For anglers, spring has finally started to spring and season openings this coming weekend will put many more boaters and shore casters on and around area waters.
Hunters head out Friday morning for the start of spring wild turkey season, but the midnight hour on Friday marks the start of open seasons for walleye, northern pike, tiger muskies and a trophy-only bass season on Lake Erie.
Starting Saturday, mandatory wearing of personal flotation device (PFD) ends for adults afloat, but continued wearing, or at least PFDs placed in easily accessible positions aboard a vessel, is strongly recommended.
The prolonged cold may be an annoyance, but sustained low temperatures in stream, pond and lake waters has kept trout upstream, active along shorelines and much more catchable for weeks to come in waters that would be more akin to bass and panfish pursuits come early May.
The same delayed start might prove a boon for panfishers targeting those big breeders such as bluegill, crappie, sunfish and other shoreline spawners.
The great bait debate – live bait versus artificial – continues. A fly and bug hatch usually seen a week or two ago is now beginning to show, and more aquatic critters should start to emerge as waters close in on 50-degree readings. Perch anglers on Lake Erie and on several inland lakes suggest getting live minnows or doing yard work this weekend.
As predicted, Erie’s perch profusion for boaters continued about where it left off for ice anglers a few weeks ago. This past week the “word” (and number) has been Cattaraugus Creek at 50-foot depths.
Clearly, yellow perch schools are running deep, and they have learned to spawn out deeper as Erie’s water clarity has increased. But the main reason boaters are getting all the perch at 50 feet off the Catt is that most boaters only fish 50-foot depths off Cattaraugus Creek right now, but a few nice catches came into Sturgeon Point this past weekend.
Trophy bass fishing may start as a hunt as well. Surface temperatures have yet to top 40 degrees and most smallmouths will be out deeper and not along rocky shoals; however, stream anglers are starting to see a sucker run on Erie feeders. Bullheads have been a steady nighttime run for 2-3 weeks, but the sucker start is starting.
Walleye spawning runs are speculative situation. We know the Eastern Basin held a solid population of resident ’eyes this past winter, but predicting the arrival of shoreline spawners for shore casters will be wade-and-see encounters.
Feeder streams are settling down, water clarity is increasing and other pursuits pull anglers away from trout runs, but good numbers of mainly steelies remain upstream in the bigger creeks such as Eighteen Mile, Cattaraugus, Canadaway and Chautauqua. While hunters are cautioned not to stock up on turkeys during the spring hunting season, trout trekkers might consider working waters with low fishing pressure and making approaches akin to a deer, elk or moose stalk.
Accesses vary in degree of completion. Most sites allow launching despite the lack of side docks. One dock is in place at Sturgeon Point; Alan Wojda at Hidden Harbor Marina has one dock in place and can accommodate boat launchers now and this weekend. Both the state and Hanover Township ramps are clear without side docks. In general, the word is May 15 for completion of dock placement.
Lower river clarity has pushed steelies into deeper waters, with Devils Hole the most productive for boaters. Shore casters and boaters have done better with longer, light leaders and smaller egg sacks.
The biggest event on the lower river is the annual Smelt Fest at Lewiston, starting at 6 p.m. on Friday.
The LOC (Lake Ontario Counties) Derby starts Friday and boaters are starting to see some king salmon movement over depths of 70 to 120 feet. Browns, steelies and some coho salmon have been cruising near shore at depths of less than 50 feet. For derby details, visit loc.org.
Shore and pier casters see a mixed bag of trout, with early morning and evening hours most productive. Cold waters have the shoreline run showing a week or more later this spring.
The walleye bite on Chautauqua, Conesus, Honeoye and other Western New York inland waters could be slow for the opener, but the bluegill bite and some crappie activity pick up with shallow-water temperatures into the lower 40s. The two top perch lakes so far have been Chautauqua and Seneca.
The Randolph Hatchery has stocked these sites this past week in time for weekend angler outings:
Genesee River (Amity) 3,120 yearling brown trout and 350 2-year-old browns; (Wellsville) 640 yearling brown trout, 450 2-year-old browns and 1,000 rainbow trout; and Harwood Lake (Farmersville) 2,190 brook trout.