Waters are warming to the 80 degrees down to 10 feet or more on inland lakes and open areas of the Great Lakes.
With tepid shoreline waters in stable areas and moving currents, anglers might be tempted to head deeper to find active, feeding fish. They do. But fish, like humans, go where they can get good food at a low price. For fish, it’s the cost of moving least to forage the most.
Last week, the Bassmasters pros showed upper-Niagara River anglers the smallmouth fishery is active in current waters rarely deeper than 20 feet. While most of the area’s local anglers headed out to Lake Erie’s deeper waters, pros using only artificial baits boated sizeable smallies from around piers, docks, bridge abutments and wherever bass could ambush baitfish, crayfish and other creatures caught in currents or looking vulnerable.
That same approach could be applied on inland lakes and waterways where weeds and shoreline structures provide bass, pike, walleye, muskies and other major predators close ambush points where smaller prey appear in good numbers, feeding on emerging bugs, grubs and future flies.
Many a boater has to head to deeper waters to find fish schools in open-water of the Great Lakes and larger inland lakes, but check cast-worthy shallows and shallower mid depths before heading to cooler, deeper water where that turnover area called the thermocline has set up.
Too often, anglers pass over good, if not hot, fishing spots on mid-summer outings. Fishes’ metabolism perks up as waters warm. Try quick, darting and retrieving motions while trolling, casting or vertical jigging.
In this peak of summer warmth, it’s a juggle out there, juggling between surface and mid-depth presentations for fish that may not have seen the dive sign.
Trollers have picked up a few more incidental catches of yellow perch, but the sonar screen is not showing good concentrations of perch on the bottom. And the mid-depth feeders rarely show on the screen or appear to be a small bass or walleye.
Walleye remain the main target for both trollers and bottom-bouncers either working drifts or poking sideways to the wind with a front-mount electric motor.
While the local ’eye schools have definitely gone deeper, they haven’t run off the edge of the lake-bottom’s earth. Most boaters between Sturgeon Point and Barcelona Harbor find fish at depths of 65 to 85 feet. And the better feeding depths are fairly close to bottom.
Bottom bouncers connect mainly with worm harnesses. Trollers try to keep rigs down 50 to 60 feet for these resident walleye that move along or slightly off the bottom where bait schools are moving.
Experts/regulars that work Erie’s Eastern Basin monitor that school of Ohio fish and put those bigger walleye off the Pennsylvania shore somewhere. Speculation right now is that these fish may not venture far into New York State waters this year.
“We may have to be satisfied with the ‘schoolies’ (local/resident walleyes) this year,” said Capt. Fred Forsythe after a successful Monday outing that resulted in 12 ’eyes, but only one over the 5 pounds.
Bass can be found as shallow as 10 feet early mornings and as deep as 40 feet around solid rock crops (reefs, shoals and bars) throughout the day.
Upper river shore fishing calls for long casts and good rig presentations in currents. Crayfish, minnows and leeches all take their share of bass. All are forage for the less-popular fish species that move close to shore in the summer’s warmth.
Lower river casters and drifters do not have to contend with moss buildup on their lines, but a solid number of sheepshead and white (silver) bass haunt the same lanes where the more desirable smallmouths live and feed.
Best baits have been crayfish. Best depths have been edges and ledges where bait loosens from the bottom and bass attack.
Jack Fenstermaker of Warren, Ohio, waited until Friday, the second last day of the Lake Ontario Counties Summer Derby to bring in a 31.07-pound, king that won the grand prize.
That and many of the top 20 king salmon listed on the derby’s leader board went for a spoon set on down rigs, side planers and wire rigs. No one color or pattern has been established, but much mention has been given to green and blue finishes.
Salmon movement is definitely deeper. Capt. Mark Kessler of Fishgrappler Charters got into nice mid-sized and one mature king off the Niagara Bar at depths of 100 to 140 feet over 250-foot depths Tuesday morning during a WTS Charity for Children fishing contest. Kessler said that morning, “This is the year for Lake Ontario’s king salmon.”
Look for details of that contest in the Sunday Outdoors Notebook.