Fishing and boating will be at a peak July 4 weekend, and anglers and boaters have to keep an eye and mind on what they and others are doing on and around waterways.
Water temperatures have risen close to normal, and boaters will be on the water in solid numbers to fish, go on rides and take in fireworks displays. Night fishing can be highly productive and many boaters stay out after sunset to check on the hot bite and take in distant Fourth of July light shows.
Two major fishing competitions wrapped up last week. Look for a summation of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s 15th Annual Celebrity Challenge and the Southtowns Walleye Association Tournament results on the Sunday Outdoors page.
Anglers use temperature ranges to plot spawning cycles for cold- and warm-water fish species, but often the fish fail to breed within those ranges.
Trout spawn at earlier, cooler times in their spring spawning season. Walleye and perch-family fish lay and milt eggs well before bass and sunfish-family breeders hit spawning beds.
The popular bass/sunfish spawning temperature is 55 degrees. However, many a savvy bass angler knows the moon can be a major factor in putting fish on beds and off the bite well after temperatures climb above 55.
One clear proof that fish spawn when they spawn was visible Friday afternoon along the Safe Harbor pier after the BassEye fishing competition. Signs of cleared spawning-bed circles could be seen everywhere along the pier, and many guarding single fish and one mating pair of bluegill could be seen hovering over nests well after the usual May-to-early-June spawning period. The water temperature reading at that hour was 72 degrees.
For anglers, crediting/blaming fish not biting because they are in a spawning cycle might simply be another way of justifying a poor catch day.
Walleye are wandering, perch are perplexing and bass are a bonanza bite right now.
Trollers between Van Buren Point and Brocton Shoals and between Sturgeon Point and Point Breeze, did well on walleye last weekend at depths at and just below 60 feet. Both down rigs and side planers set deeper did the most damage.
Bottom bouncers have had some successes from Buffalo to Barcelona, but the better numbers, especially on those 3-year-olds measuring in the high-teens, has been with suspended rigs run 20 to 30 feet down early mornings and 25- to 40-foot depths during direct-sunlight daylight hours.
Worm harnesses win. Purple or green colors on spinner blades have been most mentioned. Shorter leads on down rigs and side planers work at these deeper settings.
Perch are where you find them. Pods, not schools, show up for walleye trollers at 65-foot depths west of Sturgeon Point, off Cattaraugus Creek and just east of Dunkirk Harbor.
For a good time, set the ’eye and ringback rigs aside and give the bass a ride. Tub jigs, crayfish, minnows and even a plastic whacky worm can stir up smallmouths at varying depths. Despite the warming waters, the better bass bite continues at depths below 20 feet in most places.
Cool Canadian waters have meant a better trout and salmon fishery on the U.S. side of Lake Ontario early this season.
Boaters from Wilson Harbor eastward to Sodus Bay are enjoying a nice mix of steelhead trout in or close to schools of Chinook (king) salmon. Flasher-and-fly rigs have taken fair numbers of fish, but a basic spoon program has pulled the major number of steelies and kings.
“There are tons of bait, and the fish are moving in and out, but right now it’s a good bite,” said Capt. Bob Cinelli, chartering out of Olcott Harbor. Cinelli’s best depths are based on fish moving around with the current, as shallow as 166-188 feet one day and 280-350 the next day.
Steelies mix in with kings less than 3 miles from shore, hitting at depths either side of 40 feet. Kings run deeper, usually at depths of 55 to 80 feet.
Walleye is about the only popular fish species showing a slow bite right now, according to Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle in Stow. Bass are the most frequent flyers; muskies have shown in good numbers and sizes. Both bass and musky continue to hold along weed edges.
Water temperatures slightly below an early-summer average have kept fish in shallow and around weed beds, but Bianco notes the bigger schools of perch often appear at 20-foot depths in both basins of the lake. Panfish seekers have seen bluegill and bullhead spawning in shallows where they should have been a month earlier.