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The Fishing Beat: Bait blitz taking anglers to school

Niagara River

Timing is everything and last week’s river report is a perfect example of that. The day after the beautiful green water that was producing fish, the water turned murky overnight and fishing was tough. Some 40 anglers participated in the new on-water educational lessons on the lower Niagara River (held in conjunction with the Greater Niagara Fishing Expo) and while most boats caught fish, it was a bit of a struggle. Make sure you check the online photo gallery that is produced each week as a result of submissions for the “Catch of the Week” designation. There were some nice fish caught. As of Tuesday, conditions were very good once again. However, another problem surfaced that was unexpected – too much bait in the river. “We’re seeing a large number of smaller-sized smelt in the river right now for some reason,” says Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane (Thrillseeker Charters). There has been a mixed bag of steelhead, lake trout, walleye and the occasional brown trout. Best baits have been minnows, egg sacs and plugs like MagLips or Kwikfish lures. Fish can be caught from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar. The Niagara River Anglers will be holding its annual Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest on Feb. 4. This is for the lower Niagara and Lake Ontario tributaries. Check out for details. Register at Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston or the Slippery Sinker in Olcott. Call 731-4780 for more info, too.

Lake Ontario and tributaries

The big news was the boats hitting the open lake for some decent brown trout action. Capt. Carl Martin of Pendleton (Dublin Up Charters) reported good action last Friday off Olcott using Bay Rat Lures in the smaller sizes. Best color patterns were goby and coho crusher. He was trolling them behind planer boards

Carl Martin with a brown trout.

over 10 to 20 feet of water, 100 to 125 feet back, as well as off downriggers just under the surface. The water was a little stained. Best action was to the east off the microwave tower. Over the weekend, there was good fishing to the west using the same program. Rapalas and Challengers were working, too. When there is a distinct mud line, work the edge. Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek was stained but producing a few fish – browns and steelhead. Another fresh salmon dropping eggs showed up last week at the dam. Egg sacs or egg imitations will still catch fish but a jig fished under a float and tipped with a waxie is on the list of enticements. For jigs, black with silver or white might work. Monday, egg sacs were working nicely. Action over at the Oak Orchard River has been going well, too, using the same baits.


Catches of the Week

Outdoors: Sharing knowledge

Lake Erie and tributaries

Several boats took advantage of the mild weather over the weekend to try and target some perch out in the big lake. Not much action was reported, but it was a nice weekend to be on the water in January. In the meantime, streams settled down and some trout are being reported. According to Danny Colville with Colville Outfitters, ground saturation and intermittent rains has made stream conditions difficult to

Colville Outfitters Chrome Cartel Member Adam McInerney of Jamestown caught this nice steelie on his center pin outfit made by Colville Outfitters using an egg and bead combo. He caught it from a small "Erie ditch."

predict. The smaller creeks have had some fresh fish enter in smaller numbers, including some “springers” – immature schooling steelies chasing small bait pods in the lower sections. This is early for this type of activity. Not too many drop back steelies are around after the last stream blowout. Colville insists that fishing should be good in the Buffalo River tributaries in the weeks ahead. Centerpin presentations have been dominating with egg sacs and egg imitations. If they don’t work, switch to a white or dark colored jig. Fly fishermen have had to work harder with the colder water.

Chautauqua Lake

The ice is shot and there was some open water in the northern basin of the lake according to Mike Sperry with Chautauqua Reel Outdoors. With a cold spell on the way, we could see some hard water in a week or two.

NYS Ice Pro-Am Series

The team tournament scheduled for Jan. 29 in Chaumont Bay in Eastern Lake Ontario has been postponed until Feb. 25. Check out for updates.

Contest Updates

Lou Pagnotti with a 14.5-pound walleye.

In the New York State Winter Classic Tournament, some impressive fish continue to show up at the weigh

stations. The past week produced several new leaders including Louis Pagnotti weighing in a 14.5-pound walleye from Chaumont Bay; Derek Stoner catching a 6.19-pound pickerel and weighing in at the Pulaski Salmon Shop in Oswego; and Steve Ball of Alden weighing in a 1.09 pound sunfish that he caught from a private pond in WNY. The action continues through Feb. 28. Check out for details.

In the Capt. Bob’s Winter Derby, Ball’s big sunny took over the lead in that division and Dave Kendall of Batavia is the new leader in the steelhead division with a lower Niagara River fish that stretched the tape 29 inches. After a quick picture, it was released. Be sure to check out the online gallery for many of these leading fish at


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