Like a bad record, high winds on Lake Erie forced Niagara River fishermen to stand down the beginning of the week after things were starting to clear nicely for shore and boat fishermen last weekend. The only reprieve was good tributary action off both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in most streams. Musky and bass seasons close (for the most part) on Nov. 30. Read on.
Upper river musky anglers may not be able to get back out before the season closes Thursday as water became stained again Sunday night. High winds have been the culprit. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls was still enjoying some success off the NYPA Fishing Platform in the gorge area, including a 16-pound salmon caught on a blue-and-white jig that put up an hour-and-20-minute fight. The platform, as well as all the other New York Power Authority access (stairs off Upper Mountain Road, Stairs at Devil’s Hole and the upper river Water Intakes) will all close at the end of the day on Dec. 3. The Artpark drift continues to fish well for shore and boat anglers with a mix of steelhead, brown trout and coho salmon being reported. Eggs or egg imitations fished under a float work best when the water isn’t too stained from shore. Some fish were caught Tuesday from boat on sacs. Lake trout season opens on the Canadian side of the lower river on Dec. 1, Jan. 1 in NY. Musky season in the lower river remains open through Dec. 15. On Sunday, the Niagara Musky Association will celebrate the memory of the late John Henning with the annual John Henning Memorial Tournament from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Lake Erie tributaries
Many of the small Lake Erie tributaries like Canadaway and Chautauqua Creeks are trending low and clear in their flows with pods of steelhead stranded and scattered throughout the deepest pools and runs according to Drew Nisbet, fishing manager with Orvis Buffalo. Eighteenmile Creek in Hamburg has retained good flows through the week and should fish well until another band of showers hit this week. Timing is everything. Typically after a rain event of .25 to .5 inch, the smallest tributaries like Walnut and Silver Creek clear in a day. Larger creeks like Chautauqua and Canadaway can take between one and three days to clear and Eighteenmile Creek in Hamburg takes three days to return to a fishable green color. Near or below freezing overnight air temperatures help sediment settle out from the cold, denser water – accelerating the clearing process. Cattaraugus Creek, New York’s largest Lake Erie tributary, has been muddy since the last week in October and may not offer up many, if any, opportunities to fish before the region enters a wintery deep freeze according to Nisbet.
Lake Erie off Ohio
Ohio outdoor writer buddy Paul Liikala sends word that there has been a hot walleye bite off Cleveland around the break walls and harbors, as well as off Lorain harbor and off shore. Daytime action includes using deep-diving Bandits and Reef Runners (800 Series) behind mini-boards with 40 to 80 foot leads. Lures with pink, purple and chartreuse are fairly consistent. At night, the same areas apply using shallow running Smithwick Perfect 10’s behind lighted mini-boards with 10 to 20 foot leads. Monday, in the daytime, Liikala reported a 12-fish limit that ranged from 3 pounds to 8 pounds. Each night and daytime can be different colors. Change unproductive lures every 20 to 30 minutes or less. Fairly consistent Perfect 10’s colors include lemon lime crush, lemon lime orange, wonderbread, Lady, Floyd, plus loads of custom colors. Fish inside and outside of breakwalls and less than mile out from the Cleveland breakwalls. Lorain dumping grounds produce in the daytime. Hopefully you didn’t put your boat away.
Lake Ontario tributaries
Burt Dam remains low, stained and slow in flow according to Drew Nisbet with Orvis Buffalo. Depending on whom you talk to, reports show sparse numbers of steelhead and browns spread from the dam to the trestle. Oak Orchard Creek has experienced some of its best fall/early-winter water flows in years making for excellent fishing opportunities. Currently the water conditions are high with a moderate stain allowing for about 14 to 24-inches of visibility. With the higher stained flows, fishable water and access on the creek expands outside the traditional hot spots like the Archers and Sycamore pools. Look for unpressured fish holding in secondary runs and riffles as well as side channels. Effective strategies for targeting steelhead (now that water temperatures have begun to drop into the 30s) for Nisbet include finesse nymphing with egg patterns, stoneflies and small nymphs like pheasant tails and copper johns as well as dead-drifting small streamers like white zonkers and olive or black wooly buggers. Swinging streamers always remains an option, effective especially in higher flows while trying to cover large amounts of water. Slowing the swing down and repeatedly mending or dancing the fly from a direct downstream presentation through a likely run gives a cold sluggish fish time to respond to your fly, a proven cold-water technique.
WNY’s trout streams are benefiting from lots of precipitation and slightly seasonably warmer temperatures. Popular streams open to fishing with artificial-only, catch-and-release regulations include Cattaraugus Creek, Elton Creek, Clear Creek and Oatka Creek. Winter is a great time to stream fish our inland trout water and can sometimes lead to your biggest catch of the year. Presenting wooly buggers, articulated zonkers and sculpin patterns in olive, yellow and black in a downstream and across swing can coax a large mature brown out of its honey hole and onto the end of your line. A 9-foot, 5-weight rod with a fast sink 7-foot poly leader is the perfect setup from swinging and stripping streamers that are 1.5 to 3-inches in length.
No reports as musky season winds down on Nov. 30. Everyone has been deer hunting.