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The Fishing Beat

It's crunch time for musky anglers as the season starts to wind down. Here are a few tips from local musky experts:

  • Rick Kustich of Getzville, noted fly fishing book author whose most recent book “Hunting Musky with a Fly” is now available at Orvis-Buffalo in Williamsville.

“To catch a musky on a fly is always a great challenge,” says Kustich. “In late fall, musky tend to let their guard down a little, a great time to find that fish of a lifetime.”

Kustich shared these tips for late autumn:

Careful rigging is a must – Keep leader design very simple. A five to six foot length of 30-pound fluorocarbon with a 12 to 18 inch bite guard is all that is needed. Make sure all knots properly constructed and tightened. It’s no time to have a breakdown in the system.

Big flies – Fly size tends to grow during the year reaching its maximum length in late autumn. Flies of 10 to 12 inches or even longer are common. Musky are looking for a meal at this time of year to add body weight for the winter.

Follow the bait – Musky will be on the move in late fall. With the weed beds dying off the structural elements begin to change. And as the food chain moves to find wintering areas, musky are sure to be close by. Areas that didn’t hold musky in the summer and early fall can now be prime areas. Focus on the areas that are holding bait, on travel lanes, and areas in proximity to spring spawning water.

Be methodical – anything can happen in the fall as long as your fly is in the water. Make good casts and cover as much water as possible. Dress for the elements so that you can keep casting even when it gets a little nasty out.

Slow the retrieve – as the water drops into the mid-40s and below, slow down the retrieve. Musky are less likely to follow the retrieve of the fly in colder water. A slow strip and long pause keeps the fly deeper in the water column and is more effective than a fast retrieve in the late fall.

Work with the wind – the wind can make fly fishing difficult and the fall can be a windy time of year. But consider the wind direction when setting up so that large areas can be covered with a single drift.

  • Scott McKee, Niagara Musky Association president:

It is no secret that musky fishing success is all about time on the water. This is especially true in the fall when feeding windows are often very brief and spread out across the day.

Trolling large crankbaits like Legend Perch Baits and Plows, Mr. Toothy Deep Divers, Believers and Hi-Fin Trophy Divers are your best options in the Buffalo Harbor and Niagara River. For colors, think black, perch, walleye, sucker or firetiger.

Jigging or casting, concentrate on humps and ridges in the river and the ends of breakwalls in the harbor.  Red October Baits are always the best jigging option locally.

If you want to catch a musky, either your first or a personal best, you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time chasing after them.  Dress in layers, wear a PFD or better yet an exposure suit. Stay safe, fish as long as you can and get your catch returned to the water as fast as possible.

Niagara River

As long as we are on the subject of musky, these toothy fish were snapping earlier this week as Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island reported have a very good day on Monday with three fish using large common shiners as bait. He’s been targeting 12 to 16 feet of water and there has not been a consistent time for taking fish. Sometimes they hit early in the morning, sometimes its mid-day. On his first pass on Monday, Dick Radel of Williamsville reeled in a 36-inch fish, a musky that Cinelli felt has just migrated in from the lake and set up in the river. Connor Cinelli reeled the next one in, followed by another by Radel. Spending time on the water is key.

In the lower river, trout action was good earlier in the week. Capt. Jeff Draper of Grand Island saw good action along the Artpark drift. His best bait was egg sacs, fished off a three-way rig. Shore fishermen are still doing well with spoons, spinners, jigs or egg imitations. All species guru Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls hit quite a few walleye off the NYPA platform using his homemade jigs, as well as a mix of salmon and trout. Check out the online gallery of photos to see some of his catches.

Lake Ontario and tributaries

Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek has been stained but still producing a mix of salmon and trout if you work at it according to Jim Evarts at The Boat Doctors. Eggs or egg imitations normally work fine this time of year but crawlers, spikes and wax worms are catching some fish, too. The Oak Orchard River has also been producing a mix of salmon and trout on a variety of baits.

Lake Erie and tributaries

Christopher Finitz with Hold the Line Outfitters sends word that all of the tributaries are holding fish. Good numbers of fish, and fishermen, could be found along Eighteen Mile Creek. Cattaraugus Creek was on the drop and should be in good shape by the end of the week … but the threat of a looming storm could throw a wrench into the fishing action. Smaller creeks have been fishing well, too. The key is to move around and find active fish according to Finitz. Off the mouth of the Catt, cast spoons or troll stickbaits to pick up steelies.

Chautauqua Lake

Musky is the focus the final couple of weeks for diehard fishermen seeking out that special trophy. Try casting 9-inch jerk baits, glide baits or slow retrieving crankbaits for success in black or perch colors. Water temperature for the lake was 45 degrees according to Capt. Mike Sperry.

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