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Fishing Line for March 16

The new “New York Freshwater Fishing 2016-17 Official Regulations Guide” is now available at area town halls and vendor sites providing sporting licenses.

No major changes are listed for Western New York fisheries, but two entries on page 4 involve minimum length limits. The minimum size limit for muskellunge caught in the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is set at 54 inches; the walleye length limit for Honeoye Lake has been raised from 15 to 18 inches.

With the recently introduced policy of date-of-purchase for durations selected (1-day, 7-day or one-year licenses) anglers no longer have a set date to renew as do hunters and trappers. Production of a new guide in April serves as a reminder to renew fishing licenses at the start of the warm-water season.

This free guide defines statewide angling regulations, specifics for all nine regions across the state, with special regulations for the Great Lakes and their tributaries. This year’s guide features a section on fishing New York City reservoirs, with tips on fishing that could be useful along all controlled waterways.

A section on Public Fishing Rights explains easement areas where anglers can access fishing areas on public and privately-owned lands. The program, in place since 1935, provides fishermen a means to get to stocked or at least fishable waters. The DEC continually reminds anglers to respect landowners’ property and be polite while crossing lands that access fishing areas.

Catch-and-release tips and health advisories help inform anglers while fishing and consuming harvests.

Anglers renewing in person can obtain a copy of the guide. The internet PDF version of the new guide is yet to be posted but can be found on some search engines.

Lake Erie

Streams conditions approach ideal for levels and clarity. Waters are warming earlier than usual and stream watchers such as Rick Miller are looking at the possibility of an early rainbow run this spring season. Fresh, bright-silvery steelies are moving into big and smaller feeder streams all along the New York shore, but the stock has been mainly smaller “jacks” that usually follow the influx of mature trout that arrive earlier, Miller says.

Fishing pressures on streams has been mainly weekends. Anglers free during the work week or willing to work up or down stream to less fished areas can still find some nice matures this first weekend of spring.

Perch persist as both productive and perplexing at the east end of Lake Erie. Unlike inland lakes, Erie’s perch school remain in deeper water and do not necessarily move into spawning shallows as ice cover disappears and surface temperatures begin rising.

Not only do catch reports vary from day to day, some days the hit/bite/catch count changes at mid day. Miller noted that boaters on the water in every direction from Cattaraugus Creek saw little action until noon, but from about 1 p.m. until dusk perch turned on and most boaters came in with big bucket and box catches.

Site successes vary as well. One day a school turns on between Eighteen Mile Creek and Sturgeon Point, the next day boaters west of the Catt are the only ones seeing nice numbers.

Look for an expanded discussion of Lake Erie perch dynamics on the Sunday Outdoors Page.

Niagara River

Lower river trout runs see hit-or-miss conditions somewhat akin to Erie perch prospects, but the bite is a bit more consistent. Boaters have gone mainly with minnows as trout feed heavily on both rainbow smelt and emerald shiners.

Bait presence in the upper and lower river has been substantial, with some spottail shiners showing among the emeralds, an arrival that Capt. Chris Cinelli notes is a bit earlier this season. He has seen a steady mix of smelt and emeralds in trout caught in the lower river.

Bait dealer and guide Stephen Drabczyk noted that boaters and shore casters have been upping their catches with Pautzke Live Fish Fire Dye, a product that colors minnows while alive and swimming in dyed water. Ice anglers had connected with red and green dyes this past winter. Red seems to be a better color for minnows drifted for lake trout on the Niagara Bar.

Lake Ontario

East and northeasterly winds have skewed the shoreline numbers, but trollers and shore casters are starting to see some nice results. Pre-spawn steelies shoot through shore sites and show better below dams at Oak Orchard, Olcott and Wilson Harbor.

Heavy rain Sunday evening stained feeder-stream waters, but the bite along both stream edges and shoreline shallows steadily picks up each sunny day. Trollers have done best with either silver or gold stick baits. Shore casters use the smallest of egg sacks, single egg flies and plastics or mini jigs and grubs when waters clear.

The perch bite has been so-so at Irondequoit Bay, Oak Orchard and Olcott, but Wilson Harbor has seen a nice run of ringbacks.