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Fishing line by Will Elliott (May 10)

Tourneys and season openers are on and fishing successes depend on which side of spawning cycles anglers are riding.

The inland panfish bite has been snappy for more than a week; Great Lakes waters can be iffy or promising; inland lakes offer a good mix of fish for the pan and/or a trophy catch to keep or release.

Along with walleye, pike family (including tiger muskies) opened last Saturday, with nice showings on inland lakes and some big-lake bays.

Typical of early-May fish forays, the pursuit is often more hunting than fishing; however, waters are warming, sunlight increases and in many places the bite is all right.

Lake Erie

The wishes, hopes and deep desires of Lake Erie perch anglers is that ringbacks are in a spawning phase that is curbing if not killing the bite right now.

A typical day out on deep-water hot spots between Pinehurst and Dunkirk results in a sonar screen showing mainly bottom activity. Bait schools are scarce and perch pods are narrow and rarely move a foot or more above bottom.

And when perch schools show at and above bottom, their bite triggers rarely trip. Round gobies are a greater numbers prospect than perch out deep at present. Many regulars with an eye on perch progressions out deeper are holding off until water temperatures reach and pass the 50-degree mark.

A better option for nice perch are the edges of current washes around Buffalo Harbor breakwater gaps. Some days boat bunches get over the schools; other days schools scatter but a few big mamas take a minnow bait. The action can show on either side of harbor walls in open waters or back corners.

Streams are warming enough to stifle trout movement and cool enough to curb bass and slow the catfish bite.

One possible plus for Erie’s open waters is the walleye night-trolling circuit between north Hamburg and Buffalo Harbor. About 20 boaters trolled the shoreline Monday evening in calm waters that have yet to reach 50 degrees but warm enough to be above the walleye spawning range. Perhaps the post-spawn ’eye catching will come into view for nights near Buffalo and the reefs west of Dunkirk Harbor.

Rising water temperatures, despite some near-frosty nights, could spark an early, near-shore walleye run to confirm fisheries officials’ predictions of high walleye numbers in Erie lakewide.

Niagara River

The lower river trout bite has been slower but steady, with bass showing along many popular drifts. Smelt moved out of the river, leaving shore casters not interested in salmonids some perch prospects that look better in the upper river.

Lake Ontario

“The fish are feeding on smelt from the feeders and alewives from the lake,” said Wes Walker at Slippery Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott. Walker sees most boaters headed west to fish the Niagara Bar.

Few trout are holding below Burt Dam on Eighteen Mile Creek, but pier casters at Olcott are seeing a good run of browns hitting spoons in clear water and nightcrawlers when stained.

Both pike and bass have showed fairly well at Olcott and Wilson. Capt. Rob Mucha at Wilson Harbor has heard of and done well at open-water runs to the Niagara Bar. Warmer waters from the Niagara River have drawn kings and lakers to the bar. “The bite is mainly over 100 to 200 feet with baits set at 60-70 feet earlier in the day and deeper later,” Mucha noted.

Walker gets good reports of browns down 30 to 70 feet along Wilson to Olcott and shoreline eastward.

Inland lakes

Chautauqua: Sighting is a major factor in fish-catching at Chautauqua Lake, says Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle. “The water is so clear that it affects walleye fishing at night and panfishing during the day,” Bianco explained.

Night casters are seeing ’eye eyeballs but only experiencing a so-so bite. Dayside casters often target ’gills, crappies and some perch with polarized sunglasses before getting onto a good bite. Perch in good sizes have dominated the panfish quest; good ringback runs have been found along 5- to 10-foot shallows in both basins of the lake.

Western Finger Lakes: Silver Lake has seen a better run of northern pike than panfish; Conesus Lake produced a few walleye during the opener; Honeoye Lake bluegills are big, but the bass count is down.

Trout stockings

The Randolph and Caledonia DEC Hatcheries this week have stocked trout at sites around Western New York in time for fishing this weekend. All stockings are yearlings unless noted as 2-year-olds.

Cattaraugus County: Great Valley Creek (Great Valley) 1,210 brown trout; and Forks Creek (Great Valley) 780 brown trout.

Wyoming County: Tonawanda Creek (Orangeville) 780 brown trout; and Buffalo Creek (Java) 860 brown trout.

All stocking deliveries are subject to change due to water conditions.