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Fall arrives this weekend, but trout have been watching reduced sunlight rather than calendar dates this month.

Inland streams remain low, with fall-like conditions pushing trout into confined areas of smaller feeding pools; Great Lakes feeder streams draw trout mainly at larger creeks and rivers on both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Boater numbers are up in the lower Niagara River; wader numbers are up in the lower sections of Cattaraugus Creek.

Falling leaves could signal a rise in trout numbers, in cool or warmer waters.

Lake Erie

Call them stragglers or hard-to-find school masses, but this year - unlike last year's late-summer run - walleyes did not make a sudden exit stage-left just after Labor Day weekend.

Boaters still find good 'eye schools close to bottom in 70- to 90-foot depths between Cattaraugus Creek and Dunkirk Harbor, taking worm harnesses or body baits, depending on how much confidence a troller has in either bait.

All too often, hits come as strafing strikes rather than solid hits, and all too many boaters come in with reports of ""nine or 10 fish on, caught three or four.""

Perch present the same prospecting-like outings. Boaters find good ringbacks one day off Foxes Point east of Cattaraugus Creek and get shut out the next day while drifters or anchored boaters do well west of Sturgeon Point. As always, make sure you have a good minnow source before heading out. Bait is at a premium now.

Bass have class. Despite good (round goby) forage along rocky shoals, bigger bronzebacks show up in 20- to 25-foot depths more regularly as waters slightly cool and sunlight diminishes each day. Live crayfish take most fish per outing; well-placed tube jigs draw strikes from bigger bass on most trips.

Lake Ontario/Niagara River

Few boaters have worked drop-offs closer to shore during last weekend's winds. Bigger chartering craft average two to three kings an outing, but bigger salmonid numbers still come from thermal layers close to the surface about 10-plus miles from shore - Fort Niagara to Point Breeze.

Cut bait remains the top terminal tackle item, but some trollers have found successes with Holly flies behind a dodger, a rig that has caught on in eastern basin Lake Ontario waters.

Lower Niagara River salmon drifters settle for a two- to three-king average per outing. Early fish fight hard, but numbers have yet to reach peak fall run production.

Shore casters have greater access this weekend. The Power Authority Fishing platform was reopened to fishing Tuesday morning, and several anglers worked waters above the outflow that afternoon.

Fish odyssey

Entry numbers in the 2001: A Fish Odyssey slowed but big fish - salmon and bass especially - have been entered in both the adult and youth divisions. Competition continues until Sunday. Entrants can sign up early on the morning of an outing and enter fish caught that day. For details, call 439-7300 or check out entry details on the Web site:

Inland lakes

Seneca - That northwest shoreline - heavy with bluegills two weeks ago - has become a bass and perch hot spot. Casters work 15- to 20-foot depths around weed edges during daylight hours. Evenings draw fish into depths of less than five feet. Floats work better here.

Canandaigua - Perch go for a fresh fathead minnow along north basin shallows. Trollers run small, thin-bodied spoons for lakers, browns and rainbows showing better at the south basin.

Fishing classes and schools

Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association Seven-week Basic Fishing Course for youths begins Monday at the 4-H training facility in Lockport. Monday classes go from 7-8:15 p.m. Sport Fishing and Resources Education Program (SAREP) instructors conduct free classes for all youths accompanied by an adult.

Preregistration is required. Call Bob Fishlock (683-3301).

Oak Orchard Fly Shop offers two separate fly fishing schools Sept. 29 and 30. Saturday, Rick Kustich presents a Beginning Steelhead Fly Fishing School from 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. The school is limited to eight students and the $125 fee includes lunch. On Sunday, Kustich holds a Spey Casting School from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Limited to six students, this school ($50 per student) covers spey casting and presentation with a two-handed fly rod.

To register or get more details, call 626-1323.

SAREP and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County want to help teachers teach fishing. A two-day SAREP Instruction Certification class will be held at Tifft Nature Preserve, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sept. 29 and 30.

This free ""Train the Trainer"" program provides volunteer instructors with tips and techniques for teaching fishing, assistance in fund raising efforts, basic fish biology, aquatic invertebrate identification and many more aspects of teaching about this sport.

To apply, call 652-5400 ext. 136.


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