Trout season will open on Friday, with water conditions ideal for stocking, ahead of schedule for incoming spawners and stream levels running lower with a lack of snow-melt runoff.
During the spring Department of Environmental Conservation personnel will stock about 130,000 yearling brook, brown and rainbow trout and 10,000 2-year-old brown trout in Region 9 waters of Western New York. Weekly site stocking completions will begin in next week’s Fishing Line column.
The early arrival of open waters, at first considered a cause for an early start and end to spring trout runs into Great Lakes feeder streams, now seems on schedule and par with the inland streams that open on Friday. Trout anglers will have a host of options when heading out to lakes, ponds, rivers and streams this weekend.
The inland lake panfish run has been better for channels, canals and backwaters from the western Finger Lakes to the southwestern end of Chautauqua County. Docks in warm, sheltered bays have drawn crowds, even on days with a chill wind. Boaters poke around visible and would-be weed edges in search of sunfish species, but perch schools have been scarce around docks and sharp points where casters can connect.
For most panfish programs, live and prepared baits (meat of all kinds) have an advantage over artificials (spinners, spoons and body baits) so far this open-water season. Slow or stably fixed presentations draw the biggest bite count while water temperatures hold below 40 degrees on most waterways.
Inland-stream trout movement has been on for more than two weeks and both stocked fish and spawn-drawn trout will be on the move working currents as well a calm pools.
Just when you think an egg sack, single egg or small chunk of skein might take every trout in route, a salted minnow or a small, flashy streamer could bring on the bigger and better bite.
The perch hot spot changes each week. Last weekend boaters nearly bumped gunwales at 52-foot depths off Evangola State Park. The better bite came on Saturday, with many boats posting a 50-fish limit per angler. The ratio of egg-bearing females to males was 3-4 to 1 for most catches.
Feeding patterns could be a factor, but most boaters caught bigger perch. Runts were few in numbers despite a solid presence during the 2015 season. Locations and fish sizes change every time on the water. Boat herds could mean a hefty school of perch or the magnetism of the masses.
Minnows are a means if not a must on the upper and lower river.
Stained Erie waters slowed the trout bite, but the steelhead trout presence in upper and lower waters remains solid. Some steelies will chase a spoon, spinner or jig, but the minnow (hooked through the lip on a straight drop and through the back on a drift) has taken the better share of bites and fights.
Stiff breezes on Thursday could keep fish in the muddied dark, but the steelie run should hold with cool waters, masses of emerald shiners in the upper river and some presence of rainbow smelt in the lower river.
Shoreline dippers have yet to connect with shallow-water running smelt in search of spawning sites.
The trout run is on. Boaters along shore and casters on piers and breakwaters can have fun with the right weather conditions. “It’s good when they can get out there,” said Wes Walker at Slippery Singer Bait & Tackle in Olcott.
Bitter cold northerly winds put a chop on open waters and unbearable chills upon shore casters on many recent days. But when boaters can get on the water a trolling program of stick baits and fluttering spoons has been good for browns and steelies close to shore and lake trout at depths of 25 feet and deeper.
Shore casters send out spoons, or either a nightcrawler or minnow under a bobber for incoming trout.
Perch have schooled fairly well at Wilson Harbor and in the ponds between Oak Orchard and Rochester. The pond bite could be nearing an end, but the shoreline perch run at Irondequoit Bay is kicking in now, according to Ron Gatz at S&R Bait & Tackle on Culver Road in Rochester.
Most pre-spawn perch are holding tight to along the west shore where casters and boaters can get into sizeable ringbacks at depths of less than 15 feet.
Shore casters see more crappie action than boaters so far. Piers at Ashville Bay and channels near the bay have drawn early spawning crappie and a few perch. Minnows take most of the shore catch. A weed-edge bluegill schooling has yet to hold session. Most panfish seekers look for a few more degrees in water temperature to bring on the ’gill, perch and “calico” crowd.