Congratulations are in order for the winners of this year’s Spring Lake Ontario Counties Trout, Salmon and Walleye Derby. Be sure to check out this week’s column for a rundown of the winners.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Night fishing for walleye has been good to great according to Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga. Don’t use planer boards at night as there are too many people trolling the shallows. Just hold on to your fishing rod and feel the hit -- that's what it's all about at night. Rustowicz likes to use a No. 11 floating Rapala. The chartreuse color has been hot. Best depth has been 6 to 12 feet of water. It’s been loaded with fish from Buffalo to Barcelona. “Start at dusk but you can even start earlier if it’s overcast,” Rustowicz said. Of course, they are picking up some fish during the day, too. With some 45 million walleyes in the lake, you can't help but catch some. Perch action has been decent the past week, especially for bigger fish. Check out the winners of the Southtowns Walleye Association's perch tournament last Saturday in Scattershots this week. The winner, Justin Wekenmann of Farnham, was off Cattaraugus Creek in 50 to 55 feet of water. He went walleye fishing later that night and caught a 17-pound brown trout on Lake Erie. Some big bass have started showing up, too. Joe Zona of Pennsylvania caught a 7-pound bass on Wednesday morning fishing with Capt. Jim Rores of Grand Island. It hit a spot tail chub and was released to fight another day. Lake Erie has been very slow to start for tributary bass fishing due to cold water temps on the lake according to Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters. Smallmouth bass are just starting to show in better numbers on the Erie tribs. Numbers are low on 18 Mile Creek but good on Cattaraugus Creek in sections. Some Erie tribs are producing better than others. The farther west (away from the ice boom area), the more bass you will find on the move into the streams. This is changing every day and bass should be everywhere by this week. There have been reports of anglers catching 40-plus bass in some streams.
Jeff Pippard at Niagara Outdoors in North Tonawanda reports that fishing along the upper Niagara River has been good at Gratwick Park, as well as at the foot of Sheridan. Catch and release smallmouth bass fishing has been working best on tube jigs, Mepps and Vibrax spinners. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls has been doing well on bass from his canoe. In Cayuga Creek, he managed to haul in a 30-inch carp on a worm. There is good walleye action at night at the foot of Ferry Street. In the Lower Niagara River, it’s been a mixed bag of fish as the waters slowly start to warm. Wade Rowcliffe of Rochester hit the lower river from shore in the gorge and caught smallmouth bass and trout in the past week. Stickbaits like the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow in black and silver was working great. Boaters are still picking up steelhead trout, the occasional lake trout and numerous smallmouth bass. Live bait like shiners or egg sacs work well for trout, while bass prefer tube jigs, Rage Swimmers or other types of swim baits. High water has kept the NYPA fishing platform closed, restricting shoreline access. Boat launches at Lewiston and Youngstown are functioning. At the Fort, use boots and at least two people for a safer launch.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
Salmon set up differently than they had in most years for the LOC Derby because of the colder than normal Niagara River water, according to Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association President Joe Yaeger. Some kings remain in the warmer Canadian waters west of the Welland Canal, as well as along the shoreline to east of the power plant all along the southern shore. Yaeger chased the kings in Canada until the northeast wind blew in cold water, scattering the fish. They then fished out of Olcott and ran to the Somerset Power Plant to catch kings. Lots of good fishing to be had if you stayed on the fish. By Sunday, the last day of the LOC Derby, kings were between Wilson and Olcott as the river had warmed to 45 degrees and the King salmon were moving back into their traditional spring areas. Alewives were starting to make their spawning runs into Wilson and Olcott, so the kings won’t be far away. It was mostly a spoon bite with black-based magnum spoons the best off the divers. Kings were caught from 70 to 140 feet of water, mixed throughout the water column. Yaeger expects the next two weeks to be outstanding for kings off Niagara County. The best location to launch is at the Town of Newfane marina, where the ramps are above the water level and both launching and parking is easy. Ramps at Fort Niagara and Wilson Tuscarora are open, but boots are advised. There is now a no-wake zone all along the lake (5 mph) within 1,000 feet of shore. In the Wilson Harbor Invitational Tournament on Saturday, Capt. Rob Taddeo of Hilton and his “Hideout” Team took top honors with the best six-salmon catch, scoring 155.05 points. Most of the fish came east of Olcott off Shadigee. Capt. Pete Alex of Vision Quest reports that lake trout abound in 55- to 90-foot depths from the Niagara Bar to 30 Mile Point. For the WHI, many of the Top 10 teams fished from Olcott to Point Breeze, between Wilson and Olcott over 220 to 260 feet of water and did well on all classes of kings. Fish were scattered from 40 to 140 feet down. They ran spoons in the top 60 feet, flasher-fly combos and cut bait below that.
Capt. Mike Sperry with Chautauqua Reel Outdoors reported that they landed a bunch of crappie and bass earlier this week. The fish are moving onto beds in shallow water from 3 to 6 feet. Water surface temperature was 63 degrees. Fathead minnows on a 1/32-ounce jig under a slip bobber and just a jig bouncing off the bottom is working for crappies. Walleye is still best after dark casting Rapalas in shallow water. Use F9, F11, and Shadow Raps. Capt. Frank Schoenacker of Infinity Charters reports that the daytime walleye fishing on the lake is finally improving as water slowly warms. He was out Tuesday for about three hours scouting for a client trip and caught three walleyes between 17 and 22 inches long on Butterfly blade crawler harnesses. Fish are still sluggish, but things should pick up in next few days. For the Inland Musky opener this Saturday, try casting jerkbaits or small spinners in 6 to 10 feet of water. Twitchbaits in the 6- to 9-inch range usually work well early in the season. Trolling smaller lures like 5-inch Tuff Shads should do the trick on the south basin. Perch and walleye patterns are always a good choice.