It’s hard to believe that September is upon us and that fishing activities will be undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts. Fishing contests are starting to wane. The NYS Summer Derby ends on Aug. 31 and the Fall Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Derby wraps things up on Labor Day. Salmon and trout fishing will soon be transitioning from lake to river and stream. Lake Erie perch action will start to pick up and muskellunge activity will increase in the Niagara and Buffalo Harbor as the waters start to cool. A cool rain will probably trigger the first runs of trout into the Lake Erie tributaries. Could it be this week?
Lake Erie and tributaries
Lake action for walleye continues to be very good. Smaller fish have dominated the catches which have some tournament organizers questioning if the minimum size should be increased for 2018 events. In the Innovative Outdoors Walleye Challenge out of Dunkirk, the best six fish were once again caught by Rob Oram and his team – the same winners as the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club contest in early August. They had six fish weighing over 42 pounds. It was a beautiful weekend for a tournament. According to tournament organizer Capt. Jim Steel of Alexander, there were plenty of fish around for his 41 boats. The problem is that many of the fish were smaller in size. He had to try and figure out a way to find bigger fish. His best depth out of Dunkirk was 105 feet of water, finding a thermocline about 80 feet down. He tried to place his baits just above it. Off Dunkirk he was finding smaller baits in the bellies of the walleye so he went with the Challenger Junior stickbaits. Seven colors of lead core got him down 35 to 50 feet. He used riggers and dipsy divers to get below that. He found the deeper he ran, the more likely he would catch a bigger fish. He would also catch lake trout down deep. In fact, after catching back-to-back lakers, they boated their biggest walleye for the day, an 8.28 pound ‘eye. Keep that in mind. Out of Cattaraugus Creek, the perch action is started to get a little more consistent according to Rick Miller at Miller’s Bait and Tackle. The magic number was 68 foot over the weekend. Walleye fishing has been great there, too. Bruce Cavage of Marilla easily went out and bottom-bounced for a limit in 89 feet of water. He, too, reported some perch action and it should only get better as the fall approaches. Bass fishing has been hit or miss. Ashton Laird of Lime Lake found a pocket of smallies in 30 feet of water and used a drop shot rig to take a fair number of bass that were pretty aggressive. He was using a 3-inch Gulp! Minnow. Dave and Kathy Muir of North Tonawanda found that there were plenty of bass on the bottom after running a camera. Getting them to hit was another story. Dave’s first place Odyssey bass came on a Carolina rig in the middle gap when it was rough in the lake – a 5-pounder. In the tributaries, Danny Colville with Colville Outfitters reports not too much yet except for a few scouts in the lower stretches. We need a cold rain to trigger an early run. That could happen very soon.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
The Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey ended last Sunday (see Scattershots) and the LOC Derby ends on Labor Day. Some really nice salmon and trout are being caught out there with reports coming from the Niagara Bar, Wilson, Olcott and Point Breeze. According to Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane, fish are scattered from the 100 foot mark to the Canadian line with the recent roll-over in the lake due to east winds. There is no shortage of cold water. Lots of bait is also filling the fish finder screens. Target salmon and trout with spoons, flasher-fly or flasher-cut bait. J-plugs can also be effective closer to shore for salmon that are starting to stage off the creek and river mouths. Getting the fish to hit is another story for staging kings. They can be a bit more finicky this time of year, but the rewards can be greater – especially if you are in a derby like the LOC. Big salmon is worth $25,000. The current leader is a Daniel Klinger of Jersey Shore, Pa. with a 39-pound, 3-ounce king reeled in on Tuesday while fishing out of Sodus Point. This is the weekend to be out fishing, when all the biggies show up for the LOC grand finale! The top salmon in the Fish Odyssey was a 34-pound, 8-ounce king caught by Joe Oakes of Lockport while fishing out of Wilson, 90 feet down over 375 feet of water. The east pier at Olcott is getting cleaned up and repaired after the high-water damage. That favorite fall fishing spot should be good to go in about two weeks according to Town Supervisor Tim Horanburg.
Bass fishing has been on fire the past few days according to Capt. Arnie Jonathan of Lockport. Leeches, shiners and crayfish are all catching fish off three-way rigs – both in the river and on the Niagara Bar. Walleye action has been hit or miss, but the top three walleyes in the Fish Odyssey all came from the Niagara Bar on worm harnesses. The biggest was Tony LaRosa’s 11-pound 6-ounce ‘eye on a worm harness. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls hit some walleye from the shoreline at the Whirlpool casting Shad Raps and 5-inch Rapalas under low light conditions.
Dan at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors reports that the walleye bite is still rolling along at a pretty decent pace. The north basin is probably out-producing the south basin, but steady reports are coming from both. Leading the way is a Hot-N-Tot behind lead core line to get it down deeper. Bouncing the bottom with worm harnesses off three-way rigs is another good approach. Vibes and Gotcha lures are working for the jiggers. Musky action has picked up a bit, too, especially for trollers. Deep diving crankbaits will do the trick, but so will some of the smaller body baits like the Boss Shad. Mid-day is a good time to target these fish. The afternoon bite has been better than the morning. Perch are plentiful as well but you have to weed through the small ones.