Lake Erie provides anglers the biggest gambling casino in Western New York. Fishing folk wager wealth, time and talent each day out and see differing spins and draws on each outing.
Capt. Joe Fonzi of Thumbs Up Charters heads out every day possible. He sees this week as when the nighttime walleye bite will open up dayside. “This is all but an absolute,” Fonzi said of walleye schools moving off post-spawn shallows to forage in mid depths and along bottom in open waters off Buffalo, Lackawanna and Hamburg.
Fonzi is currently working the peak and post-spawn bass bite that puts smallmouths near bottom in deeper water but moving onto rocky reefs and shoals along the entire New York shore.
Perch prospects vary vastly. Herb Schultz traveled to Point Breeze to find good fish during the Southtowns Perch Derby. Right now, the best perch schooling has been found at 40-foot depths directly off Dunkirk Harbor.
Boaters have found deep pockets of bait where ringbacks have gathered in pods and feed on round gobies rather than emerald shiners. Figure that. Then, another small school of perch is found without a sign of bait anywhere nearby. Even the most seasoned perch searcher has to post at four or five sites before hitting into sizeable numbers of feeding fish.
One promising outcome in perch production the last two weeks has been a few schools of 7- to 9-inch perch, year classes that have not shown in recent months.
Minnows are a must bait for both bass and perch. The larger chubs are a main draw for smallies and emerald shiners (even the salted version) shine for a perch bite.
Walleye rollers have headed west of Dunkirk Harbor, working 40- to 60-foot depths towards Brocton Shoals. A worm harness draws some panfish but curbs the bass bite when trolling for walleye.
Entrants can sign up for the Annual Southtowns Walleye Tournament, June 11-19, until the night before the tourney begins. For more details, call 649-8202 or visit southtownswalleye.org.
If the perch are picky and the walleye bite is slow, bass can keep rods bent and bouncing in the upper and lower river. Bigger minnows have done best on bronze backs on drifts and cast from shore.
The 66-degree surface temperatures from the open waters of Lake Erie have pushed most salmonids from the lower river, but the bass bite could compensate for the loss of steelies and browns in the suddenly warmed river waters.
Boaters are trolling closer to shore, with an occasional circle over 250-foot depths to reach deep-running king salmon. Wes Walker at Slipper Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott sees the trolling program as a spoon run from the surface down to about 50 feet and then a flasher and fly run at depths below 50 feet.
The above-average Lake Erie temperatures have yet to hit Ontario, with most open-water readings in the upper 50s. The relative chill keeps a few brown trout hugging shore. Casters at Olcott Pier can connect with browns during evening and sunrise hours with a heavier casting spoon or spinner. Most mentioned have been either Little Cleos or the heavier Vibrax spinners.
“Casters are doing better for both walleye and musky,” said Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle. The musky opener proved productive in the shallows for spinner casting. The walleye bite improved around emerging weeds for casters of spinners and blade baits.
Weeds two feet below the surface last week grew to surface sprawls by the warm holiday weekend. That growth brought in big predators such as musky and walleye, but also drew nice numbers of bigger bluegill. The bluegill bite showed best at the Mayville end, but a few nice catches have come in from Bemus Bay.
Kids derbies and clinics
Two derbies this weekend and a free clinic next Saturday give kids enjoyable opportunities to get on fishing waters and learn about catching more and bigger ones.
The 25th annual Youth Fishing Derby at Ringneck Overlook in the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge begins with registration at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. Certificates go to the top three entrants in three age divisions: 7 and under, 8-12 and 13-17.
For more details, call (585) 948-5445 or visit fsw.gov/refuge/Iroquois.
Lake Lane Fishing and Hunting Getaway in Olean will hold a Free Kids Fishing Derby for youths age 15 and younger on Saturday and Sunday. For complete details, call 373-2080 or visit lakelaesfishingandhuntinggetaway.com.
The Department of Environmental Conservation with present a Free Teach-Me-To-Fish Clinic from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on June 11 in Tifft Nature Preserve at 1200 Fuhrman Blvd.
Kids will be given instruction, provided with fishing gear, plus added attractions. Adults are required to accompany youths. For more details and to register, call the DEC at 851-7010.