Following a summerlike start to fall, September ends today with fishing prospects more akin to an end of August rather than the day prior to October.
Hunters are seeing all kinds of foliage cover for the start of big- and small-game seasons on Thursday. Anglers face the same mass of greenery along shorelines of inland lakes and ponds. While greenery might hamper hunters, grass beds in early fall draw many a fish species into shallower waters where shore-bound anglers can reach fish with a cast or two. If anything, shoreline foliage might help stream anglers when approaching shallow pools, riffles and oxbows on early October outings.
Warm waters have slowed the influx of trout and salmon, but that delay may soon end. Despite the heat, some sizable salmon have shown in Lake Ontario feeders and heavier rainbow trout have begun showing in accessible Lake Erie feeder streams.
Many trout seasons end on Oct. 15, but the only closing Western New York trout anglers will see tomorrow is the lake trout season ending in lower Niagara River waters and its tributaries.
Many an inland stream will soon be active with fish from inland and the Great Lakes. J. Michael Kelly, retired Syracuse-area outdoor writer and lifelong stream angler, has just finished a new book titled “Trout Streams of Central New York.” Look for a detailed review of this terrific text on this Sunday’s Outdoors Page.
Walleye trollers, what few are still stringing lines, continue to poke ‘eyes at mid depths from Myers Reef to the state line. Walleye drifters can connect near bottom with light harness rigs at depths of less than 40 feet east off Myers Reef and around the head of the river. It takes some set-up time at times, but walleye schools are holding solid.
Perch pursuits remain promising but hot spots are scattered and nomadic. Even boaters with a pail of emerald shiners may not hit into a school of jumbos during a daylong reconnaissance run.
Finding emeralds has been a bane for bait dealers and could continue until late October. Boaters see nice schools at the head of the Niagara River and often down current, but warm shoreline waters have kept bait schools out deeper. When emerald shiners make a brief appearance in the shallows, their life span in even cooled, aerated water is limited.
For now, golden shiners have accounted for some fair perch catches and testy troopers keep scouting open waters for signs of perch packs worth seeking out for those big-bucket catches that were seen during previous fall forays.
Bass, as usual, go for live bait offerings of either crayfish or bigger “bass” minnows. That bite continues in the lake and well into the Niagara River.
Add perch to the bass bite shore anglers – not boaters – are enjoying in the upper river. What fishermen still call Squaw Island has been the best perch-bite access in upper waters.
Lower river salmon and trout presence has been absent. Charter captains typically book big-fish trips starting in late September. This year, the only respectable bite has been smallmouth bass with the occasionally good walleye take.
Forecasts for stiff northeasterly breezes are usually a bane for boaters on Lake Ontario, but a Nor’easter at this time of year might be a blessing for salmonid seekers in the lower river.
Water temperatures have dropped below 67 degrees, allowing for a better bass bite on live minnows. Continued cooling and river-mouth current changes could push some of those cruising Chinooks into the river and feeder streams.
The Niagara River has yet to draw king salmon, but boaters around the Niagara Bar have hooked up with a king or two mixing in with the lake trout that have dominated the bar area.
Boaters off Wilson, Olcott and Point Breeze have seen a solid salmon presence in shallower waters. Shore and pier casters have done well with both bait and casting spoons during sunrise and sunset sessions. Casters can not report a hefty run, but a few kings and even more steelies and brown trout have moved up streams at Wilson and Olcott, with Burt Dam getting major mention.
Stream levels remain low; temperatures still hold high for this time of the year, but the bite is starting up better on sizable Ontario streams than the Niagara River right now.
Pier casters go mainly with heavy casting spoons to reach kings. Upstream, a chunk of skein under a bobber is drawing the most salmon strikes.
The perch bite has picked up along channels salmon use while heading upstream at Wilson, Olcott and Point Breeze. One good yardstick for measuring a salmon movement is a drop in the perch bite, which is being seen more often lately.