The Southern Zone big game season is now open, perfect timing if you are an angler looking for lightened fishing pressure when there are still plenty of fish around. The key is to find some fishable water after recent storms put a hurt on area waters. Lake Erie and the tributaries were not looking good at the time of this report, the lower Niagara River was muddy for boat drifters and Chautauqua Lake didn’t appear to be a good bet as we moved into the final week of musky action. There are some places you can fish, though, if you do your homework and scout things out a bit.
Capt. Bob’s Derby underway
Last weekend wasn’t just the opener for the Southern Zone big game season. It was also the kickoff for Capt. Bob’s Outdoors annual trout and panfish derby. Dates are set through Dec. 16 and a nice steelhead has already been put on the measuring board. Winners are based on length. Four categories are steelhead, brown trout, perch and rudd. Entry fee is only $10. Trout can be caught and released with a picture next to a tape measure and a witness of the catch. You must be registered the day prior to fishing. Weigh in hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. If you have any questions call 407-3021. Jerry Brydalski of Cheektowaga checked in with a 26-inch steelhead from Walnut Creek, caught on a Lickem Soft Egg to set the mark for that category.
Shore fishermen have a bit of an advantage over the boaters when the water turns to mud. The solution is to seek out clearer water. Good news in that the construction on the Devil's Hole stairs is now complete, providing more access. One spot that is still available is the New York Power Authority fishing platform, but that could be history as of Dec. 1 as the access is shut down on a schedule. It will depend on the weather. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls has been casting his homemade ¼-ounce jigs to take some more walleye and even a nice brown trout the past week off the platform. His trick is to wait 6 to 8 seconds before starting his retrieve. A variety of colors will work. When the water is off-color, he uses more fluorescent color patterns. Downriver along Artpark, Patrick Vinh Truong of Buffalo was using chartreuse trout beads and egg sacs fished under a float to take the trout trifecta – steelhead, brown and lake trout. Remember lake trout season is closed. While the water was off color a bit earlier in the week, the scent emitted by the sac helped the trout to locate the bait. High winds on Tuesday could have an impact on water conditions for Wednesday and/or Thursday as well. Upper river musky fishing will be put on hold for a few days; the water was shot.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
If you like to fish at Burt Dam and Fisherman’s Park, there have been good numbers of fish and not too many fishermen according to Scott Scheffler, marina director for the Town of Newfane. The final day of charging at the park will be on Wednesday of this week so fishermen can start giving thanks on Thursday – perfect timing. Not as much rain to the north. Good numbers of fresh Coho salmon are still working their way up to the dam with eggs, egg imitations (like trout beads), and jigs tipped with wax worms all working under a float. Live bait could catch some fish, too. Target the dam area for the salmon. The occasional brown can be found on the bottom near the base of the dam or spread throughout the creek. Steelhead have been down the creek in some of the faster water. The Oak Orchard River has also been fishing very good, too, with fresh salmon still being reported along with steelhead and browns as per Mike Waterhouse.
Lake Erie and tributaries
The rain last weekend negatively impacted a bunch of the tributaries. The bigger creeks are high and muddy but as of Wednesday morning some of them were starting to come down and look fishable. The smaller creeks will clear first. We heard Chautauqua Creek is a good one to try and Walnut produced the first fish in the Capt. Bob’s contest that started Sunday. That has to tell you something. Delaware, Big and Little Sister were looking better. Lake Erie proper is a mess due to the high winds that have been pounding the lake and the muddy run-off from the tribs. No perch reports.
Most everyone has been hunting with the regula- season opener last weekend. Water conditions were not good due to the wind and the rain. If it starts to clear, try to get a few musky casts in before the season closes on Nov. 30. The deeper holes in the northern basin could be holding some walleye, too. Try jigging them up with a Gotcha lure or jigging Rapala.