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Will Elliott’s Fishing Line: How the bite shapes up

Despite a water-level dropping drought, anglers working smaller farm ponds and larger lakes are seeing shallow-water activity that usually does not pick up until early fall.

Ponds remain severely low and even the larger inland lakes see water lines lower on dock pilings. For example, Chautauqua Lake has dropped some 2 feet from “normal” water levels, but the bite is as good or better than the lake’s usual early-fall feeding and foraging.

Big lakes still see deep-diving denizens – and an ongoing cast-your-fate-to-the-winds approach each day an outing is planned. Seems the excess heat has increased the wind index for Erie and Ontario anglers.

Late summer always presents extremes for terminal-tackle options. From dry-fly sizes to panfish possibilities, smaller flies, jigs, spoons, spinners and live-bait choices often increase the hit count. On larger targets, trollers and casters often do better with magnum sizes of spoons and body baits on everything from walleyes to muskies. But those smaller trolling baits often match the minnow hatch for walleye inland and on the Great Lakes.

Try both. Go mini and maxi for lure sizes as area water temperatures bump their maximum summer temperature readings.

Lake Erie

The perch puzzle is yet to be solved, but the walleye mystery is at least somewhat solved – follow the minnows.

After a week or two of empty sonar screens, walleye workers have done some easy shifts on deep-running fish still willing to suspend over depths of 60 feet or so.

Trollers and drifters out of both Cattaraugus Creek and Dunkirk Harbor are taking a left hook to depths of 60 to 90 feet and running lines close to bottom for good walleye numbers. Until early this week, minnow schools had been scarce from Sturgeon Point to Barcelona Harbor. But currents, forage or some miraculous onset brought bait schools into depths of 60 feet or so at mid-depths and close to bottom where perch lurch.

No upturn in yellow perch catches have come in yet, but another promising prospect looms for a ringback resurgence.

Niagara River

Walleye drifters are scouting for the upcoming walleye contest this Sunday. As always, everywhere in Great Lakes and Niagara River waters bordering Canada, be careful of your cruising directions.

Nightcrawlers are a prime bait for river ’eye popping, but Canadian officials impose major penalties for any bait kept in dirt/earth.

Lake Ontario

Trollers still dig but not as deep this week for incoming king salmon. Early-morning lure-sets can be as deep as 50 feet, but the major bite is closer to 80 feet.

Steelies remain close to the surface but out and over 30- to 450-foot depths.

On shore, rainfall along the shore boosted feeder-stream runoff. Perch have turned on at Olcott Harbor. Bass have been steady at Wilson, Olcott and Oak Orchard even before rains raised runoffs. Live bait holds a slight edge on bass and greater odds for panfish.

Chautauqua Lake

All but smallmouths are big at Chautauqua right now, says Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle. Even the walleye bite has been good during evening hours in deeper weed pockets and openings in the South Basin. A blade bait or worm-tipped vertical jig has been ‘eye catching.

Largemouth bass and recently muskies have turned on at deeper depths. Trolling at 15- to 20-foot levels have gotten hits from the toothy tribe. The bass bite has been best at and shortly after sunrise.

Panfish, all but crappie, make good showing around weed edges. Waxworms and blood worms get most mentioning, but any of the grub/bug varieties will pull panfish.

Tourney times

Fishing contests, major competitions and fundraising efforts, abound for the remainder of the summer to Oct.1. Here is a brief listing:

• First Annual Reelin’ for a Cure Wilson and Olcott harbors ladies fishing tournament, 6 a.m.-noon, Friday, party to follow; a tournament to help the fight to cure cancer. For more details, call 481-6388 or 622-6643.

• Lake Ontario Counties Derby, an 18-day event, begins Thursday, targeting salmon and trout species. For registration information, call (888) Reel-2-In or visit

• 40th Annual Greater Niagara “Fall Classic” derby – 2016: A Fish Odyssey, divisions for salmon, rainbow/brown trout, lake trout, smallmouth bass, walleye and carp. Call (877) 325-5787 or visit

• Niagara River Anglers Association Walleye Contest, 7 a.m.-2 pm., Sunday, waters of the lower Niagara River, Lake Ontario and its tributaries. Prizes presented during a pizza-and-wings gathering at Lewiston Landing after the contest. For more information, call 510-9750.

• Sixth Annual Rich Brauer Perch Tournament, 12:01 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1, dinner of entry perch caught at Brauer’s Restaurant in Pendleton. Proceeds donated to Kidspeace Foster Care. For details, call 698-4505.


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