The Department of Environmental Conservation's annual free fishing weekend begins at midnight Friday across New York State.
Anglers of all ages can get out and try their rod and reel handles on all state waters. This opportunity lets parents, caregivers and experienced anglers share the enjoyment of sport fishing at every level of skill and competence.
As always, all participants must know and comply with all current fishing regulations -- length and creel limits, catch-and-release procedures for protected and endangered species, baitfish restrictions and various tackle requirements.
Copies of the DEC "New York Freshwater Fishing 2009-10 Official Regulations Guide" are available at most license issuing agencies and DEC headquarters.
With the opening of bass and musky season Saturday, all game-fish seasons are now open across the state. Above-average heat has raised temperatures in most area waters 5 to 10 degrees higher than usual for the first week of summer angling.
With hefty bait schooling on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, weed growth advancing on most inland waters and fairly high rainfall and runoff, area lakes, rivers, streams and ponds may be at stages normally seen on Fourth of July weekend.
The 'eyes have arrived, but now it's pick-your-port time.
Ohio migrants have headed east well ahead of schedule -- about six weeks ahead of last year's nomads -- but the best fishing might be found at points where 'eye schools head to feed on abundant bait in eastern basin waters.
Barcelona Harbor had been a hotspot during the Southtowns Walleye Tournament. Trollers still do well between Barcelona and Dunkirk Harbor, but Cattaraugus Creek to Sturgeon Point waters could be good or better by this weekend.
Also, the Buffalo Harbor and Canadian shoreline see bursts of '07-class walleyes still holding at depths of less than 40 feet. This bait abundance has pushed all popular fish species into places not normally hot spots when shoreline shallows begin to warm.
In virtually every good walleye site, the worm harness prevails. Spoons and minnow-type baits will poke an 'eye here and there, but a nightcrawler behind a spinner blade or two is well ahead for size and numbers. Tip of the week: Trollers may be fooled by the heated surface temperatures and could be running a bit too deep for the feeders closer to the surface.
Run 20-foot in place of 30-foot Jet Planers, remove the Dipsy Diver ring and run less than 100 feet of wire line at the No. 3 setting, go with short-lipped minnow baits instead of deep divers, try darker bead and blade patterns on worm harness rigs.
Perch numbers remain good, but the walleye run has sent more boaters on tries for 'eyes. Last good numbers came from depths of 55 feet or more just west of Cattaraugus Creek.
Bass fishing is at its best. The fish are deeper, so live bait might be a better option.
The fish may have moved out slightly, but the bite is still right.
A Father's Day morning stint out of Olcott Harbor proved most productive. A detailed summary of that outing will appear on the Outdoors Page on Sunday.
Another turnover pushed excess bait and feeding salmonids away from shore slightly, but schools of both trout and salmon remain tight and on a hefty feed fairly close to shore.
Adults interested in signing on for the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and DEC free fishing clinic and outing at the Chestnut Ridge Park pond Saturday can still register at the East Aurora Boys-Girls Club.
Accompanying adults can fish with youths and benefit from useful knot-tying and tackle tips from expert assistants. For details, call 652-4180.