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Summer -- and fishing -- are at or near their warm-weather peak.

Except for Lake Ontario trout and salmon, walleye, bass and bigger panfish can be found either digging deeper into the weeds or out onto readable, suspended levels of the Great Lakes and inland waters.

Move closer to weedline structures or dig deeper in open waters where gamefish can find both comfortable temperatures and a steady supply of baitfish.

Lake Erie

Finding good walleye schools has been hit or miss earlier this season, but Tom Owczarczak of West Seneca says -- without boasting -- "There are lots of fish out there." He, along with partners Edward Bugno of the Town of Tonawanda and Dennis Stachowski of Belmont, won the New York Walleye Association's AMERA-CAN held July 12 and 13 out of Dunkirk Harbor. The team weighed in 74.48 pounds of fish for a 10-fish, two-day limit.

Owczarczak likes the waters around Cattaraugus Creek. Earlier this week, he was still finding good schools at 70- to 75- foot depths east of the creek. "We got all our fish on planer boards, and the copper and watermelon worm harnesses are still doing fine," he said. In general, he runs high Jet Planers off the boards during the early hours and drops to as much as three ounces of lead later in the day. Owczarczak hopes for a repeat performance in the CAN-AM contest, to be held Aug. 9 and 10 out of Bertie Boating Club at Point Abino, Ontario.

A few slots remain open for the CAN-AM Challenge Cup '97. For registration information, call (905) 894-2168.

Niagara River

Better bass numbers and sizes continue to come from lower river waters. Drifters along most of the shoreline structures can bring up good smallies with either tube jigs or live bait, mainly softshelled crayfish. Lower river drifters in deeper waters have done fairly well on walleye, which have shown a preference for worm- harness rigs.

The Niagara River Anglers Association holds its annual Bass Classic at Art Park Aug. 9, which, this year, coincides with a new Fish & Wildlife Festival at Art Park. For more information, call 774-0077.

Lake Ontario

Trout and salmon seeking can be frustrating. After the last turnover and mild cold front, kings and browns moved into shallower depths and held solid in the top 50 feet. Now, it's back to the chase and race.

For a more consistent and reliable fishery, boaters have been running to and beyond the Niagara Bar for dependable numbers of bass (on the bar) and lake trout (along the deeper outside edge of the bar).

It happens every season: Pre-contest salmonid patterns arrive late, but, once the derby starts, the big fish start hitting the scales. This year, the LOC (Lake Ontario Counties) Fall Derby begins Aug. 15 and goes until Sept 1. For the nearest of the 70 registration sites along Lake Ontario, call LOC headquarters at 1-888-REEL 2 IN.

Lime Lake

Fishing Lime Lake has taken a hard turn this year -- no weeds. Anglers began noticing a lack of heavy weed growth early this summer, with only a slight bottom coating of emergent weeds.

Paul McKeown, DEC Senior Aquatic Biologist, inspected the lake Tuesday morning and confirmed the anglers' findings. McKeown reports seeing a few, small patches of elodea and very little milfoil. He says the Lime Lake Cottage Owners Association had a permit to apply a new herbicide to 34 acres (approximately 20 percent) of the lake's surface, but the chemical may have drifted.

This new herbicide, applied just after iceout, is supposed to eliminate exotic, nuisance weeds, but it appears to have led to excess weed loss. "The DEC has to balance many user's benefits when we review and issue these herbicide permits," McKeown said. He plans to reinspect Lime Lake's weed production as the season progresses and use that information to determine subsequent weed-control permit issuance.

On a positive note: Cornell University shocking studies showed good bass and panfish populations in the lake.

Silver Lake

Rick Kazmierczak of West Seneca weighed in 15.44 pounds of live largemouth for the Niagara Frontier BassMasters in-club event. Kazmierczak fished tree "laydowns," casting a black-and-blue jig-&-pig rig. "These fish get tight to the cover during cold fronts and days of clear, blue skies," he said. Fellow West Senecan Don Sporney Jr. did essentially the same things to bring in a 4-pound, 2-ounce fish, the largest bucketmouth of the outing.

Walleye have been holding along 18- to 22-foot structures and hitting slow-moving harnesses and plain worm rigs. Bigger perch, in fair numbers, have shown among the walleye.

Family fishing clinic

Kids aged 8 to 12 years old, and accompanying adults, have a free fishing day Aug. 16 at Lakewood Rod and Gun Club along the Lake Chautauqua shoreline.

The Chautauqua County Federation, the DEC and the Chautauqua Fish Advisory Board will have personnel on hand to assist the young anglers and will later provide a free lunch. For more information, call either the DEC Buffalo office (851-7000) or the Olean office (372-0645).

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