The transition period fishing experts attribute to a changeover in a fishery is occurring fast this week.
Earlier in the week, ice anglers were walking, if not riding, to some hot perch spots on inland lakes. Later this week, boaters may be able to fish the same areas in a warm rain.
Stream waders have to deal with some water staining earlier this week; rains later this week could help or hamper current conditions. Higher water levels in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie have been drawing green/fresh trout stock into feeder streams on both lakes.
Walleye and northern pike anglers who typically look for the late bite through the ice can float a boat, wade, or shore cast to hot late-season spots usually ice covered until the season closing on Tuesday. This year, anglers have until Tuesday at midnight to pick up pike and poke around for ’eyes.
With the ice boom afloat in open, ice-free water, boaters launching from Great Lakes and many inland-lake ramps and water temperatures in some shallow areas spiking over the 38-degree mark, activities for cold- and warm-water fish species might get moved up quickly, putting panfish in the shallows and trout moving about well ahead of last year at this time.
Bait dealers have emerald shiners most days, but artificial baits could connect earlier than usual this warm late-winter season. Another round of freezing snow could slow the shoreline bite, but both boaters and ice anglers have seen signs of pre-spawn perch movement into the shallows. Many inland lake shoreline areas usually weed-choked early in the ice-fishing season retained little standing mass, which could move panfish into warm spawning shallows earlier this year.
For now, trout are up streams, panfish and pike progress toward the shallows, walleyes might be found anywhere good forage can be found and anglers will be investing in more rain gear than heavy cold-weather wear as late winter approaches spring.
The good news is that boaters can get onto the lake anywhere there is an open launch. The less-than-good news is that the bite is slight. After perch anglers pulled a few walleye last week, the ’eye count has been nil on days boaters could get out this week.
Even more agonizing, perch schools this week either go on the move or shut down on the bite. Boaters Tuesday worked deeper water from Myers Reef to Cattaraugus Creek with few takers. Schools showed on the sonar screen at mid 50s depths, but the bite could not match earlier outings.
Water levels are up, boaters have good ramp access without side docks at most sites and bait movement has been scattered but showing good numbers. Walleye numbers may not turn on before the season closing on Tuesday, but the perch run could turn on early and solidly this early spring.
Feeder streams offer a better bite option. Trout action at the Catt has been mainly young jacks either side of the 18-inch mark. Water clarity changes often with snowmelt runoff, but live or egg offerings have done well for stream anglers.
Water color is at an ideal emerald green and the lower-river catch is a 50-50 mix of lakers and steelies. Brown trout sometimes show in the river and out on the Niagara Bar. The bar bite has been slow of late, with banana baits connecting at times. Most of the action has been in Devils Hole or along the river drifts and casting points.
Boaters and shore casters both go with bait. A big emerald shiner has worked best, but egg sacks and single-egg offerings get their share of strikes.
Upper river areas are just freeing of ice and a few anglers have made the mile-long trek at the foot of Ferry St., but Bill Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle has yet to hear of harvests.
Brown trout nudge steelies for feeder stream top catches, with bait/meat offerings holding a slight edge over artificials. Browns and steelies make it up to the dams at Eighteen Mile and Oak Orchard, with Sandy Creek seeing the biggest run of browns. Smaller baits work best; a mousy grub on a small jig can be deadly.
Pier casters have good results casting spoons and minnows from piers, says Wes Walker at Slipper Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott.
Boaters have begun running stick baits along shore. The new Challenger Lure colors have worked well on incoming trout.
Captain Bob’s Contest
Entries will all be from open waters, notes Steve “Hawk” Hawkins at Capt. Bob’s Winter Fishing Derby, which goes until March 20. Anglers can enter anytime; walleye and northern pike division entries go until the Tuesday season closing.
Rod Froebel Jr. of Alden now leads the Northern Pike Division with a 36-incher from Silver Lake. Crappie Division Leader Stan Travis Jr. of Varysburg caught a 14-inch, 1.91-pound entry.
For last-minute details on this contest, call 407-3021.