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TIME TO RENEW SPORTING LICENSES

Weekend fishing can be filled with surprises -- but don't let fishing without a valid license add to them.

All New York State sporting licenses (hunting, fishing and trapping) expire on Saturday. But many licensing agents close during the weekend. So if you plan to fish on Sunday, it would be best to get the 2000-2001 license today or Friday in preparation for the weekend outings.

Lake trout season ends Saturday on Lake Ontario, but inland trout season continues until Oct. 15.

Several changes in the "Fishing Regulations Guide 2000-2002" affect Western New York anglers. The guide, free when applying for a new sporting license, lists the many new rules in "Highlights of Changes" on page 5.

Department of Environmental Conservation fishery officials want anglers to note a printing error in the length limit of trout and salmon. While the length for trout and salmon has been increased from 9 to 15 inches in Lake Ontario and the lower Niagara River, that change does not apply to the upper Niagara River and Lake Erie, as stated in the new regulations.

A summary of all changes important to area anglers appears in The Buffalo News Notebook on The Outdoors Page in the Sports Section this Sunday.

Lake Erie

A few boaters get out between windstorms and bring in walleye or two. Perchers have trouble anchoring and setting up for ringbacks in deeper waters off Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek.

Most Erie activity centers on trout runs up feeder creeks. The first burst of rainbow/steelhead trout has made its way up to impassable barriers. Cattaraugus Creek trouters find steelies and 'bows anywhere from the breakwater at the mouth up to the Springville dam.

Muddy waters do little to slow the action. Small feeders settle out quicker than the main waters of Eighteen Mile, Cattaraugus, Silver, Canadaway and Chautauqua Creeks, but trout are en route through the stained main currents.

Spinners and spoons work from shore around creek mouths, but live and fresh baits give off enough scent for fish to find and hit nightcrawlers, skein and egg sacks in stained and muddy creek waters.

Niagara River/Lake Ontario

Open-water trolling has slowed as trout and salmon move closer to shore and up streams, creeks and rivers. With lake trout season ending Saturday, boaters might run both top and bottom rigs to check for incoming lakers and the possibility of a near-surface coho run similar to the one that showed last year.

Devils' Hole draws the main boat traffic, as kings stage in the hole daily. Skein works best, but egg sacks hold longer in the current and account for a good fish or two.

Inland lakes

Chautauqua -- "The guys that are getting walleyes are working for them," said Bob Brown at Redwood Ranch. Brown sees some nice 'eyes brought into his motel and bait shop at Bemus Point, but the better catches come with some searching and lure changing. Vertical spoons and blade baits have done well on 15- to 25-foot edges in the north basin. Brown recommends the Silver Buddy, Got-Cha and football jigs along Prendergast Point, Dewitville Bay and Warner Bar.

Conesus -- Live baits work best for bass around weed edges anywhere on the lake. 'Crawlers or crayfish attract both smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Honeoye -- Crappie have begun hitting waxworms close to weed edges. Deeper sets (10-15 feet) still do better than weed edge shallow rigs. Walleye action has been slow, but, starting Sunday, new regulations allow anglers to keep 'eyes measuring just 15 inches. Previously, the length limit was 18 inches. Creel limits remain three fish per angler.

Seneca -- Perch and bass activity has slowed, but northern pike have begun hitting top-water baits cast over weeds. The action cannot match the pike and chain pickerel numbers of the 1970s, but surprising numbers and sizes have shown in weeds along the north end of the lake.

Oneida -- Perch began schooling at the west end of the lake in great numbers but not exceptional sizes. Oneida's walleye regulations change at midnight Saturday. The new rules allow for only three fish per angler -- not the statewide 5-fish limit -- and the length limit goes from 15 to 18 inches for all waters of Oneida Lake and all tributary waters up to the first impassible barrier.

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