National Fishing and Boating Week starts Saturday and runs through June 9. Fishing contests abound as we start to move into late spring and early summer. Two contests will be celebrating 35 years this year – the Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament on Friday and Saturday out of Wilson and Olcott, and the Southtowns Walleye Association’s Walleye Derby June 8-16 on Lake Erie. There are loads of kids contests this weekend, too.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Fishing action is good all around the lake. Gerri Begier at Bill’s Hooks in Dunkirk reports solid action in 20 to 40 feet of water off Van Buren Point both day and night. Floating stickbaits have been a hot commodity for walleye with Rapala and Renosky baits doing well in black and silver or rainbow trout color patterns. Some casters are working the creek mouths and walking into the lake to take walleye with stickbaits, too.
Smallmouth bass are all over the place right now, both in the lake and in the lower creek sections. Dominic Begier caught a nice 5-pound smallmouth casting in Dunkirk Harbor over the weekend. Captains Jim Skoczylas of Sheldon and Mark Hitcome of Fredonia fished out of Dunkirk over the holiday weekend with their wives (Kim and Tammie) in Mark’s new Ranger boat. Fishing off Van Buren in 30 feet of water, they trolled No. 9 Flicker Minnows and Walleye Deep Bandits 150 feet back on braided line. They caught 15 walleyes in 2 1/2 hours.
Capt. Jim Hanley of Angola reports that some days are better than others. Bouncing or dragging the bottom with tubes has been working for bass, but walleye – usually bigger fish – also have hit this bait. Myers Reef is a good spot, as is Seneca Shoal. The South Gap is holding some bass, too.
The bass fishing in the upper Niagara River has been hopping according to Denis Kreze of Fort Erie, Ont. A Venom Salty Sling was the hot ticket over the weekend when he caught over 40 bass bouncing bottom. In the lower Niagara River, Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports good action for steelhead in Devil’s Hole with drifters using minnows. Shoreline casters are using beads and spinners, but access is limited due to high-water levels. The NYPA fishing platform has been closed due to the high water. Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters has had good success downriver using MagLips off three-way rigs, as well as minnows for the trout. The bass have been hitting swim baits and tubes. It’s been a good mix of fish this week.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
This is tournament week. The Niagara County Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament is May 31 and June 1 and that usually means the fishing is about to change significantly. It seems to happen this time every year. According to Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Wet Net Charters (and defending champion of the Professional Division), the bite for salmon and trout had been good from the Niagara Bar to the Somerset Power Plant in 100 to 200 feet of water. Fish were everywhere all through the water column. However, a hard-northeast blow will change things completely and it’s anyone’s guess what that will do with the fish. Then again, because it is tournament week, no one would share too much information anyway. The record high water does not influence the fish and fishing and Lake Ontario is open for business. Take note that there is a no wake zone within 1,000 feet of shore. The Orleans County Open Tournament is June 8-9. The deadline to register is Friday. Call 585-589-3102 for more info.
The walleye bite is decent in the early morning, according to Mike Sperry of Chautauqua Reel Outdoors. Slow trolling worm harnesses close to the scattered weed line is working. About 1 mph is ideal as far as speed. Running the harnesses behind bottom bouncers is the best method. This will work on the north and south basin, according to Sperry. A 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a black 4-inch Mister Twister is a great way to jig up some walleye. Quarter-ounce Vibes short cast and pumped back to the boat will work, especially with the water temp rising. White bass will nail these, too.
The crappie bite was good over the weekend in shallow, however that will start to diminish as the water warms. Use 1/32 ounce jigs and minnows under a slip bobber. From reports, the musky fishing was good for opening weekend with several boats reporting multiple fish. A bunch of fish were landed casting on Saturday. Water temperatures in the lake finally hit 65 degrees according to Capt. Frank Schoenacker of Infinity Charters. His focus is on the southern basin for this time of year. On Memorial Day, he caught four walleyes, two on real worms and two on plastics.