The rain gods this past week partially answered a plea from feeder stream anglers for enough rain and runoff to lift water levels and allow for the fall run of mainly trout and some salmon upstream.
Many Great Lakes feeder streams that were virtually impassible for entering trout and salmon are now this week’s hot spots.
Inland lakes anglers who have stowed warm-water gear for the year are missing out on a shallow-water fishery that can be pleasurably productive. By now, minnow schools have been hit hard and many lakes have mainly pinheads and smaller minnow stock left in the shallows. Crayfish have either been picked over or are now holing up in cooling water. Same can be said for hellgrammites, oak leaf grubs and other tasty bug life that serve as forage for both panfish and bigger game fish along shoreline shallows of big bays and lakes with structural drop-offs and distinct shallow and deep areas where fish can school and do their fall feeding.
Live bait and artificials all work; flies can be deadly at any depth. While panfish move into shoreline shallows and often hit poppers (cork-bodied flies) and anything minnow-like near the surface, the fall bite usually shows a bit deeper.
Flies resembling bugs bug panfish more than minnow patterns such as a muddler or anything with long white or yellow feathering or tinsel bodies. Perch, bluegill and crappie might be schooling anywhere from mid-lake depths to weed edges close enough for wading or shore casting. Check out as many depths as possible as autumn water temperatures slowly drop and fish begin schooling and feeding in different patterns than were seen during warm summer days. (Next week: Lure speed and change-of-light considerations).
Small boat harboring
Boating anglers seeking access to Buffalo Harbor waters will have to head down river or farther west to get onto upper Niagara River and harbor-area waters.
Buffalo Small Boat Harbor is closed to boat-launch ramp use. C. Douglas Hartmayer, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority director of public affairs, said, “The harbor will be closed while workmen remove docks and piers for the winter; the work should be completed by Thursday, Oct. 30, depending on weather conditions.”
Hartmayer added, “Once the work is finished, the launch ramps will be reopened and remain open until bad weather; launches at that time will be free.”
Management of Buffalo Small Boat Harbor was switched from the NFTA to state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, on May 12, but the NFTA will continue maintenance at the facility until Nov. 15. Thereafter, the site will be Buffalo Harbor State Park.
Boat traffic is light, but the bite is just about right for everything from bass at the top of reef structures at Seneca Shoals and Myers Reef to open-water suspended depths west of Barcelona Harbor.
Reports of nice bass numbers in shallow and of walleye schooling at 30-foot depths off the Evans and Hamburg shoreline are sparse but solid.
Many perch trips have been canceled by high winds and choppy waters. Last good read for perch out deep was 65-foot depths just east of Cattaraugus Creek, with some nice numbers coming from Evangola State Park and 52- to 60-foot depths off the middle of Evans-Angola Bar just west of Sturgeon Point.
Right now, the big draw along the Erie shoreline is a spike in small-feeder trout action. Canadaway Creek had supported some fish movement, but incoming trout numbers were down. This past week both Canadaway and Chautauqua Creek turned on from the mouth well up into grape country.
Eighteen Mile Creek drew good trout numbers; access at the Lake Shore Road site is limited; check before heading to this access. Both Silver Creek and Walnut Creek have good water and fish presence. Cattaraugus Creek muddied earlier this week but could be good by the weekend, depending on rainfall. Best trout activity has been seen along the break wall walkway at the mouth.
Upper river waters still offer better bass than musky or trout prospects. Shore anglers will have to head to the foot of Ontario Street to fish; the Ferry Street bridge is closed to foot and motor traffic.
Lower River kings have slowed, but a steelie fishery is solid for both shoreline and boating anglers.
Many sites draw trout and perch, but Burt Dam on Eighteen Mile Creek has the best trout prospects, and Irondequoit Bay offers the best perch odds.
Fishing has picked up for many fish species at Chautauqua, says Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle. “The perch bite has been good and the crappie action has just started,” Bianco said of shoreline activity. Bass and muskies move closer to shore; walleye action has been better in deeper water.