It may have taken a landing barge or ocean liner to get on a Western New York lake in Tuesday’s wave-whacking winds, but boaters have access to fishing waters that should be close to ice-fishing conditions by now.
Water temperatures have yet to drop to 40 degrees, a couple degrees above that magic-number reading that inverts cool bottom waters with warmer surface areas, a phenomenon that causes lakes and ponds to freeze fast at the start and melt off as quickly during a spring warming.
Boaters who have yet to winterize their crafts have access to some impressive perch and panfish fishing, along with some respectable walleye prospects on Lake Erie and inland lakes such as Oneida and Chautauqua.
Bait dealers from Irondequoit Bay to Hogan’s Hut on Chautauqua Lake are selling minnows, as many or more than the start of ice-fishing season. Boaters from Seneca Lake to the deeper waters of Lake Erie are still sticking sizeable ringbacks in nice numbers.
Most of the western Finger Lakes can produce perch, but Canandaigua Lake serves as a kind of Lake Erie east when it comes to numbers and sizes. Most of the action is at 15- to 18-foot depths along the deeper side of weed edges at the north end of the lake about a mile south of the city.
Chautauqua Lake continues with a good panfish program of some crappies, a few good bluegills and sunfish, and some respectable perch among a run of runts. A few walleye can be found dayside, but the better shoreline opening of walleyes comes well after dark. Night casters work along the shoreline for walleye feeding inside and around weed edges.
More rain and promised falling temperatures should put the rainbow/steelhead run on schedule, if steelies have such a thing. Waders working the smaller feeders along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie watch for a rise in rainfall runoff and look for more incoming trout. But accolades for both size and numbers goes to the bounty from the lower Niagara River.
“We’re going to have to wait for a few days,” was the word from charter boaters after Tuesday’s bombastic blow from the northwest that stained Erie waters, sending servings of what could pass for chocolate milk down the Niagara River flowage.
Before the blow, boaters and shore casters had been doing well with smaller items in increasingly clearing river waters above and below the falls. Upper river casters have seen a nice mix of steelies and walleye showing up around Unity (Squaw) Island.
Lower river waters offered a lake trout and steelie tossup, with steelies starting to take over as the better bite. Bait dealers have had emerald shiners through much of the fall, but lately the dip has been larger emeralds, which work well on lower-river trout on a boat drift or when casting from shore.
With cooler weather promised for the weekend and results from before the wind storm, those enormous emeralds might shine again sometime this weekend or next week.
Deer hunting season remains open and Ontario stream waders are doing more hunting/stalking than hotspot harvesting along larger and smaller feeders between Rochester and the Niagara River.
Smaller items have become big in a trout fishery that includes a greater number of brown trout than usually are seen among the incoming steelhead trout. Flow from the canal at Oak Orchard varies. Creek levels change daily on the smaller streams, with some trout presence in every feeder. But the bite can be challenging. Clear water last week might be replaced with at least green if not totally stained waters this weekend.
The most promising perch prospects remain at Irondequoit Bay, but both Olcott and Oak Orchard have seen some perch schooling when the bigger fish are not moving along creek banks.
Cattaraugus Creek continues to provide the most trout action, but smaller feeders have seen fair numbers of incoming rainbows and this latest round of rain should improve things at Eighteen Mile, Canadaway and Chautauqua Creeks, plus in smaller feeders between those creeks.
Every kind of hardware can connect, but in both stained and gin-clear waters a section of nightcrawler can be deadly. Fly anglers go with the rounded and oval-shaped bug patterns as well as a single-egg fly on either fly or spinning tackle.
The Catt is attractive because of its draw of the earlier “jacks,” young trout, and now some sizeable rainbow/steelies that have shown from the mouth up to the Springville Dam.
A handful of equipped boaters still make the ringback run off Sturgeon Point, fishing over depths of 49 to 55 feet and bringing in good numbers and sizes of yellow perch in areas that usually show fish on solid ice a month or so from now.