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Fishing beat: Near-record white bass caught in Niagara Gorge

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mark plennert white bass niagara gorge

Mark Plennert of Niagara Falls was one ounce shy of the white bass record with this lower Niagara fish.

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There are a couple of kids events this weekend as National Fishing and Boating Week ends. For adults, the Southtowns Walleye contest begins Saturday (you must be signed up before the start of the derby and be a member of the club), and the Orleans County Open Tournament also will take place this weekend.

Lake Erie and tributaries

Bass fishing in the lake was very good for Brandon Brown of Lockport and Capt. Andy Full of Tonawanda, who took a break from chartering one evening recently. They targeted post-spawn smallmouth moving out to deeper water in 31- to 33-foot depths off Buffalo. Best baits were Ned rigs and drop shot setups. The baits they used to catch all of their fish were a Googan Baits Rattlin’ Ned and a Berkley Maxscent Flat Worm. Goby imitation colors worked best. Brown back color for the flat worm and green pumpkin goby color for the Rattlin’ Ned. The rod Brown was using was a 6½-foot medium “Summit” from Favorite Rods. “The Summit rod is perfect for drop-shotting because it is extremely lightweight, super sensitive and has the perfect action and bend for fighting Great Lakes smallmouth,” said Brown. Full’s rod was the Alpha Angler Spybait Finesse rod. The bottom structure they focused on was sand to shell/rock/rough transitions, but it was mostly sand. In the walleye department, congrats to the Wave Tamer Sportfishing Team led by Capt. Don Ruppert of Angola. They won the WNY Walleye Classic out of Barcelona last weekend with a six-fish weight of 31.71 pounds of walleye, just .06-pound more than Rob Oram’s EyeCon team. Read about the contest in Sunday’s outdoor column. Scott Wind of Hamburg, who was on the winning team, said they used deep-diving Bandits on 3-4-5 colors of lead core in 40 to 50 feet of water, focusing their efforts from Brocton to Van Buren, east of Barcelona. Sam Burgio of Buffalo fished in the WNY Walleye Classic out of Barcelona, too, and it was a bit tougher for the three days he fished. Mono deep divers back 80-120 feet and 2-5 colors of lead core were best. Green color patterns were best for Burgio in 30-50 feet of water, fishing mostly west of Barcelona. The daytime bite is slowly improving, according to Shub Stevens of Catt. Creek Bait and Tackle in Irving, and the night bite is an option but slowing. Stevens says target 45 feet of water west of Cattaraugus Creek for a starting point. Purple worm harnesses and purple sticks have been working. Mark Plennert of Niagara Falls picked up a nice catch of walleyes during the day this week, fishing off the windmills in 25 to 35 feet of water, bottom-bouncing with worm harnesses. The Southtowns Walleye Derby begins Saturday, and you must be registered in advance. Stop in to the monthly meeting to register and join the club Thursday night at 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg. The deadline to register for the new NY Walleye Derby is June 17. Dates for the derby are June 25 to August 7. Check out The catfish are starting to spawn in the tributaries, says Stevens. Action has slowed but will pick up very soon. Cutbait and shrimp are working best.

Niagara River

Mark Plennert of Niagara Falls hit the upper and lower river sections recently. In the upper river, he caught a nice steelhead at Burnt Ship Bay near Navy Island using his all-time favorite lure, a Blue Fox Super Vibrax spinner. The next day in the gorge, he caught a near-record white bass that tipped the scales at 3 pounds, 7 ounces, just one ounce shy of the mark set by Morgan Fonzi of Gasport in the same general location in May of 2020. Plennert was tossing a Zoom fluke to take fish there. Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls noted that white (silver) bass numbers seem to be down this year in the gorge and the smallmouth bass bite has been a bit thin. He has hooked into a few muskies while targeting bass and there could be a direct correlation with fish numbers. Throughout the rest of the lower river, Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston reports action has been slower due to building moss problems. A few bass are being caught around Fort Niagara and Youngstown on swim baits and Ned rigs. Some steelhead are hanging around Devil’s Hole.

Lake Ontario and tributaries

Fishing is good right now out of Wilson and Olcott, according to Capt. Joe Oakes of Newfane. Bigger kings have been hit or miss, but there are good numbers of cohos and steelhead that are helping to keep the bite going. There are decent numbers of fish spread out from 150 to 400-plus feet from the Niagara Bar to Olcott. Cover lots of water and you will find fish. There is a lot of bait around and more is showing up daily. Oakes expects mature kings to start showing up more consistently any day now. Everything seems to be working, including spoons, flasher-fly combos and meat rigs. Tyler “Taz” Morrison of Wilson and the West End crew won the Pro Division in the Niagara Pro-Am last weekend. Their strategy for both days worked well, fishing out over 400 feet of water off Wilson. Find out how they did it on Sunday in The Buffalo News outdoor page. Winner of the Amateur Division was the Mean Machine led by Kyle Hovak of East Amherst, in a special memorial for his late father. Capt. Mark Lewandowski of Reel Mania Sport Fishing reports 300 to 425 feet of water seemed best for Lake Ontario. Fish are in transition, so covering water is the best approach. Mostly spoons in the top 60 feet have been the best. Capt. Jonathan Ross with Route 18 Tackle in Holley reports trout and salmon are spread out from 100 to 300 feet of water, and it should be an interesting Orleans County Open Tournament this weekend. Capt. Chris LoPresti of Maverick Sportfishing has been enjoying some success on kings, coho salmon and steelhead from 40 to 100 feet down. It was a full-on spoon bite on Monday with no meat or flasher-fly bites. Best spoons where Hawk’s brand Rodfather mag, Stinger brand UV NBK and a Hawk’s black ice mag spoon.

Chautauqua Lake

It’s been a great week of fishing on Chautauqua, according to Capt. Mike Sperry with Chautauqua Reel Outdoors in Lakewood. Except for a recent cold front day, the walleye bite has been good. Jig and twister combos, Vibes, bucktail jigs fished in weed pockets are producing plenty of fish. Worm harnesses trolled tight to weed edges is working, especially early morning. Slow trolling around 1 mph is a good speed. White perch will keep anglers busy trolling harnesses. Some anglers are doing well with a jig and leech combo near the weed edges, too. The first week of musky fishing was good as well. Fish are being caught casting spinnerbaits and Jerkbaits on weed edges and over weeds. Speed is always critical, especially in the clear water. If you get follows, speed up the retrieve, according to Sperry.

Inland streams

Guide Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters hit the upper Cattaraugus Creek and was rewarded with a large, 18-inch rainbow trout. The water was gin clear and the sun was high. To catch these big fish on sunny days, Feltrinelli says to look in deeper pools and shaded areas. He also caught some brown trout.

Kids derbies and clinics

DEC will sponsor a Teach Me to Fish Free Clinic at Tifft Farm’s Lake Kirsty in Buffalo on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pre-register with DEC’s Mike Todd at 851-7013. Also on Saturday is a Kids Fishing Derby at West Canal Marina on Tonawanda Creek Road in North Tonawanda starting at 9 a.m. and ending at noon. Get ready for a long list of kids events on June 25 during the state’s Free Fishing Weekend.


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