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The Fishing Beat: Plenty of good fishing to be had for WNY anglers

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Lake erie smallmouth

Capt. Justin Warriner of North Tonawanda with a nice Lake Erie smallmouth. 

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The National Walleye Tour event out of Dunkirk is underway and fingers are crossed that the weather – and the fish – will cooperate. Stop in at the weigh-in at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Dunkirk Pier or watch it streaming at On Lake Ontario, the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby is in the first week of action with plenty more to come, while the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey contest is coming into its final weekend. Life is good … for anglers in Western New York.

Lake Erie and tributaries

In the Innovative Outdoors Walleye Challenge out of Dunkirk, Tyler Hale and his Walleye Reaper team pulled out a close one with a score of 34.79 pounds for six walleyes – just a quarter-pound ahead of John Lignos, of Orchard Park, and his Current Obsession team. Hale’s team of Isaiah Swerdon, of Ashville, and Steve Shoup, of Gerry, found success in 75 to 90 feet of water as far east as Silver Creek. Using a mix of Renosky stickbaits, Worm Burners (a combo spoon/harness rig) and small Michigan Stinger spoons, they fished near the bottom for bigger fish. They caught most of their fish on 7 and 8 colors of lead core line. Some came off the bottom with spoons on riggers, and they were running divers 165 feet back on a 2 setting. Their biggest for the day was 7.30 pounds. Winning the big fish for the main event was Capt. Frank Schoenacker, of Ashville, with his Infinity CRO team with a 7.88-pound ‘eye – his second in as many days. For the rest of these stories, turn to the Sunday outdoor page of The Buffalo News.

Fishing out of Cattaraugus Creek continues to be very good, reports Capt. Tom Sieczkarek, of Pendleton. Target 68 to 85 feet of water, a big target. Best advice is getting your lines down in the 49-foot to 50-foot range and hang on. Lots of 16 to 19-inch fish. He pulled in another 12-fish limit with Chuck Booker, of Amherst, using his P-5s stickbaits. Seven of the 12 were a 4-pound average with the largest just less than 6 pounds. P-5s are the hot bait on divers, as well as on 5, 6, and 8 colors of lead core line. The hottest colors are blue metallic, and gold/black, but color was not a deciding factor to get them to bite. Walleyes are everywhere.  

Shub Stevens, with Catt. Creek Bait and Tackle in Irving, reports the walleye bite is still going strong west of the Catt. around 75 to 90 feet of water. Dipsy Diver rigs are producing tons of fish. Hot Lure this week is the Flicker Minnow 11. Six-ounce bottom bouncers with a firetiger Three-D worm harness is also working.

For the surprise catch of the week, Frank Zak, of Hamburg, was fishing for walleyes with friend Paul Songin, of Hamburg, off Cattaraugus Creek. Songin brought along a secret weapon – his 7-year-old grandson Henry Adams, of Hamburg. They were doing well on walleyes with gold/green and antifreeze harnesses around 80-85 feet of water. Suddenly, the reel started screaming. No, it wasn’t a walleye. After a great fight and a bunch of alligator rolls, they finally pulled the fish into the boat – a 48-inch musky. An epic battle and a happy ending when it was released alive. And they also caught a dozen walleyes.

Smallmouth bass fishing has been getting better and better as fish start transitioning into fall, reports Capt. Justin Warriner, of North Tonawanda. Fish seem to be starting to group up into packs more, with a lot of small fish with big fish mixed in. They are anywhere between 30 to 42 feet of water. He has been catching them on dropshot rigs and occasionally taking some with a Ned rig.

Niagara River

Some impressive catches are on the leaderboard at the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey for both the adults and the kids. Because there are so many categories, we recommend you google the Fishing Chaos app and go to the website. Click on the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey and scroll down to see what the leading fish are.  Plenty of time remains to catch a big fish, and the daily entry fee for adults is only $10; kids are free. You can find out more at Mike Rzucidlo, of Niagara Falls, is back at it along the shoreline in the gorge with deep diving stickbaits to take some chunky walleyes this past week between 10 p.m. and midnight. Walleye fishing in the lower river is still good to very good on the Niagara Bar and along the Stella Drift with worm harnesses, according to Lisa Drabczyk, with Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston. They are also catching a few walleyes off the NYPA platform. In the smallmouth bass department, Drabczyk reports some decent fishing around Fort Niagara, along the Coast Guard and near the green buoy marker. Crabs for live bait; drop shots, Ned’s, and tubes for artificial baits.

Lake Ontario and tributaries

Joe Miller, of Honeoye, jumped out to the early lead after the first week of the Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby for the $25,000 grand prize with a 28-pound, 14-ounce king salmon reeled in off Point Breeze in Orleans County. Runner-up is a 27-pound, 9-ounce salmon weighed in by Don Damrath, of Depew, while fishing off Wilson. Top steelhead is a 12-pound, 9-ounce fish weighed in at the Boat Doctors in Olcott by Frank Abbott, of Pittsburgh. Big brown so far is a 14-pound, 6-ounce Olcott fish weighed in by Maria Bentley, of Derby – caught while fishing with team Gill-T Hooker in the Reelin’ for Cure contest for women last Friday out of Wilson and Olcott. It was Matt LeClair’s Oh Baby’s Ladies winning the friendly competition with a score of 158.22 points for six fish based on 10 points per fish and a point per pound. There were 45 teams in this year’s competition.

Inside water remains slow out of the Oak, according to Capt. Jonathan Ross, with Route 18 Tackle. Target 130 feet or less. A few salmon stuck to bottom can be had but you must work hard and long to get them to bite. The brown trout bite has been best on the inside water. Offshore fishing is decent from the 27 north line to the Canadian border at the 38 north line. As of Sunday, there has been a 2-mile patch of green Niagara River water out there moving around and holding steelhead and salmon. Also notable, it’s the time of year that fish are colored up and biting out of their normal temperature zone, Ross said. He caught two kings in 72-degree water this past week. What's worked for them is spoons on the riggers and flasher-flies on divers. Copper lines with meat rigs is also working. It appears covering more water rather than working small areas has been best for catching salmon and steelhead offshore. Riggers were 35 to 60 feet down.

Fishing out of Wilson is currently in transition, according to Capt. Joe Oakes of Salmonboy Sportfishing. He is waiting and hoping for mature salmon to move into the normal staging areas in 80 to 150 feet of water. During a Niagara County VIP event last week, he was catching browns in front of Wilson in 40 feet of water when his group caught the salmon that won as largest out of Wilson – a 23-pounder hauled in by Mike Casale, of Lewiston (and without any help). Oakes says there is still good fishing offshore in 400-plus feet of water for a mix of steelhead and salmon in the top 80 feet of water. Both spoons and flashers/flies are producing fish. Out of Olcott, the winning big fish was a 22-pound salmon reeled in by Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, fishing with Capt. Tom Pearse, of Grand Island. They were fishing in almost 500 feet of water between Olcott and Wilson. The king was caught on a flasher-fly 50 feet down, beating out Andrea Czopp, of Destination Niagara USA, with a 20-pound king she caught with Capt. Tim Sylvester, of Tough Duty. Pearse says some fish are in closer in the 150-foot to 300-foot depth range, but they are finicky. LeClair and his Oh Baby’s Ladies fished north of the 30-mile Point to Shadigee area. They ran a simple 5 rod spread with mixture of spoons and meat rigs. LeClair said the women did a fantastic job going 9 for 11 throughout the day on salmon, including 6 for 6 on mature kings. 

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