Some fisheries have sprung slightly ahead of the spring schedule, but water temperatures remain at their early-spring chill.
Spring-spawning trout move on schedule, but early-spawning, warm-water species head to shallower sites and the pre-spawn bite remains so-so and slow most days.
Trout streamers, anglers working Great Lakes feeders and those readying for the April 1 inland-stream opener, have a payback year start, considering the prolonged cold and delayed fish movement in spring of 2015.
Bill Grove, new coordinator of the Naples Creek Rainbow Trout Derby, noted Tuesday that stream watchers have been seeing early trout runs this season. A Department of Environmental Conservation stream shocking is set for a run Thursday morning. Look for a more detailed account of the Naples opening-day derby in the notebook on the Sunday Outdoors page.
Hatchery stockings are going well, with sites being stocked on schedule. Listings of weekly stocking sites will begin in the Fishing Line on April 6.
Best boating bite has been the lower Niagara River steelie run and Lake Erie’s perch population.
Stream anglers have good water and abundant fish presence, but the trout run is mainly young jacks. No shift in terminal tackle separates the matures from the new kids coming in to test the waters.
At Cattaraugus Creek, warming waters have turned on the catfish bite, with a few smallmouth bass showing at times. Ricky Miller at Miller’s Bait & Tackle in Irving noted that the creek is flowing slightly above average and boat access is easy, but side docks have yet to be in place at any of the creek launch sites.
Two side docks are in place at Sturgeon Point.
The perch bite changes daily. Boaters have made runs from Buffalo Harbor to hit good ringback runs at 50-foot depths. Out of Sturgeon Point, the bite has been good either side of the point, with a 56-foot depth reading most productive.
The fish are moving in small schools. Sometimes a good bite comes in places where few or no fish show on a sonar screen.
Niagara River/Lake Ontario
Upper river bait holds and the trout run is basically a long walk but worth it.
Lower river steelies cooperate for both boaters and shore casters. Clearing waters put meat on the menu, with live minnows and egg sacks taking most of the steelies and lakers moving up current.
Trout stomachs have shown an abundance of rainbow smelt, but schools have yet to move close to shore for dippers to start pulling fish. Water clarity is good, but water temperatures out of Lake Erie have remained well below 40 and shoreline spawning is so-so.
When boaters can get out on the Niagara Bar the lake trout bite has been good. Pier casters have started seeing some incoming salmon movement, but the bite is slight. Boaters look forward to a better run this coming weekend.
Winter derby results
Steve “Hawk” Hawkins at Captain Bob’s Outdoors in Clarence posted all the winners in the Winter Fishing Derby, with a note that many of the top three winning entries in each division came early and late in the contest.
As always, some impressive lengths and weights came in for anglers not entered in the contest. This year, the Perch Division had two entrants that would have been money fish. Herb Schultz of Blasdell brought in a 15-inch 2.53-pound ringback from Lake Erie. Mickey Nati of West Seneca iced a 15.25-inch, 2.16-pound perch from Honeoye Lake.
Here are the top division winners:
Walleye - Barry Ball of Alden caught a 24.25-inch 'eye while perch fishing with Herb Schultz on Erie. This fish held as leader throughout the derby.
Perch - Dave Fisher of Cheektowaga, brought in a 15.25-incher from Lake Erie.
Northern Pike - Rod Froebel of Alden topped all with a 36-inch pike from Sliver Lake.
Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga took numerous honors. His 14.25-inch crappie from Chautauqua Lake took first place. His leading walleye dropped to second behind Ball.
Rustowicz used a homemade jig to hook into a 34.25-inch steelhead trout at Oak Orchard Creek. That steelie won the Niagara River Anglers Association steelie tourney on Feb. 6 and continued to last Sunday as the Capt. Bob’s Steelhead Division winner.
Blue Gill/Sunfish - Chase Kordasiewicz of Alden brought in an 11-inch ’gill from a private pond. Early in the season, many a monster ’gill was caught at the southwest corner of Honeoye Lake, and Warren Goodenow of Warsaw entered a 10.25-inch slab-sized fish that bit for a bit early in the ice season.
Rudd - Joe “California” Pavalonis of Buffalo topped all with an 18-incher weighing 3.34-pounds that came from the upper Niagara River.