Anglers are giving thanks for no heavy November snow – so far.
And the cold following some rainfall has helped spark some salmanoids and solidify warm-water species’ entry into the cold-weather seasons. Here is a summation/perspective of area angling as we head into the holiday season.
Pasts and prospects
A lack of trout-stream flow along the Erie and Ontario shores created angler angst through much of the early-fall season. A skimpy salmon run and delayed trout entries into many a Great Lake feeder has frustrated steelie seekers. Lake Ontario feeders east of Niagara County have seen a spike in brown trout presence and even some surprising Atlantic salmon mixed in with the autumn egg stealer/eaters that moved in where steelhead trout should be moving about.
Each week, trout experts look for improved runs, and some progress has been seen in the lower Niagara River run and in the larger Great Lakes feeders. Finally, smaller feeders have drawn some water flow and waders from the upper riffles at Oak Orchard Creek to the oxbows along Chautauqua Creek are seeing rainbow/steelhead trout moving up current. Cattaraugus Creek, during low-water, offers the best trout waters, and the creek did not disappoint. Right now, anglers can cast a fly, spoon, spinner, live bait or egg offering from the breakwater at its mouth to below the dam at Springville.
Warm-water species have been on and off schedule this fall. Oneida Lake saw a spurt in walleye movement about the time a late-fall perch surge should have shown. Erie perch outcomes depended on the day and the location boaters could find to get over numbers of jumbos. It happened, but not often in Erie’s deeper waters.
Best showing of perch schools among inland lakes in late summer through to mid fall – was Canandaigua Lake. Boaters in the shallows at both the north and south ends of the lake took some nice ringback runs at mid depths – 15 to 35 feet. Penn Yan on Keuka Lakealso had a good perch run, but not as predictable as Canandaigua. This might be the go-to lake for an ice-fishing run during the hardwater season. Cayuga Lake, a long run from the Buffalo area, was another perch paradise for those who knew the lake and its perch structures.
Irondequoit Bay took second slot to nearby bays and feeders for perch in summer and early fall, but the bay showed a comeback in early November. Perch showed in Irondequoit’s shallows and deeper waters once temperatures dropped below 50 degrees. A run of sizeable fish in fair numbers could be a good sign for outcomes during the coming ice season.
Bass dominated the catch-and-count fishery for both catch-and-release and consuming bass anglers. Inland, Oneida Lake’s shoals turned on throughout the summer and offered good fall outings. Honeoye Lake dominates as a numbers destination. Many successful year classes has produced a population of 12- to 15-inch largemouth bass that rule Honeoye waters. This lake is one of many western Finger Lakes that have an open season for bass until March 15. Many an ice angler comes off Honeoye with a limit of bass throughout the winter.
With all the great walleye fishing and good perch prospects, many Erie anglers took a bye on Erie’s exceptional smallmouth bass fishery. Those few boaters who worked the reefs and shoals along the Buffalo-to-Hamburg shore did fine. Weather permitting, a diehard boater can still be big on smallies until the season ends on Monday.
Musky reports have been mixed, mainly casting drifters in the upper river have connected and no word has come from the night trollers. Like bass, musky season closes at midnight on Monday.
Niagara Musky Association president Scott McKee is looking for successful junior musky anglers who have caught and released major muskies this past season. He would like to have the info before the NMA meeting on Dec. 1. To credit a junior angler under the age of 16, call McKee at 225-3816 or visit niagaramuskyassociation.ning.com.
All things considered right now for shore-bound anglers, Chautauqua Lake stands as the most promising, if not active, inland lake and the lower Niagara provides the most river current action for those working from shore. Most of the smaller feeder streams along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie now have some water and trout movement. But the lower river has more consistent fish presence and, once Lake Erie’s stained waters subside, the highest catch rate for hours spent casting off the river bank.
Chautauqua’s night walleye bite picked up last week in chilling winds and wave action. Once waters settled, casting minnow-type hard baits at night popped a few 'eyes. Even live bait under a bobber during the day could pull a few respectable perch. For sizeable catches, boaters log better numbers at 10- to 15-foot depths in both basins.
Happy turkey day and give thanks for a fishable holiday weekend.