Winds of change - and storms - kept boaters off most big-water areas this past week, but shore walkers and waders have their way along waterways.
Rainbow/steelhead runs increase with each pump of rainfall runoff through feeder streams into Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Ontario also draws a fair number of brown trout and an occasional Atlantic salmon.
Hunters - off in search of small and big game - have left some hot panfish spots open in many inland lakes and protected bay areas. Perch, bluegill and sunfish have begun their fall feeding forays closer to weeds. Often, places crowded with boats each spring will produce good panfish numbers during fall days with few boats in sight.
Dress for morning chills or just head out later in the day to get in on most mid-October fish runs.
Feeder streams still need water, despite those wind-driven rains that moved through last week. Cattaraugus Creek draws good trout numbers up to Gowanda, but even this largest feeder in New York State could use more rainfall and runoff to push substantial schools up to Springville.
Winds keep boaters off open waters and away from checking on walleye and perch. Safe waters inside Cattaraugus Creek breakwater teem with trout. Trollers working small boats - when winds allow - cruise shallows on either side of the creek and hook into staging steelies.
Shore casters and waders have to contend with low, clear water in most feeders. Walkers along Eighteen Mile Creek could see fish tailing in gentle currents - often a dozen or more - but they would not go for an egg, spinner or spoon.
Look for main channels where current draws moving and staging trout. That is where guide Tom Cornell of the Oak Orchard Fly Shop took Greg Borgosz and his son Justin. The trio fished Cattaraugus Creek on Oct. 8 to catch a bunch of fish and also celebrate Justin's 15th birthday. They exceeded Justin's candle count, hooking 18 trout during their outing.
Lake Ontario/Lower Niagara River
Kings just didn't do their thing this year, according to bait-store dealers and lower Niagara River drifters looking for Chinook salmon in popular drifts. Usually, boats gang up in Devils Hole to take short, fast and productive drifts for staging kings.
This year, charter captains and recreational boaters and shore casters have already switched over to steelhead rigs - lighter, less visible lines with smaller egg sacks or chunks of skein. Casters alternate between eggs and heavier spinners (Super Vibrax, Mepps and others) to reach steelies and the all-too-often lake trout. Lake trout season ended Sept. 30 in Lake Ontario and Niagara River waters.
Oak Orchard Creek draws kings and brown trout up to Waterport Dam, and a few steelies have made a showing. Egg sacks do best. Fly casters go with nymphs and woolly buggers.
Chautauqua - Bass amass in lower-basin waters, hitting around cribs (rock shoals and stickups) south of Lakewood at 6- to 14-foot depths. Grubs and tube jigs with either pumpkinseed or smoke finishes finish off fish.
Walleye show better in north-basin waters around Dewittville Bay. Trollers go with either spinners tipped with a section of nightcrawler or perch-finished, number-9 sized stick baits worked along weed edges in 8-12 feet. That deep-water 'eye run has not begun.
Musky trollers dig deeper (14- to 20-foot depths) to reach active fish between Long Point and Dewittville Bay. Big bucktails and diving crankbaits, mainly black and silver finishes, draw hard hits.
Seneca - Perch and smallmouth bass hold along stone structures at the north end, hitting in 15- to 40-foot depths. A minnow-tipped jig gets bumps from both bass and perch.
Honeoye - Good walleye activity starts just at dark close to shore, continuing well into night. Dayside trollers go over 16-18 feet to find them close to bottom. Big bass minnows on a jig draw both 'eyes and bass in sunny or overcast conditions.
Conesus - A few bass have been taken at various spots around the lake, but core activity comes with big minnows or small chubs held under a float/bobber in 15-foot depths at the south end. Perch have been slow, but bluegill can get busy in and around weeds on warmer afternoons.