Fishing action is finally starting to settle back in again after the massive amount of rain and hopefully the last snow of the year. The smelt have started their annual pilgrimage into the lower Niagara River and dippers have been out in force along the Lewiston shoreline seeking out the tasty baitfish. Remember that there is an eight-quart limit. If you want the easy way out, the Lewiston Smelt Festival is a few weeks off, set for May 5 at Lewiston Landing starting at 5 p.m. The Niagara River Anglers Association will be frying up some 400 pounds of smelt starting at 5 p.m. Like the saying goes, Lewiston never smelt so good!
Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane reports that fishing success is day to day due the immense runoff and wind that caused brutal mud conditions out of Olcott. On the bright side, emerald shiners are abundant once again and some alewives are already showing up. “With all the gobies and gizzard shad in the mix, there’s no shortage of caloric energy for our trophies,” says Pierleoni.
Lake trout are smashing Spin Doctors trailed by A-Tom-Mik flies when you can find them outside of brown water. Coho, browns and an odd Atlantic salmon are taking smaller brightly colored stick baits and gold Live Target plugs on the mudline. Lake trout have been active in the 40- to-60 foot depth contour; browns are in tight to shore if the water is clear enough. Out of Wilson, Capt. Carl Martin of Dublin Up Sportfishing was doing well on browns in 12-25 feet of water with natural colored Bay Rat sticks 125 feet back off the boards. Closer to Fort Niagara, Hans Mann of Elma was fishing with his father Ken on Tuesday and they had a banner day trolling Storm thundersticks 1.75 to 2 mph in 15 feet of water to catch a mixed bag of browns, Coho salmon, steelhead and lake trout. The big, bragging brown stretched 29 inches.
Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker reports a flow of 380 cfs on Tuesday and there were some fresh steelhead at Burt Dam ready to spit eggs. Of course, eggs or egg imitations will work best for bait, but you can catch them on jigs and crawlers, too. In the Wilson Conservation Club bullhead contest last weekend, Joel Feagin of Wilson bested 50 other anglers with two fish totaling 4 pounds, 5 ounces. The high, muddy conditions posed a major problem. Most of the winning fish came on Sunday morning. Feagin was using shrimp in the east branch of 12 Mile Creek. To the east, some perch were being reported out of Long Pond and Cranberry Pond. Browns and lakers off Point Breeze and steelies in the Oak.
The Lake Erie steelhead streams are dropping and clearing after last week’s rain and snow melt brought all streams near flood stage, according to Drew Nisbet, fishing manager with Orvis. Prior to the blowout there were several reports of fresh steelhead being caught in Eighteen Mile Creek in Hamburg and smaller tributaries further south. “Expect to see a few last pushes of fresh steelhead entering these systems as spawned out drop-back fish return to the lake as flows drop and clear,” says Nisbet. Smallmouth bass fishing in the first couple miles of all tributaries will pick up as water temperatures warm to above 50 degrees.
Meanwhile out in the lake, there have been a few attempts at locating some perch but only a few fish have been found. Some have been caught off Cattaraugus Creek. The better perch fishing has been in Buffalo Harbor. Some early bass chasers have run some reconnaissance missions to seek out some active fish. No good reports yet but the main lake is over 40 degrees now. Remember that the new bass fishing regulations are now in effect for Lake Erie and the tributaries.
Inland trout streams
Inland trout streams are returning to a fishable state after last week’s big rain and snow event. Most streams in the southern tier have received a first round of trout stocking and additional stocking will take place throughout the month and into May. “Dropping and clearing flows offer up a great opportunity to search out trout with large streamer patterns like a yellow Hawkins Hatrick or articulated Baby Gonga,” says Nisbet.
“Fishing these flies on a 5- or 6-weight rod with fast-sink poly leader will help get the fly deep. Fishing with a downstream-and-across cast while alternating stripping pace will help to efficiently and effectively cover water.”
Look for the Hendrickson mayfly hatch on our trout streams to the east, such as Oatka Creek in Leroy, to begin with this sustained bout of warmer weather, according to Nisbet. The Hendrickson hatch is the first major mayfly hatch of the year in Western New York and draws dry fly fishermen from around the region. If you would like to learn more about fly fishing, check out the Spring Orvis Days April 22-23 at Orvis Buffalo. There will be instructional sessions for beginner, intermediate and advanced fly casters. Some big browns have been landed in Quaker Lake recently according to Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors.
Crappie fishing has slowed a bit after the cold weather/snow last Friday, but it already is starting to pick back up. Some nice catches were reported on Monday. Anglers are still picking up some fish in the canals and on the lake. The big surge is yet to come with the warmer weather according to Sperry. Emerald Shiners, tube jigs and mini mites are the hot lures right now. Walleye season doesn’t open until May 6. Remember that the minimum size and catch limits are now the statewide regs of five fish and 15-inch minimum size when it opens.