Drought or near-drought conditions have dropped levels in small ponds and shallow feeder streams to levels stressful to some fish but not to crisis stages yet.
Bigger lakes, rivers and streams offer a good bite and a fun run, especially for bass and assorted panfish. Even the stressed Lake Ontario smallmouth fishery has shown fair numbers of smallies in ports from the Niagara River eastward to Rochester-area waters.
Winds, more than lack of rainfall, have been a bugger/bane for boaters, especially on weekends. Saturday’s breezes curbed many a vessel launching and bounced around small boaters in the Big Dawg Walleye Tournament out of Dunkirk Harbor. Competitors and recreational anglers had a shot at walleyes on Sunday in the old rollers from the day before. Look for results and details on the Dawg Tourney on the Sunday Outdoors Page.
Blue/green algae alerts have been posted for shallow-water areas of Lake Erie’s western basin, but not even water fleas are a frustration on Erie’s eastern waters. The only inland-lake algae report so far has been the southern end of Conesus Lake. Otherwise, “normal” weed growth has shown on inland lakes and the hide-seek-and-find shoreline fishery for bass, pikes, panfish and even some walleye anglers is in full progress right now. Fly rodders can run shallow streamers and even a popper fly or plug might be a good presentation where heat has drawn bugs and smaller baitfish shaded shallows.
Live baits draw strikes that artificials might not attract; the right spinner, color selection and/or body design on a jig or hard body could change things as warming waters boost fishes’ metabolism while providing food forage that might curb the bite.
Bass are seemingly everywhere, perch are picky far between and walleye become a bigger target as eastern waters warm.
Some hard baits and spoons have been poking ‘eyes, but a worm harness straps in the most walleye now. Both trollers and bottom bouncers have gone with a single- or double-spinner harness rig and live worm. Most effective colors vary from pink or purple and black to green/chartreuse to copper. The copper has been exceptional early mornings.
Close to Buffalo, the bite has been out deeper at depths of 40 feet or more. Farther west, boaters often run over walleye headed out to deeper drop-offs and flats. This past week, boaters have done well just west of Cattaraugus Creek at 65-foot depths and at less than 80 feet west of Dunkirk Harbor.
To interest youth in fishing, the annual Southtowns Walleye Association Catch and Release Kids Fishing Derby, usually held at Tifft Nature Preserve, will be held this year at Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park. Sign-ins start at 7 a.m. at Shelter No. 10 and fishing the park pond from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday.
A lunch, awards presentations and prize drawings follow the fishing. To register a youth, call 649-8202 or visit southtownswalleye.org
Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Derby results confirm the salmon and especially lake trout fishery at the western end of the lake. Check out the derby’s Leaderboard at loc.org.
A run last Wednesday with Capt. Andy Chornobil of Chinook Charters further confirmed the presence and good bite for both king (Chinook) salmon and steelhead trout. In the company of outdoor writers Bill Hilts Jr. from the Niagara Falls area and Chris Kenyon over from Sodus Bay in Wayne County, we headed west out of the Genesee River and fished depths of less than 100 feet as the sun began showing eastward.
As we pulled out shortly after 6 a.m., Capt. Andy said the bite was slow and better westward off the Niagara River to Oak Orchard Point. But the first release went off at 6:45 a.m. and Bill Jr. reeled in a 15-pound king some 13 minutes later. Kenyon hauled in both kings and steelies along with grandson Andy Sykes for a total of seven fish kept for fillets, three or four released and another dozen or so releases that spit the hook.
Trollers, charter captains and recreationals to the west in Western New York water waters are enjoying days as productive or even greater than this morning we enjoyed on Rochester waters. Capt. Andy went mainly with a spoon program of Diamond Kings and Dream Weavers. A blue/silver did well; a bar of glow white also drew strikes.
The captain has been working on a “new” disc diver he has been tooling and redesigning since 1974 called the Chinook Diver. Look for details on this device in a future outdoors column.
Closer to shore, feeder-creek levels are down considerably, but the bass and perch bite has been good at Wilson, Olcott and Oak Orchard. Inland, Lake Alice panfish are cooperating, with an occasional good showing of walleye.
The weeds have it. Drought conditions have dropped the lake’s water level about 2 feet; however, bass, particularly smallmouths, are holding along weed edges lakewide, said Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle.
The walleye bite in mainly along North Basin weeds; South Basin weeds choke shallows but produce good perch and bluegill on the outer edges.