With another round of lake effect storms coming off Lake Erie and high winds in the forecast, it’s anyone’s guess what that will do to the fishing conditions in Western New York. Throw in the coldest temperatures of the season and angling action will certainly be limited. Keep an open mind when things start settling back down again.
Fishing in the lower Niagara River was pretty good this past week, but water color seemed to be changing by the hour as the winds started kicking up again. Whether or not it will slow up the fishing, it was too soon to tell. With wind gusts to 45 miles per hour being predicted, much will depend on wind direction. Boaters had a banner week on trout; steelhead really made their presence known along with some bomber browns. Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters reported good action using wobbling baits like MagLips and Kwikfish with silver-green and silver-pink topping the list of preferred color combinations. Eric Craig of Erie, Pa., caught his biggest brown ever while drifting a MagLip off a three-way rig on the Niagara Bar. His crew also boated eight steelhead, as well as catching and releasing double-digit lake trout. Lake trout season opens Jan. 1 so mark it on your calendar. Capt. Ernie Calandrelli of Ernie’s Guide Service also had some banner fishing on trout, and MagLips were a hot ticket for him, as well. Fish seem to be spread throughout the system, from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar. Remember that Dec. 15 is the final day of the muskellunge season for the lower river and Lake Ontario. Shoreline trout casters are still doing well along Artpark and further up into the gorge. Spoons like BC Wobblers in chartreuse or orange will produce some nice trout and steelhead finally picked up a notch
there, too. Spinners have also been working, yellow and chartreuse. Float fishing with eggs, egg imitations, beads (hard and soft), streamers and flies are all an option. In the Upper Niagara, California Joe Pavalonis of Buffalo bettered his own rudd mark in the Capt. Bob’s contest with a 15.75-inch fish that he caught on a crappie tube fished under a float.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek in Newfane/Olcott have been producing some nice Coho salmon this week, as well as some browns and steelhead. Water is low and slightly stained. A little color did show up in the water but not enough of a difference. Jigs tipped with wax worms are slowly taking over as enticements. The more fish are spawning, the more that eggs or egg imitations will work for you according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker. One anomaly was that yellow perch seem to be spread from the harbor to the dam. One angler this week spent a morning on the creek and caught two Cohos and one steelhead. He also caught a bucket of perch while fishing for salmon and trout. Spikes and wax worms are working on the perch. Captain Bob’s contest leaders come from Johnson Creek and the Oak Orchard River. Bob Rustowicz of Buffalo continues to lead the brown division with a 26-inch fish taken on a spike; Charlie Stahl has taken over the lead for steelhead division with a 30- inch fish caught on a bead.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Trout are starting to move into their winter patterns with the cold water setting in, according to Damon Newpher with Adventure on the Fly in Ellicottville. Smaller tributaries like 18 Mile, Canadaway and Chautauqua creeks have all been fishing good this past week. Newpher likes to fish nymphs and streamers slow and deep with these cold waters. Persistence pays off in winter fishing – be patient. Fish during the warmest part of the day. A one- or two-degree temperature bump can make a difference in getting fish to strike. Cattaraugus Creek is still a little too stained for good fly fishing according to Newpher. Redhouse and Quaker lakes are still producing some nice panfish and trout. With the frigid weather blowing in, he anticipates that everything will get icy.
The main lake was at 41 degrees but that will probably change quickly with this storm blowing in. Last week, when there was a lull in the weather, Herb Schultz of Hamburg and Barry Ball of Alden hit the water off Sturgeon Point to try for some perch. They managed to collect 60 fish before the weather started to turn, including a 1.41-pound perch that has taken over the lead in the Captain Bob’s Derby that ends on Saturday, Dec. 17. Captain Bob’s is located on Main Street in Clarence.
Best bite has been for yellow perch, but there haven’t been too many fishermen. If you can make it out this weekend, target the narrows between the bridge and the ferry. Stick to the Stow side in 8 to 12 feet of water according to local guide Craig Robbins.