The big lakes have gotten much attention this summer. Lake Erie's walleye run has been fun. Lake Ontario's salmonid pack is headed shoreward.
Labor Day Weekend offers an array of inland-lake options as summer draws to its close. Bass dominate the list of angler targets, but panfish have put a few extra boats on the water and caster along shore.
>Great Lakes takes
Erie's 'eyes are still prize. Walleye schools are abundant either side of Dunkirk Harbor. Competitors in the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Walleye Tourney took some nice-sized 'eyes during that early August contest.
Since then, the fish have shown well on the sonar screen, but so has an abundance of baitfish. Schools of smelt and emerald shiners hover near bottom and offer bigger game fish (walleye, bass, and perch) a steady forage source.
Joe Jemiolo, piloting his vessel Nausea out of Dunkirk Harbor, took Joe Fischer and me on a Saturday run to work waters west of the harbor. The screen looked promising once we got over 70-foot depths off Van Buren Point.
Boat chatter on VHS channel 68 was minimal-to-mum. One caller boasted an eight-fish take, but most had two or three in the box by noon. We settled for four nice 'eyes that hit at various places between Dunkirk and Brockton Shoals. Despite the low number, most weighed at and above five pounds, supplying many a nice fillet for this week's fish-cooking fare.
One tip: with all the bait available in Lake Erie right now, the worm harness has done fairly well. But some boaters have switched to stickbaits, minnow-type plugs that resemble larger shiners or smaller rainbow smelt.
Lake Ontario tourney and recreational anglers are moving closer to shore for king salmon, rainbow/steelhead trout, and some impressive brown trout.
Winds along Ontario's western shore stirred water levels, moving bait and salmonids in all directions. But an emerging pattern of in-shore movement has bigger kings and steelies into less than 100-foot depths off Oak Orchard, Olcott, Wilson, and the Niagara Bar.
For a summary of Lake Ontario Counties Derby doings, go to loc.org.
Most inland lakes saw no effect of storm winds and continued warming has fish active at all inland areas open to public-access fishing. Here are summaries of four major destinations that may prove productive this holiday weekend.
*Chautauqua Lake: Anglers hooked into a few walleyes this past week, but yellow perch remains the mainstay in Chautauqua's shallows and deeper waters.
Bluegill and sunfish numbers are up also, says Lisa Green at Happy Hooker Bait & Tackle in Ashville. A few nice bass catches have been made along weed edges, and the musky addicts are holding off until the fall chill arrives. But a trip around deeper weeds -- along edges or in open pockets of weed beds -- can be productive for panfish in shallower South Basin areas and around deeper edges in the North Basin.
*Silver Lake: The pike bite has picked up this past week. Panfish have been the summer staple, but some anglers with either live bait or casting artificials (spoons and plugs) have seen an uptick in northern pike presence.
For a consistent catch count, key on panfish this holiday weekend. The perch bite has been fair, with signs it will improve as fall approaches.
*Conesus Lake: Perch have been slow, 'gills and sunnies have shown but in smaller sizes throughout the summer. Most serious line minders focus on bass. A good smallmouth population exists at Conesus, end to end. For a good count in substantial sizes, live baits have been best. Crayfish and small chubs lead the live-bait list.
*Honeoye Lake: If you like catching bass, you will find Honeoye sweet. The panfish run has been fair throughout the summer, but the bass bite -- particularly largemouth lunkers -- has been outstanding.
A number of good year classes survived and thrived 3-5 years ago. As a result, much of the lake offers anglers good bass catches of 2- to 3-pound fish with an occasional 5-pounder from earlier hatches.
Many popular live and artificial baits have been effective on Honeoye bass, but a marked edge goes to the Whacky Worm, a rubber nightcrawler imitation hooked in the mid section and sent out on a short cast to let drop into weed pockets and edges. Most colors work well; 'crawler colors have gotten most mention.
Boaters dig deep for panfish, hitting holes and drop-offs at 15- to 25-foot depths. A waxworm worked close to the bottom sparks the bluegill bite, but expect to see a bass or two down that deep.
The state launch site at the southeast corner of the lake is being renovated to accommodate more parking and boat-trailer traffic. The facility will close after Labor Day and is expected to remain closed until at least the start of ice fishing season.