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TEMPERATURES DRIVE FISH TO DEEPER, COOLER WATER

Now that the dog days of spring have passed, area anglers can start sorting out equipment changes as summer officially begins today.

Record air temperatures this past week raised open-water temperatures more than a degree per day, warming Great Lakes and inland waters to Fourth of July-like fishing conditions. Seventy-degree surface temperatures along sheltered bay areas of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario have pushed warm-water species to deeper waters fast.

Look for deep drops and fish holding at suspended depths more than usual during the first weekend of this summer. Bottom bait (crayfish, grubs and bugs) thrive along warm shallows, but bait fish will move out to more comfortable depths in these unusually warm waters.

Lake Erie

Walleyes are in, but numbers are thin.

If 'eyes show a night bite, trollers have connected out in deeper waters, running minnow baits 8-10 feet down over 16-foot-plus depths.

Rig trollers, getting set for tourneys or simply looking for a few good fillets, have had to settle for a fish or two during several hours of gear testing and adjustments. Worm harnesses got the greatest mention, but spoons and Rapalas also give good minnow-like moves. Ohio schools have yet to make their eastward push through Pennsylvania waters, so area boaters have to fly reconnaissance in search.

During many searches, boaters find perch. While 'eye trolling, boaters with good sonar gear have read some fair perch pockets, with ringback activity several feet off bottom. Three general areas have shown nice schooling: Evans-Angola Bar west of Sturgeon Point in 65-foot depths; Evangola State Park at 54 feet; and Foxes Point east of Cattaraugus Creek in 70- to 75-foot depths.

Bass can be found everywhere, but bruisers (in the 4-pound range) drop to 20-foot depths fast each morning. Any good rock drop-off can provide steady action at some point during the day, if you keep moving to find their comfort-kill zone.

Lake Ontario

Lower Niagara River and Niagara Bar bass busters have had to pick their way through moss (algae) while drifting both river currents and open waters of Lake Ontario. Bass can be found and some perch schools pop up in places, but algae masses make things messy right now.

"We're looking for things to clear here before the Fourth of July," said Kim Quarantillo at Down River Bait & Tackle in Lewiston.

Open water trollers head for either side of Olcott Harbor to find good thermal layers for trout. Warm pockets at depths of less than 35 feet have shown good bait and game fish movement, but boaters have to do some running to get over these warm upwellings. Occasional trollers and even charter captains troll away and towards shore - rather than parallel to shore - in search of good trout and occasional salmon hits.

Inland lakes

Chautauqua - Either dig deeper into weed pockets in south basin or go for deeper north-basin waters for walleyes. Temperatures near bottom reach 65 degrees in south basin calm waters.

Crappie - still no bonanza bite - have appeared in fair numbers around shallows near cool, creek-mouth waters. This is far from a productive fishery but holds promise for the near future.

Conesus - Walleye have outnumbered pike and tiger muskies for trollers running stickbaits along weed edges. Panfish, mainly bluegill, hold inside deeper weed pockets, but perch have made the run for cool, deeper drops around Long Point.

Oneida - The bass bite has been bigger than walleye since the Saturday bass opener. Jiggers looking for 'eyes find big smallies around 6- to 12-foot rock piles at mid lake, especially Shackleton Shoals.

Tourneys and derbies

Two-Man Chautauqua Walleye Team Event, Saturday and Sunday, Long Point State Park, and a kids fishing derby, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the park. For details, call 945-1421.

Fourth Six Bang Fishing Derby, June 30 and July 1, pays a guaranteed $1,000, $500 and $250 to anglers weighing in the top three smallmouth bass, with an emphasis on catch-and-release. For details, call 695-2269.

Southtowns Walleye Association's 17th Annual Walleye Tournament goes from June 30 to July 8, with a top prize of $15,000, a new Bass Division, and free youth entries for Youth Division prizes open this year. For registration details, attend the SWA meeting at Newton Abbott Fire Hall tonight or call 825-7619.

New York Walleye Association's Eighth Amara-Can Walleye Classic, a three-person team tourney, goes July 14 and 15 at Dunkirk Harbor. For more information, call 897-1522 or 874-2522.

Scotty Downriggers International Walleye Championship, July 20-22, Port Colborne. For entry information, call Mike Mongan (773-3395) or Doug Stein (774-0077).

In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Tournament Trail, Dunkirk stop, goes from Aug. 8 to 10. For details, call (218) 829-0620 or see the Web site: www.in-fisherman.com.

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