DEC personnel and volunteers are readying streams for the inland trout season opener April 1.
For now, trout devotees have an open season, mainly for rainbow/steelhead and brown trout, on all Lake Erie and Lake Ontario feeder streams. Region 8 officials remind anglers that trout fishing remains open year round in the main water bodies of the western Finger Lakes.
Once that inland season opens at midnight next Thursday, anglers will have what appears to be a good start at trout trekking throughout Western New York waters. An early runoff of melting snow and continued chill this week will slow movements of trout along Great Lakes feeder streams and inland waterways.
Inland stream and pond stocking numbers, sequences, and locations will basically remain the same as last year with one major exception. Scott Cornett, senior fisheries biologist for DEC Region 9, announced a change in the stocking sequence for Ischua Creek. Stocking numbers and delivery intervals will be the same, but both will begin after the April 1 trout season opener.
> Ice won't suffice
Some solid ice remains on larger inland lakes. Anglers ventured out on Lake Simcoe in Ontario and Chautauqua Lake on Sunday. No catch reports came from Burtis Bay but several walkers broke through when retuning to shoreline shallows and one angler had to be rescued, according to Lisa Green at Happy Hooker Bait & Tackle in Ashville.
Western Finger Lakes have open water or lingering patches of un-fishable ice. Honeoye, Conesus and Silver lakes support more waterfowl than anglers, who have a good start with bullhead around warming shore edges.
> Feeder forays
The bout of chill this first week of spring could be a blessing for feeder-stream water levels and fishing prospects.
Lake Erie's feeders all showed mud, even as levels receded. The Monday rains kept things stained. The Cattaraugus Creek watershed still holds a considerable amount of snow banking at and above headwaters.
For Lake Erie shoreline anglers, Dunkirk Harbor has been a trout magnet. Shore casters work the city pier or the fishing platform at the power plant outflow for a run of rainbow/steelies and brown trout.
Dave Watts at Dave's Bait & Tackle in Derby sees mainly steelies being caught now. A solid run of brown trout moved through earlier. Gerri Begier at Bill's Hooks west of the harbor weighed in a 15-pound brown caught this week.
Minnows can be good, but a well-placed egg sack works well on both steelies and browns.
Lake Ontario feeders hold greater promise for trout trekkers and bullhead hunting shore casters. Oak Orchard Creek cleared well, with a nice steelhead run below Waterport Dam.
Same goes for the steelie run below Burt Dam on Eighteen Mile Creek above Olcott Harbor. Perch began schooling in the harbor last weekend, says Wes Walker at Slippery Sinker Bait & Tackle.
Trout have moved up Ontario feeders well. Pete Marotta at Feather and Fur Bait & Tackle in Wilson noted that steelies have been caught well up stream in Four Mile, Twelve Mile, and even miniscule Six Mile Creek near Wilson.
Keg and Johnson creeks farther east have nice water clarity, levels, and fish movement.
> Die-off dilemmas
Last week the DEC issued a general announcement about fish die-offs that normally occur in ponds with heavy ice and snow covering that depletes oxygen fish need to survive.
Severe fish mortality has been seen in shallow ponds along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Long Pond and Cranberry Pond in particular have seen unusual numbers of many fish species, especially larger largemouth bass.
None of these fish kills have been related to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) that affected fish during the spring of 2007. That lack of VHS mortality has led to the DEC formulating a proposal to alter the ban on transporting baitfish. A detailed report on this proposal will appear in the Sunday Outdoors Page Notebook.
> Niagara River
Lower river steelies -- and a fun run of browns -- are keeping drifters busy in Devil's Hole and along the Artpark shoreline.
"Egg sacks have done well on trout in the river, but we mainly go with live minnows on the Niagara Bar," said Capt. Chris Cinelli, who balso noted a good start for perch in the upper river around Grand Island.