With Labor Day Weekend a week away and area waters warmed to above-average surface temperatures, bait schools and pursuing game-fish species tend to head for more thermal comfort at deeper depths.
In general, bass and panfish species may hold in warmer shallows, but the better bite can be found down deep. Walleye trollers and bass casters have dropped to take better shots at 'eyes and smallies.
Trout and salmon trekkers run rigs at deeper settings to connect with incoming kings and steelies.
A detailed overview of Lake Erie's deep-water bass fishing will appear on the Sunday Outdoors Page.
> Lake Erie
Many a bass competitor has connected with trophy-sized 'eyes while dropping baits into deeper waters in search of smallmouths.
Settings either side of 70 feet have been solid for suspended walleye and near-bottom smallmouth bass.
Heavy schools of suspended baitfish appear from west of Sturgeon Point to well west of Barcelona Harbor, forcing walleye trollers to make runs right and left of Dunkirk Harbor in search of walleye on the feed.
After bouts of high winds, bait and fish scatter and boaters have to regroup to get over feeding fish. For the past three weeks, it has been mainly a "go west, (young and older) man" to find foraging fish.
Many fish appear on the sonar screen, but the better bite has been west of both Dunkirk Harbor and Barcelona Harbor after strong winds have settled. Cattaraugus Creek trollers have found fish either side of Foxes Point.
Richard and Debbie Raynor at Raynor's Hunting and Fishing Emporium in Westfield have customers' input and their own outings to confirm the walleye and perch presence off Barcelona Harbor.
Walleye schools off Barcelona moved closer to shore this past week, hitting at mid-30s depths over 75-90 feet. "Perch have been good towards the state line and at 59 feet directly off the (Barcelona) harbor," Debbie said.
Those few boaters venturing for perch off Cattaraugus Creek had a good time at 62-foot depths Saturday. One good catch came from 74-foot depths between Evangola State Park and the Catt. High winds and most boaters seeking walleye have limited perch reports from Rick Miller at Miller's Bait & Tackle in Irving.
The bass bite has been a deep run for most serious recreational anglers and contest entrants. Rocky shoals and small humps found out deep can be bass baskets-even when fish suspend and swim with walleye schools.
Most artificial baits (plastic worms and tube jigs) work well on these deeper rigs and color choices vary. But shades made the difference. Most pros in last week's FLW competition cited darker shades of greens and browns when working deeper waters.
Despite all the "deep" talk, some boaters have done fun runs in shallower rocky areas on smaller smallies. Jigs, spinners, and live bait cast over 15- to 25-foot depths can produce fair numbers of 1- to 2-pound bass from rock crops found at Seneca Shoals, Myers Reef, Evans-Angola Bar, Point Breeze, Foxes Point, and points west.
> Lake Ontario
"The lake's lit up," said Wes Walker at Slippery Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott Harbor.
King salmon are moving in closer, brown trout can be found many depths over less than 100 feet from the Niagara Bar to well west of Point Breeze.
North winds have turned over water levels and pushed enough cold water to the surface to bring bait and kings close to shore. Walker notes that perch fishermen have seen salmon jumping during evening hours this past week.
Trollers connect with kings over 80- to 120-foot depths. Browns will hit rigs set anywhere 20 feet below the surface.
The Niagara Bar has become a boat magnet for both kings and lakers. Trollers are seeing good shoreward movement of kings and a steady run of lake trout close to bottom on both shores.
Both boaters and shore casters have also seen the odd king or two jumping in the Niagara River as far up current as Devils Hole. However, the bite is slight and most days are a miss rather than a hit on late August outings. The serious bite there begins in early to mid September.
Casters along Lake Ontario are benefiting from turnovers and cooler nights. Temperature shifts have turned on bass and perch in many bays and harbors.
This past week, best perch reports have come from Olcott and Irondequoit Bay piers. Inner harbor and bay perch prospects perk up sometime in early September, according to Rick Reagan at Jay-Ve Fishing Tackle in Rochester.