Big fish dominate Great Lakes waters as surface temperatures reach that magical 50-degree mark.
Big Lake Erie bass move onto reefs and shoals in search of minnows and emerging crayfish. Lake Ontario salmon chase bait schools at suspended depths and give trollers wrist and arm curling exercises with regularity.
Inland lakes offer both big bass (where legal) and walleye along with panfish fun and a few good meals on crappie, perch, and sunfish.
Rainfall lifts streams and stains lakes into which these streams flow -- both good for sustained spring fishing. Weed growth, probably two weeks behind last year's height and density, calls for edge- and ledge-working in areas where fish find shelter from sunlight while waiting for bait fish.
Work lures and baits around docks, piers, weed lines and drop-offs that hold baitfish and forage. In clearing, relatively weedless waters, anglers have a greater edge along an edge.
Bass continue to move onto shallower rock formations -- reefs and drop-offs at depth sometimes less than 20 feet. Tube jigs and minnows get their attention, but a flashy, heavy spoon such as a Little Cleo, Hopkins, or a Wabler also gets hits similar to lifts and drops while ice fishing.
Perch packs still hold in deeper waters. Bass drifters often find them along shallower shoals, but the main body of boaters with good catch numbers hold over deeper water off Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek. Dunkirk's channel marker off the south end of the breakwater has yet to draw a flotilla of fishermen, as shoreline waters reach and often top 50 degrees.
Warming waters have triggered walleye activity along the shoreline. Night trollers from Hamburg to Barcelona have started seeing both minnow schools and 'eye schools.
Lou Budik and Greg Borgosz of Clarence and Gene Borgosz of Cheektowaga have gone on night patrol for walleyes between Dunkirk and Barcelona Harbors. "They began turning on last weekend," Budik said, after recording the first 15-fish limit for his trio during the Memorial Day weekend.
"Rapalas (either No. 11 or 13) with a clown or firetiger finish caught all our fish," he said.
A few steelies linger in the lower river and some coho salmon have surfaced along shoreline shallows, but Chinook salmon serve as king with trollers working the Western New York waters of Lake Ontario.
Bright, fluttering spoons set at depths of 20 to nearly 100 feet find kings ready to strike. Most salmon weigh in at less than 15 pounds, but juveniles (2-year-old salmon) show in good numbers along deep drop-offs from Fort Niagara to Point Breeze.
Charter captains from Wilson and Olcott Harbors have 20- to 40-catch days, with a few coho showing amid schools of Chinook.
A transmission error had last week's Chautauqua Lake crappie hitting "2-ounce tube jigs" -- instead of the 1/3 2-ounce weighted jigs that successful anglers have been using for crappie.
Rod Watson, Buffalo News writer/editor was the first of many to spot this obvious typo. If any anglers happened to score with these big jigs last weekend, the News would like to have on file some nice pictures of 5- to 10-pound crappie.
In reality, some good-sized crappie schools hold in tighter pockets along the Ashville Bay and Lakewood side of the southern basin, taking a jig-and-minnow rig set 2-3 feet below a float. Jig heads of 1/3 2- and 1/6 4-ounce flutter and twitch more effectively than the 1/8 - and 1/1 6-ounce models.
Walleye catches continue to come in for slow-moving night trollers working weed edges. Most catches are larger and fewer, but two or three 22- to 24-inchers weigh in at about the same as a legal limit of five 15-inch 'eyes.
Mistaken rumor readings have Chautauqua Lake's walleye daily limits set at a creel of three 18-inch fish. Paul McKeown, acting Department of Environmental Conservation Region 9 fisheries supervisor, has mentioned these possible reductions to deal with declining walleye numbers in that lake; however, no regulations have been established. Chautauqua's limit remains at the statewide five fish measuring at least 15 inches for a daily catch. To comment on this and other proposed fishing regulations changes, write to: Paul McKeown, 182 East Union St., Allegany, N.Y. 14706.
Trout stocking sites
DEC trucks from Randolph Hatchery will deliver their final May stockings into the following waters:
Brown trout yearlings -- Dodge Creek (Clarkesville) 1,200; Rushford Lake (Caneadea), 1,800; Allegany River (Wellsville), 3,000; and Wiscoy Creek (Hume), 300.
Brook trout -- Rushford Camp Pond (New Hudson), 160.
Rainbow trout -- Allegany River (Wellsville), 2,100.
Brown trout yearlings -- Elton Creek (Freedom), 900; Quaker Lake (Elko), 3,300; Red House Lake (Red House), 1,000; and Case Lake (Franklinville), 1,700.