stamp ($5) when renewing that license. Funds from the H/A Stamp go directly into programs that upgrade and acquire new access sites for anglers statewide.