Area anglers enjoy the best of both Great Lakes waters, living at the east end of Lake Erie and the southwestern side of Lake Ontario.
Erie's walleye, bass and even perch populations are hitting hooks hard throughout the summer season. Lake Ontario's king salmon run has been productive close to shore through much of the summer. Add a substantial brown trout fishery and assorted panfish pursuits and Ontario is a must-go.
Inland lakes have endured the heat and remained hot for both panfish and bass numbers.
Competition and recreational anglers are enjoying a spectacular season for sizes and catch numbers.
A three-man team from North Tonawanda, led by Adam Zwack, took top honors in the sixth Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Team Walleye Derby with a 3-day, 9-fish weight total of 74.52 pounds.
The Friday to Sunday competition saw many bigger fish taken. The team did not boat a 10-pound 'eye but logged 9-pound entries all three days. Their Sunday weigh-in included a 9.63-pound walleye that took second place for the Sunday catch. Jim Tunney of Loony Tunes Charters boated the overall individual winner, a 10.27-pound entry.
In general, the better walleye bite has been west of Sturgeon Point. Boaters out of Cattaraugus Creek head west and start setting rigs at 72 feet for both sizes and numbers. Some lures (mostly worm harnesses) set higher (40-60 feet down) connect with the right chop on the water and overcast skies. But the better numbers now come from deeper water (80-120 feet) and deeper rigs run on down rigs or with weighted lead-core lines.
The bass bite has been fair but picky. Smallmouths have gone deeper and do not always hug bottom. Drop-shot rigs get to them best in rocky areas where both round gobies hug bottom and passing bait schools draw the bass off bottom. With the right presentation, bass will hit any of the popular rocky structures from Buffalo to Barcelona: Seneca Shoals, Myers Reef, the Evans-Angola Bar, Point Breeze, Eagle Bay, Van Buren Point, Brockton Shoals, and points either side of Barcelona Harbor.
The perch bite clones the bass hitting setup right now. Boaters keying on ringbacks have been running to deeper water for good numbers. Moving bait schools put perch on the run and kill prospects for a fixed hot spot each day out. Depths of 65 feet have gotten the most mention this past week, with waters just east of Cattaraugus Creek seeing the most action.
Drifters in the lower Niagara River have connected with walleye as well as bass in recent weeks. This activity should make things good for entrants in the Walleye Classic IV set for Saturday.
The contest goes from sunup to 2 p.m. on all lower-river waters and out to the red buoy marker in U.S. and Canada waters of Lake Ontario. For registration details, call A-1 Bait (870-2170) or go to outdoorsniagara.com.
Pick a port from Fort Niagara to the head of the St. Lawrence River and you might hook a Chinook (king) salmon fairly close to shore.
The king run has been good off the Niagara and Orleans County shoreline. Reports from eastern waters have nice kings moving in with a good run of brown trout.
The steelhead fishery remains out some 9-11 miles off shore. A bright-colored spoon set less than 60 feet down does the trick.
In closer, a flasher-and-fly has been most effective for kings near shore in the Olcott Harbor area, says Wes Walker at Slippery Sinker Bait & Tackle. Both browns and kings are active within a mile of shore over depths of less than 100 feet.
The Orleans County Derby has begun and goes to Aug. 21. Anglers can enter a big catch each day before 7 a.m. Call Slippery Sinker (778-0713) or Boat Doctor (778-8592).
The LOC Derby begins Aug. 19 (loc.org) and the Fish Odyssey starts Aug. 20 (fishodyssey.net).
Honeoye Lake bass
Many an inland lake offers ample smallmouth and largemouth bass activity, but Honeoye has been an exceptional largemouth destination this steamy summer.
That moss/algae buildup along shoreline surfaces has been minimal this hot summer and just about every vertical and casted lure can latch into largemouths.
The heat has pushed bigmouths out to deeper waters. A few nice hits occur around piers and boathouses, but the better bite has been along and between grass patches.
A spinner bait with silver blades takes a good number of bass. The "whacky worm," a center-hooked plastic nightcrawler bait with a pumpkin or root beer coloration has been deadly. Wobbling round-bodied hard baits also can be effective.
A few more pike-family members have shown in good bass habitat. Chain pickerel and the odd northern pike sometimes strike bass baits.