When it rains it pours. We’ve been getting quite a bit of that quite literally this year, but this reference is more figurative, having to deal with boat access issues in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. We are sitting on one of the finest freshwater fisheries in the world and access complaints have been running rampant. Some reasons are legitimate because of construction or dredging issues. And once those issues are resolved, we’ll be good moving forward. However, with the mild winter, fishermen have been chomping at the bit to get on the water and fish in their favorite spots. They’ll do whatever it takes, even if they might be putting themselves in harm’s way – like running a 14-foot boat from the Sheridan launch ramp in the river to Cattaraugus Creek for perch. What about using a stepladder to get people into a boat to launch at Cattaraugus Creek because there are no docks in place yet? While towns, cities and state agencies scramble to get the launch ramps ready, fishing is really starting to take off around Western New York.
Lake Erie and tributaries
The big news is that the perch have been snapping for over a week. The hot area seems to be between Cattaraugus Creek and Sturgeon Point, where both areas are hurting in the access department. Capt. Jim Hanley of Angola had a foursome out for some jacks off Cattaraugus Creek in 56 feet of water. Included in the group were Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, assistant coach Tom Ward, Dave Arnts of Buffalo and Shawn Schott of Grand Island. Emerald shiners are the way to go. Capt. Larry Jones of Tonawanda reported the same depth just west of Sturgeon Point but a bit shallower off the Catt, in 52 feet. Perch are in small pods so you need to keep on the move to stay with them. Use a perch rig with emerald shiners and red hooks. Get your bait to the bottom and pick up slowly according to Jones. Tributaries are still producing steelhead as they drop back and start returning to the lake. Reports of a few fresh fish have also been reported.
Upper river perch action has been good the past week around hotspots like Beaver Island, Blue Water Marina and Radisson Hotel Marina; also off Broderick Park, the foot of Hertel and around the Ontario Street launch bay, too. Emerald shiners are the way to go. In the lower river below Niagara Falls, fishing continues to be a little spotty. Boaters have to work for them with minnows/shiners or egg sacs at the top of the list. If the wind is out of the southwest, Kwikfish or MagLips top the list. Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston had one of the better days recently when he produced double-digit trout – steelhead and lakers – drifting egg sacs and shiners off three-way rigs. Shore fishermen are also struggling to catch fish, probably because of the all the natural bait present in the system now. Mike George of Niagara Falls says he did well at Dr. John Whiteman’s dock in Youngstown dipping smelts on Sunday night. They had all they needed in an hour. Lewiston sand dock smelters are not doing as well. Artpark may be the better option, but the timing needs to be right. Niagara Bar lakers are hit or miss right now.
A few kings are starting to show up off the New York shoreline for boaters trolling for trout and Coho salmon. The better king fishing is west of the Niagara Bar, as it normally is this time of year, and it won’t be long before they arrive in larger numbers – in time for the Lake Ontario Counties Derby May 5-14 (www.loc.org). Water levels are up a foot, causing some problems with piers and docks. Both launch ramps at Fort Niagara should be open for the LOC Derby but the floating docks won’t be in place until the end of May. Capt. Carl Martin of Pendleton reported that they caught a nice king west of Wilson in 35 feet of water Sunday. It took a "My Secret" Bay Rat stick 125 feet back of a board. Chuck Bialecki of Colden reeled it in. They also caught a king on Saturday in 12 feet of water on a firetiger Bay Rat stick, off the boards with the same set back. They picked up a few Coho in 65 feet of water and a good number of lakers in 65-125 feet of water on a dodger with spin-n-glo's and white/green dot paddles with A-Tom-Mik flies. The fish were tight to the bottom. Capt. Joe Czyrny of Pendleton reported a nice king off Olcott in 10 feet of water, hitting a Challenger Junior Minnow in metallic trout color at the mudline with in-line planer boards. There are still fish in the tributaries like 18 Mile Creek and the Oak Orchard River. Flow in the streams has lessened and they are still stained but they are holding steelhead. Suckers have started into the smaller creeks. Perch are everywhere in the harbors and the Wilson bullhead bite is still on according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker. Pier action is still good for browns, perch and dropback steelies. The pier at the foot of Route 425 is under water with the high water levels.
Randy Tyrrell of North Tonawanda sends word that he’s been having some good outings with his fishing buddies John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda and Paul Sawicki of Angola between Long Point and Bemus Point in 8 feet of water. They worked the weeds with different colored tubes, but mostly green, black and pink. They tipped the tubes with maggots.