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Fishing Line / By Will Elliott

Those mixtures of rain and snowfall have improved feeder-stream access for fish entering Erie and Ontario creeks and rivers. Cooling waters have yet to curb the bass and panfish bite in bigger and smaller inland lakes.

Now if the wind gods could lower their ire, boaters might have a better chance at open-water runs on the Great Lakes and those beautiful but dangerous larger inland lakes that can kick up wicked waves with the right/wrong wind speed and direction.

Mandatory PFD (personal flotation device) or lifejacket wearing does not begin in New York State until Nov. 1, but caution afloat begins with good trip planning, more than a cursory check on weather conditions, easily accessible safety gear on board and good communication means. Above all, a solid plan before heading out is more valued than the best hot-spot report on record.

Shore anglers gain more access to the fishery each week if not each day in the fall. Boaters have some good spots out there, but incoming trout and salmon, weed-edge hugging walleye, bass, musky and assorted panfish put the guy on a pier, dock, stream bank or riverbank in good stead for some fun fishing.

Live bait options improve as waters cool. Retrieval and lure dropping speeds slow as water temperatures dip, for both live-bait and proven artificial lure offerings.

Remember, inland trout season ended Oct. 15, but many areas allow for catch-and-release with artificial lures.

With more hunters afield on big- and small-game pursuits, many an abandoned fishing spot could be hot well past the Ides of October.

Lake Erie

Winds have kept boaters off the deep-water perch haunts. Rain and melted snow has helped all feeders from Buffalo to Barcelona Harbor. Same goes for the good bass bars, shoals, reefs and breakwater walls along Buffalo Harbor. We know they’re there; waves keep boaters from getting to the good spots most days.  

Trout trekkers have hit into fish in the big creek, Cattaraugus, and smaller feeders such as Eighteen Mile, Silver, Canadaway and Chautauqua. In the Catt, a few 10-pouders and several rainbow/steelhead in the 5- to 6-pound range have been taken around the Routes 5 and 20 bridge up to Gowanda.

Spinners and spoons work off the wall, but at most casting points upstream live baits have been the better bet. Everything from small sections of nightcrawlers to egg sacs to minnows might draw the nice steelie bite.  

Niagara River

The fall musky run remains on hold, with water temperatures holding in the high 50s. The experts look for a drop to or below 55 degrees for an influx of bait, smaller fish species and the onslaught of the toothy tribe.

Right now, tribal gatherings have been a mix of salmonids and lingering legions of lunker-sized bass in the upper and lower river.

Salmon seekers have given up on a peak for that run. Charter boaters pull a fish or two and doing as well or better on steelies. Shore anglers have doing better than boaters on kings, steelies, lake trout and an unusual number of coho salmon seen so far this fall season.

Casters at Artpark and all the odd and usual places along the Devils’ Hole access have been good with either casting spoons (Vibrax gets the major mention) or assorted egg presentations (sacs and skein) floated down current.

A steady stain during the weekend curbed many a boat and shore-casting trip, but more stable weather should open up things for the week in the lower river. Upper river musky trips are iffy but possible after the weekend’s chill.

Lake Ontario

Casters score from shore on both warm-water species (northern pike, perch and other panfish) and incoming trout and salmon.

Olcott has seen the best mix of steelies, browns and the off-and-on Chinook/king count. Oak Orchard is a close second, if it comes to a contest, but both sites are good for a shot at trout and salmon.

Northern pike have shown well at both Wilson and Olcott Harbors, and the perch run is better than usual during the fall salmon run. Typically, the big fish move through and no mix of minnows, nightcrawlers and grubs/bugs will round up ringbacks. But some unusually good sizes and numbers of perch have shown at all three major harbor/creek mouths on Ontario. Add to that, Wilson has some impressive bluegill bunches, if you can get over them at the right time from shore or in a boat along the channel.

Casting spoons dominate pier casting at Wilson, Olcott and Oak Orchard. Smaller egg sacs, chunks of skein and round or oval buglike flies such as the wooly buggers have been successful upstream.

Johnson Creek has been the most mentioned small feeder along the Western New York section of the Lake Ontario shoreline.