Lake Ontario is seeing more fishing pressure with the start of the Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby and some decent fish have already started to show up at the scales. Lake Erie walleye fishing has slowed a bit but look for some good catches for Rob Ray’s Big Dawg Tournament out of Dunkirk on Saturday, with a big fish Friday to help kick things off.
There are plenty of walleyes out there to catch. It’s just figuring out what the fish want on any given day. Capt. Jim Skoczylas reports that he’s been doing pretty well out of Cattaraugus Creek, targeting 55 to 65 feet of water using lead core line and dipsy divers to take most of his walleyes.
In the morning, fish were up higher in the water column and three to six colors of lead core worked best with a mix of stickbaits and harnesses. As the day went on, the fish dropped deeper and he needed five to seven colors of lead core line to get his baits into the fish zone. Best body bait was an Ultimate Aurora Bay Rat plug and a Flashy Muff Bay Rat. Best worm harnesses were antifreeze with Colorado blades and black and purple colored blades.
He also did well during the CF Greater Niagara Celebrity BassEye Challenge last Friday, running a group of Buffalo Bills Alumni on board his boat. Ken Jones of Niagara Falls was the top walleye catcher among the celebrity contingent for the tournament. All their action came within a mile of the International Line.
There are still plenty of fish hanging around the Buffalo area, too. Ed Schintzius of Silver Creek trolled the waters around the departure buoy for the BassEye contest and he boated nine 'eyes working three, four and five colors of lead core line off in-line boards. The biggest 'eye for the day on Ed’s boat was a 27.5-inch fish reeled in by Izzy Rufat from Orchard Park. Biggest walleye for the BassEye was a 31-inch toad that was reeled in by Gavin Persel, Sabres alum Danny Gare’s grandson. The most walleye releases? Robert Ray Jr., the son of another former Sabre and current broadcaster.
The winning team (again) was Ferguson Electric led by Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island. The crew of Mark Jacobs, Mike Sullivan and Patrick Ryan teamed up to set the pace overall among the 22 boats, and Jacobs was the eventual winner with a total score of 1,100 points. They started out pulling worm harnesses to pick up some walleye (they needed to be 18 inches for the tournament) and then by 10:30 a.m. targeted bass. Cinelli found a school of post-spawn hungry fish in a big weedy flat. They were able to pull 25 bass in the 17- to 20-inch range and ended up with 31 total.
At Dunkirk, Capt. Jim Steel of Dream Catcher Sportfishing reported a very good WNY Heroes Fishing Outing last Friday. They ended up with 75 veterans and 34 boats. Big walleye for the day was a 9.49-pound fish caught by Zach Reynolds that hit a stickbait while fishing with Curtis Loveless. Top female was Sandra Zebetta with a 9.44-pound walleye that she caught with Rich Bowenski. Steel reports good walleye fishing west of Dunkirk in 60 to 65 feet of water using all lead core lines of three, four, six and seven colors. Purple and pink stickbaits have been producing walleye with an occasional steelhead. Best speed was 1.8 mph.
Off Point Breeze, lots of high kings were caught over 70 to 160 foot of water, according to Joe Yaeger of East Amherst. These fish are easily accessible by the small boat fishermen. After a previous northeast blow, kings were being caught in the top 40 feet of water with a surface temp of 47 degrees. The fish were coming on all spoons fished from downriggers, slide divers and lead core rigs. Best spoons for Yaeger were R&R Black Magic and Silver Green Tip.
They also took a 13-pound steelhead during the Summer LOC Derby that started last Saturday, but not everyone in the boat was entered. Yes, they would be leading the division. By the end of the weekend, they were targeting salmon 80 feet down and deeper. The summer program was back, using flasher-fly and cut bait rigs. Large pods of bait have been holding from the Niagara River to the Oak, which should help keep salmon and trout around. With the warmer water come the sea fleas. Yaeger recommends Blood Run Sea Flea line to help minimize the problem. Capt. Joe Gallo of Two Bulls Sportfishing in Wilson went deep for a second-place king in the LOC when Bob Katta of Dunkirk caught a 25-pound, 10-ounce salmon in 275 feet of water. They were running a meat rig down 150 feet on the downrigger.
Speaking of the LOC Derby, the current leader for the $10,000 Grand Prize is a 26-pound, 9-ounce salmon reeled in by Brian Gambell of Hilton. Check out www.loc.org for a complete leaderboard.
Moss is responsible for some difficult fishing conditions in the Niagara River, both above and below Niagara Falls. In the lower river, Gianni Etopio continues to do well on carp using corn off the NYPA fishing platform. Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston has been catching a mixed bag of fish, including bass, walleye, catfish and sheepshead. Minnows and crayfish are the ticket if you can find areas without as much moss.
The walleye bite is still going well with the majority of fish being caught slow trolling worm harnesses, according to Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors. Stay tight to the weedlines around 9 to 10-feet of water in the south basin and around 12 feet in the north basin. Hammered brass in Colorado or willow leaf blades work well. A three-quarter ounce to 1-1/2-ounce bottom bouncer is the best way to get the harnesses to the bottom. Trolling around 1 mph will get it done. Yellow and white perch are abundant and will hit the harnesses so take plenty of crawlers.
Musky fishing is good both casting and trolling. For casting, use 6- to 9-inch Jerk baits near and over weed beds. Black, black and orange and perch patterns work the best. Top water baits in the morning and the last couple of hours in the evening will work. Trolling crankbaits like Tuff Shads near weedlines and over open water will produce as well.