The long-delayed walleye, chain pickerel, northern pike and tiger muskellunge season openers begin at midnight Friday with few changes in the regulations but some adjustments in angling approaches.
The only regulations change for these species is a walleye length limit raised from 15 inches to 18 inches on Honeoye Lake.
Waters had warmed earlier, which pushed ahead walleye and pikes spawning cycles. All that might matter to night trollers off Buffalo Harbor west to the Hamburg shoreline and the reefs off Dunkirk Harbor west to Brocton Shoals.
On Friday, anglers can enter the Lake Ontario Counties Derby competition that morning (www.loc.org) and then head to Lewiston for the Annual Smelt Festival that begins with a fry and gatherings that evening and a series of weekend activities.
As for the trout and panfish bite, trout waters have been visited with many a warm-water species for two or more weeks along Great Lakes feeder streams and around deeper inland lakes and streams waters.
With some daytime temperatures reaching well above 50 on ponds and lakes with expansive shallows, bluegill, sunfish, crappie, perch and other panfish packs are taking up residence in shallows usually visited a week or two later in May most spring seasons.
In general, the minnow under a bobber set at mid-depths might be dropped a foot or more this weekend to scout out both the suspended sunfish species and the bottom hugging bigger yellow perch headed into shoreline spawning sites on inland waters.
Like the fickle perch presence, Lake Erie’s spectacular smallmouth stock is there but wary. The special “trophy” bass season starts Saturday, with a minimum length limit of 20 inches and a daily creel limit of one fish. Until midnight on Friday, Erie bass anglers can catch and release bass while fishing with artificial lures only.
The main trick to bass catching with artificials only is to mainly match the round goby hatch. Jig, spinner and spoon senders in the past had all kinds of fun with green and yellow bucktails and plastics on jigs and silver or gold spoons and spinners on hardware. The metallic finishes still work, but body colors have shifted over to browns, grays and purple/black mixes that more effectively mimic the goby bass have targeted as forage for about a decade out there.
Once live bait is allowed starting Saturday, it’s a tossup between minnow and crayfish, with minnows typically a better starter in chill water.
Perch reports come mainly from the deeper waters well west of Buffalo Harbor. Ringbacks show in good numbers off the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters, but the bite has been a movement between Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek out deep.
Streams hold trout throughout the spring season, but the more frequent bite has been bass, suckers and catfish in streams that draw cats.
Smelt have shown at odd times at night and the dayside bite can be trout in one place and bass in another. Successful bait choices and catch counts change daily.
The Lake Ontario Counties Derby has trollers scouting closer to the surface at 40-to-60-foot depths for browns and steelies and digging for lakers and king salmon near bottom at 100-foot depths.
Look for a detailed Lake Ontario fishing column on the Sunday Outdoors page.
The Lower Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office and other sponsors are offering a free Boom Days event at 100 Silo City Row east of Ohio Street along the Buffalo River. Events go from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with fireworks at 9 p.m.
Youths have a free fishing event that morning; along with workshops and crafts for adults and kids. Also, visitors can tour the USS Columbia and enjoy an E.M. Cotter Fire Boat visit. Live music and entertainment begins at 6 p.m.
The Randolph and Caledonia DEC Hatcheries this week have stocked trout at sites around Western New York in time for fishing this weekend. All stockings are yearling unless noted as 2-year-olds.
Alleghany County: Allen Lake (Allen), 2,230 brook trout; Rushford Lake (Caneadea) 3,800 rainbow trout; Dodge Creek (Clarksville), 1,290 brown trout; Clarksville Town Park (Clarksville) 160 brook trout; and Dyke Creek (Andover) 1,300 brown trout.
Cattaraugus County: Harwood Lake (Farmersville) 1,990 brook trout; Bone Run (South Valley) 260 brown trout; Case Lake (Franklinville) 1,550 9-inch brown trout; Quaker Lake (Elko) 3,620 9-inch brown trout; Red House Lake (Red House) 650 brown trout; and Great Valley Creek (Great Valley) 1,210 brown trout.
Chautauqua County: Cassadaga Creek (Stockton) 430 brown trout; and Goose Creek (Harmony and North Harmony) 430 brown trout and 100 2-year-old brown trout.
Erie County: Springville Field & Stream (Concord) 160 brook trout.
All stocking deliveries are subject to change due to water conditions.