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Fishing Line for May 20

Fish spawning cycles have anglers peddling in all directions.

Trollers tune up for more contests on Lake Ontario and upcoming Lake Erie competitions. Western waters dominated the leader boards of the Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Derby for both salmon and lake trout catches.

That fishery continues, with lakers holding near bottoms at depths amenable to king salmon. With a steady influx of bait schools along all Great Lakes shores, fishing – and, better still, catching – should improve as cool waters warm rapidly.

Every spring season sees subtle changes in even the most consistent fisheries. Ontario’s lake trout catch numbers increase, following years of fears about laker reproduction; Erie’s perch numbers continue, with increased sizes seen each year; crappie populations have improved on many inland lakes, often  in those with healthy predator numbers.

Each year an unsanctioned/unofficial competition occurs between users of live bait and devotees of all things artificial when it comes to lure selection. At times, live, fresh or salted meat is essential. With the right bite, a spinner, spoon, body bait or jig and plastic (tube or tail) makes things easier to get hits, catch or release fish and be back in the water.

So far this season, emerald shiners have shown best for Erie perch, a Little Cleo casting spoon and scooped up salmonids along the Ontario shoreline and a mini jig and grub body (plastic or live waxworm, spike or mousy grub) have taken plenty of panfish.

Lake Erie

The walleye word is still a night bite. Trollers off Hamburg and Van Buren Point shoals just west of Dunkirk Harbor have been key/hottest spots for post-spawn, feeding schools of walleye. Bait schools show around perch spawning out deeper and in closer to shore, but troller tribe has yet to set up for resident and Ohio ’eye poking.

Perch reports vary. Scattered schools showed off Sturgeon Point during the weekend; better catches came from 50-foot depths off Cattaraugus Creek. But by Monday the numbers dropped and Tuesday’s wind gusts killed chances for a reconnaissance run.

Most of the perch interest is focused on the upcoming Southtowns Walleye Association’s Annual Perch Derby set for this Saturday. Entrants have to obtain an SWA membership to compete. For details on this event and the 31st Annual SWA Walleye Tournament, visit

Niagara River

Bass numbers improve in the upper and lower river, with warming waters and emerging weed growth factors in drawing smallmouths into the river’s shallows. Casters also report a good number of northern pike showing in the lower river above Fort Niagara and in spots around Grand Island.

Many a spinner bait and wobbling plug will draw strikes, but as waters clear and heat up, either a minnow or worm works wonders along the shoreline and on boat drifts.

Lake Ontario

Salmon numbers increase and trout still hang about.

King (Chinook) salmon keep moving closer to shore, with nice numbers showing at 40-foot depths at first light. The salmon run holds at 70 to less than 150 feet, depending on cloud cover, throughout the day, according to Wes Walker at Slipper Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott.

Trollers from Fort Niagara to Sodus Bay are seeing good salmon presence, with lake trout a close second for consistent catches. The trolling program has been mainly spoons, but a flasher/fly rig accounts for a few nice fish. Capt. Bob Cinelli has done well with spoons that match natural colors.

Shore casters go with odd colors – reds and greens – on casting spoons for a continuing run of trout. Some steelies still hold under the dams at Waterport and Burt as bass move into feeder streams. Browns, showing where steelies usually run along piers and docks, are the major surprise for shore anglers.

Northern pike provide another surprise in places that Lake Ontario anglers had not seen these “water wolves” until the past year. Wilson Harbor continues to offer the best options for both size and numbers of pike.

Trout stockings

The Randolph Hatchery has stocked these sites this week in time for weekend angler outings:

Tonawanda Creek (Orangeville) 770 yearling brown trout; Cattaraugus Creek (Java) 1,450 spring yearling brown trout; Oatka Creek (Warsaw) 940 yearling brown trout; Red House Brook (Red House) 680 yearling browns; Quaker Run (Cold Spring) 860 yearling browns; Cattaraugus County Pond A (Randolph) and Cattaraugus County Pond B (Randolph) 90 brook trout.