Temperatures are slowly starting to warm up. For the first time in a month, we finally hit above-average numbers. Combined with a little rain, this could be what the fish doctor ordered to turn things on. Hopefully it’s not too much rain in some of the streams with the opening day of inland trout just around the corner, set for Sunday.
Inland trout opener
While some of its mystique has been lost with the expansion of no-kill areas that are open year-round and Great Lakes tributaries that are also a 12-month option, it’s still an exciting time of year. Just ask the folks who participate in the 57th Annual Naples Trout Derby set for April 1. You still have time to register at the derby headquarters located at the Naples Fire Hall on Vine Street in Naples from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 31 or from 4 a.m. to sunrise on April 1. Entry fee is $8 for adults 16 to 64 years of age, $5 on either side of that age spectrum. Plenty of fish are being stocked in area waters and the easiest way to find out where and when is to check out the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov or call the Randolph fish hatchery hotline number at 358-2050 (this is a new number).
Lower Niagara River
Barring any kind of a weird severe weather event, the New York Power Authority will be opening the fishing platform located in the gorge of the Niagara River on April 1. At the same time, they will be opening access to the reservoir up top – access that can be gained off Upper Mountain Road in Lewiston or Reservoir State Park. Action in the lower river has been a bit difficult with the clear conditions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish. Minnows and egg sacs were both working for Capt. Chris Cinelli and Capt. Ted Kessler, both of Grand Island, earlier in the week. Pink egg sacs and minnows were both producing some big steelhead. One of the biggest we’ve seen was a 35-inch, 17-plus pound fish caught by Jack Mings of Amherst. He was drifting a peach-colored egg sac while he was fishing with Capt. Matt Gantress over the weekend. Check out the weekly fish photo gallery to see that fish and quite a few others from around WNY and beyond.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Danny Colville at Colville Outfitters in Hamburg is a student of the Lake Erie tributaries. He reports that the lower section of Cattaraugus Creek has good numbers of 1 1/2-year-old steelhead chasing bait around with few drop-back fish. Fishing is only fair but if you move around you can put together a good day. The fresher fish are hitting a variety of jig colors and roe sacs under a float. Swinging streamers can also be effective on the fly. In the mid-section of some of the creeks, some pre-spawn fish are getting ready to drop their eggs. Whether they came in the last month or two or just recently, they will spawn quickly and be gone (females). The males will hang around and protect the nests. The fish will be hungry because of the energy used (and needed) for spawning. Egg imitations can be very effective this time of year because these fish will target eggs for their protein value as well as to limit competition of their own hatched eggs. Kwikfish and Rapala plugs can work well in these bedding areas because the trout think an invader is trying to eat their eggs.
Instead of fishing for the spawning fish that have worked so hard to get to their spawning grounds, try to fish behind them, Colville sugests. Most of the time the best fishing is below spawning areas due to the natural chum slick that is created by the spawning fish. The pre-spawn fish are sucking up water in their stomach cavity to harden their eggs for the elements of the river and gravel. These eggs will have a pronounced blood dot most of the time and the fish will be spitting the eggs right when you pull them out of the water. In the Cattaraugus Creek it is important to release fish. Many think we are seeing naturally reproducing trout in the smaller creeks south of Buffalo. With the large amounts of immature fish in the creeks and harbors, the Upper Niagara should be fishing well, too. The stray Ohio Big Manistee fish will start showing up as the creek temperatures rise into the mid-40’s. Pay attention to the ice along the lake. When ice out hits, all the harbors should see immature steelhead looking for bait. The creeks are slightly colored up and, when they come into shape, look for some fresh spring spawners and the smaller immature fish. The smaller fish are so aggressive they will bite well in dirty water if the jigs or flies have good movement and the sacs or egg imitations are bright and flavorful, according to Colville.
Not too much going on other than the canals are starting to open a bit. Need some warmer weather to help turn things on.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
Some of the same occurrences on Lake Erie streams also happen in the Lake Ontario tributaries. Low, clear conditions are always a challenge but adapting your presentation to those sparkling waters can lead to a productive day. Anthony Henley of Buffalo sends word that he was out over the weekend in a Niagara County tributary and he down-sized his fishing line to 4-pound fluorocarbon and he also used a 1/64-ounce black jig tipped with a spike to trick steelhead into hitting. He ended up catching 11 fish for the morning by changing things up.
Bullhead Contest April 6-8
The Wilson Conservation Club’s fifth Annual Bullhead Derby starts up on at 5 p.m. April 6 and it concludes at 1 p.m. on April 8. Best two fish weight wins the big prize. The weigh station will be open only on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the club located on Route 425 in Wilson. Call Eric at 628-6078 for details and to find out how you can register. They have started to catch some bullheads off Wilson-Tuscarora State Park but locations and baits are being kept tight to the vest.