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The Fishing Beat

Spring is here, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. Ice fishing showed back up in some spots and ski resorts are still making some of that white stuff. That said, there are some fishermen who are looking at the calendar instead of the weather and catching some nice fish. It needs to warm up a bit. The inland trout and salmon opener is just around the corner.

Lake Ontario and tributaries

John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda and Adam Gierach of Pendleton enjoyed some very good early-season success on the big lake Sunday, but they had to do some “fishing” before the could do some “catching.” The angling duo launched out of Wilson and stayed close to that port to work the shoreline in 9 to 12 feet of water with Scatter Raps and Bay Rats off planer boards 100 to 125 feet back. Water temperatures were 32 degrees but there was a distinct mudline thanks to a hard northerly wind earlier in the weekend. After an hour and a half, they hadn’t caught a fish. That was when they decided to up their trolling speed to 2.6 to 2.8 mph. Whack! The brown trout started hitting. Best colors were orange and chartreuse. By the end of the morning they were 14 for 20 on trout – all browns between 4 and 10 pounds except for one steelhead. They were the only boat out that beautiful morning. However, there were some reports of small boats catching a mix of browns, steelhead, Coho salmon and lake trout in 40 to 80 feet of water. In the tributaries, Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott reports good action in 18 Mile Creek from the dam to the piers (when the winds will let you venture out). Yellow perch were being caught in the harbor and off the piers. Bullhead are starting to hit over in Wilson, just in time for the Wilson Bullhead Contest that starts April 6 at 5 p.m. and runs through April 8 at 1 p.m. Contact Eric at 628-6078 for more info. This contest, based on the best two fish, is for Niagara County waters only. Over in the Oak, Ron Bierstine at Oak Orchard Tackle and Lodge reports moderate flows with clear conditions. Fish are spread throughout the system, both steelhead and brown trout.

Lower Niagara River

Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown fished Sunday and Monday on the lower river and found the clear conditions to be very difficult for success. He reported that there are plenty of fish in the river but tricking them into hitting has been difficult. He found that trout were more cooperative on egg sacs before the sun comes up. After that, minnows have been working the best to get steelhead to bite. There have also been a few browns and lake trout hanging around. While fishing has been spread out throughout the river, one problem area has been Devil’s Hole from a boat. Water has been too high and fast to run an effective drift.

Lake Erie and tributaries

Adam McInerney of Cattaraugus reports that, except for Cattaraugus Creek, almost all of the Lake Erie tributaries have been running with low to moderate flows and a getting very clear. The cold weather has been slowing the snow melt process that normally takes place this time of year so there has been very little run-off. While the trout bite has been slow, it’s been consistent. McInerney’s best success has been with light-colored jigs fished under a float. His last trip out he didn’t even tip the jigs with any meat, running them clean. Ron Bellamy with Icefishing Fanatics sends word that Buffalo Harbor is back supporting safe ice and he’s heard as much as 8 to 10 inches of thickness. Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga was hitting Barcelona and Dunkirk harbors for trout through the ice and he was rewarded with some nice fish recently. There was 4 to 6 inches of the hard stuff, but he did express caution and he didn’t know how long it was going to hang around.

Big Catch closure signifies end of an era

Other ice fishing updates

Ron Bellamy also reports that anglers on Silver Lake were doing well on the hard water. Thickness was 6 to 8 inches at last report. That was the only inland area water with safe ice he had heard about.

Inland streams

We’re less than two weeks away from the inland opener. One sure sign of spring is the annual DEC trout sampling at Naples Creek and Cold Brook. The Naples Creek sampling will take place March 22 starting at 9 a.m. in the Village of Naples at the Route 245 bridge. The March 23 sampling will begin at 10 a.m. at Cold Brook (Keuka inlet) in the hamlet of Pleasant Valley, Steuben County. Fish biologists will be collecting data on length, weight, sex and spawning condition. Some streams are still open for fishing. Nick Sagnibene of Ellicottville reports that fishing has been slow for those inland waters that are open this time of year. Water needs to warm up a bit. Use attractor nymphs such as a hot head Euro pheasant tail (vibrant orange/pink collar to attract fish) and then black, white or olive buggers stripped low and slow.

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