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Fishing Line for March 25

Experts call this a transition period for angling, but some of the changes remain the same.

Stream anglers trekking for trout along Great Lakes feeders are seeing all kinds of success, while ice anglers can still enjoy safe passage on many area water bodies.

Heavy snow cover has melted off many shorelines, allowing river and stream walkers access to move about in search of trout. Ice that had started to melt off now offers hard-water harriers a few more chances to walk on water still heavily coated with ice.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie’s ice fishery was solid for both perch and walleye catches, but winds and promised warm rains could sideline those catch counts until the open-water season for perch and until the May 2 walleye opener.

For the record-keepers, perch populations from Pinehurst to directly off Cattaraugus Creek have been productive closer to shore than the 5- to 6-mile runs most machinists have been making off Sturgeon Point.

But high winds this past weekend, which broke up ice and forced anglers to be rescued, plus rains and runoff later this week may cancel out the ice season on Erie.

If the ’eye harvest off Pinehurst is any yardstick, look for an improved night bite for shoreline trollers from Buffalo to Hamburg once walleye season opens in early May.

Ice holds around the Small Boat Harbor – for now. Check weather conditions and reports from area bait dealers before heading to any of the bays and harbors in and around Buffalo.

Creeks from Buffalo to Barcelona opened enough to attract incoming trout and activate feeders well upstream in Eighteen Mile, Cattaraugus Creek, Silver Creek and both Canadaway and Chautauqua creeks in Chautauqua County. 

On all feeder waters along both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the better bite has come with light and ultra-light tackle – lines and terminal teasers. Single-egg and small, rounded fly patterns (including egg flies) and an ice-angler jig-and-grub offering all titillate trout when cool waters settle out to clarity to please a gin maker.

Niagara River

Most of the open-water river activity is in the lower river, with both boaters and shore casters doing well on lake trout and steelies.

As with many streams, lower-river waters have cleared to the point that fish can plainly see every bait item skewered on a hook. “For that reason we’ve been going with small, perch minnows,” Capt. Chris Cinelli said of the trout fishery in Devils Hole.

Boaters can find fish from Lewiston Landing down current to the mouth of the river and out on the Niagara Bar. Northerly winds – usually delivered with a chill – have kept drifters off the bar most days of late, but the laker and steelie bite has been good when conditions allow.

Lake Ontario

Waders have found fish in most Ontario feeders, but waters below Burt Dam on Eighteen Mile Creek have been the most active for trout. A nice stain on Eighteen Mile has let anglers work heavier rigs for steelies, says Wes Walker at Slipper Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott.

Walker noted that the launch at Olcott Harbor is open and boaters have gotten out and are able to troll for incoming schools along the shoreline. Catch reports have yet to come in on that fishery.

Pier casters at Olcott have connected. Either a Little Cleo casting spoon (assorted colors have been successful) or a minnow under a bobber will attract both steelies and browns right now.  

Trout stocking

Continued cold has chilled waters, but currents and warming days have allowed Department of Environmental Conservation hatchery trucks to get to stocking sites on schedule around Western New York.

Successful stockings along the Genesee River and open areas along Cattaraugus Creek will have good yearling and two-year-old trout in places well in advance of the April 1 trout-season opener. Look for a detailed column on the Randolph Hatchery stocking program on the Sunday Outdoors Page.

Naples derby

The 54th Annual Naples Creek Rainbow Trout Derby is only a week away.

Waters opened well along feeder streams at the lower ends of western Finger Lakes, and prospects for the Naples Derby look good. Some ice showed along Naples Creek, but shocking efforts turned up a few darker residents along with newly arrived silver rainbows.

The Naples contest, one of the longest continually held fishing contests in Central and Western New York, presents trophies rather than cash prizes, and all proceeds go to community service projects. All adult contestants entering a fish receive a bottle of Hazlitt wine; youths receive grape juice.

Anglers can register for this April 1 derby at Sutton’s Sporting Goods in Naples and at the headquarters in the Naples Fire Hall from 5 to 10 p.m. on March 31 and 4 a.m. until sunrise on the day of the derby. For more details, check with derby coordinator Joyce Doran at (585) 374-2782.