The fishing calendar -- on the water and on paper -- has been pushed up a week or so this spring season.
Warming weather has affected mainly warm-water species around the area. Bass and sunfishes made early spawning moves, but some held off until Tuesday's full-moon cycle. Walleyes made similar early starts, which gave shoreline anglers on Lake Erie and Oneida Lake an early shot at post-spawn feeding.
Now, the chase is on to find fish -- in the sunfish, perch and pike families -- heading deeper and feeding in metabolism-warming waters.
Salmon and trout treks depend much on thermals in open-water currents and breezes. Winds, in fact, have been a curse for more angler outings than temperature extremes, changes in forage/bait movement, or population/schooling dynamics.
High winds so far this spring season for this scribe's forays have curbed trips out of Orange Beach, Plymouth, a couple western Finger Lakes, Chautauqua Lake and way too many tries at Lake Erie's perch packs.
Last weekend, for example, left many a boater ashore waiting for a breeze to subside and wave heights to lower enough for small-boat sprees.
Inland lake and stream waters have warmed well above seasonal averages; feeder stream levels have dropped to well below seasonal averages.
In general, Great Lakes anglers head out to deeper waters, inland lakes fisher folk work drop-offs between shoreline shallows and summer thermocline levels, and stream anglers have to watch where they wade while looking for good water and fish presence.
The shallow-water walleye bite kicked in just in time for the Southtowns Walleye Association's annual tournament that starts Saturday.
Trollers set up as shallow as 40 feet and rarely move beyond 60-foot depths off Barcelona Harbor for the relatively shallow, near-shore bite. Every expert has his or her pet lure presentation.
Worm harnesses get major mention, but well chosen "stickbaits," minnow-type lures, have seen some successes from Barcelona to shoals off Buffalo. Smaller sizes ("junior" versions of Thundersticks, Rapalas, etc.) that measure less than 3 inches, have been doing well this season. Add an assortment of smaller spoons, and 'eye trollers are really giving the fish something to see in waters thick with baitfish.
Anglers can register for the Southtowns Tournament Thursday night at the new clubhouse, S-5895 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg and as late as Friday evening. For details, call 649-8202 or go to southtownswalleye.org.
Perch prospects are wide-ranging. Boaters out of Cattaraugus Creek and Sturgeon Point go to 60-foot depths to find schooling. But shore casters at Dunkirk Harbor were pulling sizes and numbers of ringbacks from the city pier during east winds.
Rick Miller speculates the bait moved in with adverse winds and moved perch schools. Same can be said for locating smallmouth bass. While rig runners are picking off bigger smallies in 30-foot depths, casters working shallow tops of reefs at Seneca Shoals, Myers Reef, Evans-Angola Bar, and points west have seen spurts of 20-inchers at depths of less than 10 feet.
Creeks have warmed and bass have moved out in clear and stained water conditions. Statewide bass season opens June 16. When clouded/muddy, the bigger creeks draw and hold feeding catfish along shore.
> Niagara River
Moss presence, normally seen weeks later in the season, has slowed but not stopped determined anglers. Upper river waters have produced some nice-sized pike around edges of Grand Island, says guide Chris Cinelli. Between drift trips with spinners for walleye, Cinelli has spent some time in the upper river.
Lower river walleye hold along the Stella Niagara drift. A minnow added to a jig ups the odds for 'eyes.
> Lake Ontario
Suspended moss can be found as far out as 12 miles from shore, notes charter captain Bob Cinelli, who had been working out of Wilson Harbor and moved back to Olcott Harbor recently.
Cinelli suggests working the shoreline for perch, pike and bass right now and hopes to see a good mid-summer bite as the moss subsides.
> Chautauqua Lake
The walleye bite has been at night and slight. Better numbers and nice sizes of panfish and bass have been the bigger draw. Some crappie schooling has been productive around deep edges of docks and shoals just at sunset. The perch bite is consistent, with mixed sizes but many fillet-worthy.