Well, it's finally (almost) here -- the statewide opener for anglers targeting bass and muskies.
At midnight on Friday the catch count goes to a 5-fish limit of smallmouth and/or largemouth bass measuring 12 inches or greater from all state waters.
The statewide musky minimum length is set at 30 inches and one daily limit, but look for differing length limits in Great Lakes and tributary waters for muskies and tiger muskellunge: Lake Erie and tributaries, 54 inches; Niagara River and Lake Ontario, 48 inches.
In all areas, anglers are encouraged to catch, record and carefully release as many muskies as possible to sustain and improve the impressive stock and fishing opportunities these mighty fighters provide area anglers each warm-water season.
Set aside next weekend (June 23-24) for the New York State Free Fishing Days. Anglers of all ages can fish state waters without a license that weekend; all state regulations for sizes and creel counts apply. For more details on the free weekend and other free fishing day events, go to dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27123.html.
Go west for the walleyes and try an all-points search for perch.
Most of the top entries (fish weighing over 10 pounds) in the ongoing Southtowns Walleye Association Annual Tournament have come from waters either side of Barcelona Harbor.
Lure successes vary from worm harnesses to flutter spoons for either tourney entries or "eater-sized" 'eyes. Trollers often swing in as close as 40-foot depths east of Barcelona and rarely deeper than 80 feet west of the harbor.
Drifters and trollers from Buffalo to Dunkirk Harbor look for an uptick in the walleye bite in time for the Cystic Fibrosis BassEye event set for June 28 and 29.
For now, patient experts pick off a few "yellow pike" off Hamburg, Sturgeon Point, Point Breeze, Evangola State Park, Cattaraugus Creek, and Dunkirk Harbor. But for better numbers and sizes, Barcelona is the bullring.
All kinds of marble-eye lore specifics will be shared next week -- after the Southtowns contest ends on Sunday.
Perch sizes remain solid, but numbers vary. Boaters off Cattaraugus Creek had "killings" both Sunday and Monday this past week, said Rick Miller at Miller's Bait & Tackle in Irving.
A westerly trend held for both the Catt and Sturgeon Point ringback runners. Better catches came from west of the Catt at 52- to 65-foot depths. West of Sturgeon, a 60-foot reading got most mention, with schools moving between Point Breeze and the Evans-Angola Bar.
An abundance of bait -- with far too much suspended moss -- has not hampered the upper-river bite, says Bill Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle on Niagara Street.
"Even with a lot of bait along shore, you (anglers) can put on a wax worm or 'crawler and catch perch," Van Camp said of shoreline sites such as the foot of Ferry Street or Ontario Street.
Both the bass and walleye bite has added to the shore bite. Capt. Chris Cinelli has done well on both species, and hooked up with bigger perch, while drifting large golden shiners in east-river waters.
Lower river reports are nil. Last word was a fair bass presence at the Stella Niagara curve.
While Erie anglers head west, Ontario fisher folk find a feast to the east.
Suspended moss moving out of the lower Niagara River makes it difficult to keep lines in the water near the river mouth. Farther east, trollers have had fun close to shore on either side of Point Breeze out of Oak Orchard Creek.
"Most are running 100- to 150-foot depths with rigs set at 40 to 80 feet," said Sharon Narburgh at Narby's Superette in Kent of the run of king salmon cruising off the point.
A spoon program has been the main presentation, on a straight line or behind a flasher-type rig. In general, a silver back with either an orange, chartreuse or black finish on one side have been the most popular color combinations.
Shore anglers still see an exceptional presence of northern pike, along with a bass bite that beats all previous pre-season activity. Boat traffic out of Wilson, Olcott and Point Breeze often slows the pike bite, but bass and perch keep shore casters busy throughout the day.