With the opening of the inland trout and salmon season just around the corner on April 1, it’s important to note that the Department of Environmental Conservation’s fish hatchery personnel have been keeping busy. In fact, they are ahead of schedule thanks to the relatively mild winter we’ve enjoyed. With the Cattaraugus County lakes being wide open (and the fact that they are open for year-round fishing), those waters have already received early stockings – Quaker, Red House, New Albion, Case and Harwood lakes. Also, Allen Lake in Allegany County has received plants. All have been stocked with yearling brown trout. Stocking is underway in Western New York streams, too. We’ll have an opening day forecast for next week’s outdoor column. According to Nick Sagnibene of Ellicottville with Adventure Bound on the Fly, the inland streams are looking great. The water is still a little chilly from this slow snow melt. The fish are eating a lot of nymphs, pheasant tails and stone flies. Smaller buggers, too, but they seem to be shying away from the bigger streamers, according to Sagnibene. Weather is looking decent, but there is some rain in the forecast for the weekend. Incidentally, the Randolph Hatchery Stocking Hotline number is 716-358- 4950.
Lake Erie tributaries
This week saw a few of the tributaries start to open up a bit. According to Eric Heater of Buffalo (with A & E Outdoors), there have been some ice jams down low, with the shelf ice and slush in the mornings. Your best bet is to head higher up into the streams where there have been better numbers of steelhead. White AEO Jigs are working well and should continue to improve as we move along in the spring. Water has been clear so you do have to work for the fish. Suckers have started to work their way up into some of the creeks from the lake says Heater. Remember, the tributaries off Lake Erie are open now – you don’t have to wait for the April 1 opener like inland. Also, make sure you mark April 6 on your calendar for the State of Lake Erie meeting at the Southtowns Walleye Association clubhouse located at 5895 Southwestern Boulevard, Hamburg. Check out Scattershots next week. Niagara River – Water was nearly perfect the beginning of the week. The storm last week didn’t have as much of an impact on the water conditions due to the northerly flow of air. Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls had good success with Pautzke fire brine that colored up his minnows nicely. This bait was alive and the chartreuse-green glow worked for both lake trout and steelhead. They also caught some fish on egg sacks, all fished off three-way rigs, but the preferred bait was green minnows. Campbell’s tip of the week is to make sure you secure your live bait when you get home (especially the brined bait). He found that a local raccoon in his neighborhood really enjoyed the salty stash of minnows, too. Unfortunately, he discovered it in the morning when he was leaving for this charter. From shore, Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls had his quarter-ounce flashabou homemade jigs in green-orange and orange-purple working on steelhead and lake trout Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, Ricardo Davila of Wheatfield hit some trout on jigs that were tipped with a 4-inch Berkley Gulp! soft plastic.
Lake Ontario tributaries
Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek were producing fish consistently, both pre- and post-spawn steelhead according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker. Brown trout are still around, too. According to Walker, egg sacs and grubs were working on the pre-spawn steelies; worms and minnows were working on the post spawn fish. A few have been caught on jigs. Some perch fishermen have been taking a few fish from Olcott and Wilson harbors, but there was some chunk ice around keeping boaters from making it out into the lake. That should be gone this week. Some pike have been active in the harbors, but that season is closed. Piers still had ice on them Tuesday but that should be gone by the weekend. They are forecasting some rain Friday through Sunday. The ASB Tackle Steelhead Contest ends on Saturday. Remember that the Wilson Conservation Club bullhead contest is set for April 7-9. The Sinker is a sign up location.
Nothing changed too much from last week. There was still a little skim ice the beginning of the week with some open water around, too. All the ice should be gone this weekend and a warm rain could trigger some crappie bites. Remember walleye season is closed until May 6.
Capt. Bob’s fishing contest
Steve “Hawk” Hawkins of Clarence sends word that the store’s fishing contest is now over. Over 60 people competed in the friendly competition. The winners were: Jerry Bielicki of Akron caught the top walleye at 26 3/4 inches long, caught from Tonawanda Creek; Jim “Doc” Stoll of Eden earned first place in the perch category with a 14 3/8 inch fish from Lake Simcoe. Northern Pike winner was Mike Grzelewski of Cheektowaga with a 36ø inch Silver Lake fish. Steelhead winner was Dave Kendall of Batavia with a 33 1/2 inch fish caught in the Oak Orchard River. In the Rudd Division, it was California Joe Pavalonis of Buffalo repeating his category win, measuring in a 17ß inch fish from the Upper Niagara River. Biggest crappie of the contest was a 14-inch fish reeled in by Tyler Hillman of Lockport. In the bluegill/sunfish category, Steve Ball of Alden measured in a 10 3/4 inch bluegill from Honeoye Lake, a fish that also place first in the New York State Winter Classic contest.