A lack of rain has dropped Great Lakes and inland-lake water levels - but not the fish bite, fight and harvest.
Ohio walleye watchers see a possible million-fish catch from Lake Erie, after last year's nasty summer winds dropped the state's harvest count to just over 400,000 marble-eyes.
Charter boaters and recreational anglers along Lake Ontario's New York shore have seen a summer-long trout and salmon run that rarely had boaters venture more than two miles from shore.
Inland lakes heated early this summer and weed growth amassed quickly, but moss density remained low and "stringer" weeds, green masses that grow from the shallows and protrude over deeper water, did little to hamper anglers after bass, musky, pike and other fish that seek weeds for shade and foraging.
Heat continues to hold surface-water temperatures at and above 70 degrees in all but the smaller, elevated water bodies.
Get out the fall patterns for flies, spinners, and body baits, but keep in reach those faster-moving artificials and terminal rigs set up for high-metabolism fish movement. Kids are back to school, Labor Day unofficially ends the summer but warm-weather baits might be a better option to tackle fall schooling patterns.
Boaters in New York State need not run into Canadian corners to catch up with back-to-schooling perch.
Walleye trollers have had to do some running and lure-depth gunning to see a few 'eyes. Better numbers have come from points west of Sturgeon Point, Cattaraugus Creek, Dunkirk and Barcelona on recent outings. Depths of 85 to 90 feet get the major mention.
Worm harnesses prevailed as top taker of both the bigger "Ohio" mamas and of those schooling residents measuring in the lower 20-inch range.
Reports from Ohio have some of those 2003-class fish returning westward to the Cleveland area already. Perhaps they've over-fed on bait schools in Western New York waters. A D'Arcy Egan column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer cited the presence of many 10-year-old (and older) walleye hitting heavy in Erie's central basin.
Fortunate for perch lovers, ringbacks don't roam. They tend to scatter during mid-summer heat and boat traffic. But once a perch pack sets up along the lake's bottom, anglers can key on those areas and find schools with some consistency.
Key they have. West of Sturgeon a 62-foot reading has been central for piling into perch; boaters off Cattaraugus Creek tell Ricky Miller at Miller's Bait & Tackle that 65 feet can't be beat.
Nice but smaller schools have shown off Point Breeze and Evangola State Park; perch, despite 75-degree surface-temperature readings, have moved into their early-fall schooling cycle.
That 75-degree water makes it difficult to gauge the steelie run into Cattaraugus Creek and other larger feeders. Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters reports a good spring catch of 2- to 3-year old steelhead on Erie's streams and, after feeding in warm, bait-hefty lake waters, these steelies may come into streams with some added weights and lengths. The CCO report ends with expectation of "many large 28- to 30-inch plus fish again this fall."
Bass casters can find nice smallmouths at depths varying from 10-foot shallows around rocky reefs (Seneca Shoals, Myers Reef, Evans-Angola Bar, etc.) and drop-shot depths of 40 to 45 feet.
Darker colored tube jigs and Power Baits have been good artificial options.
The bass bite continues in the upper river, but crayfish might be hard to come by for now. "Actually, it's about time to switch over to bass chubs," said Bill Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle in Niagara Street.
Lower river waters remain tepid, but the salmon run has long begun. Casters off the power plant fishing platform have been hooking into mature kings for more than two weeks.
Either vinyl/rubber-bodied jigs or spoons (Cleos get the most mention) have connected on these early-arriving bruisers.
Kings have moved closer to shore, often seen proposing off piers at Wilson, Olcott, Oak Orchard Creek and other casting-access sites.
Boaters have moved into 100-foot depths, setting rigs (spoons, flasher-and-fly) rig down 40 to 50 feet.
Sharon Narburgh at Narby's Superette in Kent, gets some nice reports of trollers speeding up and running J-Plugs for salmon moving fast in their final feeding stages in open water.
Shore casters have yet to see the hefty king run and boaters still connect better at 100-foot depths on mature as well as 2-year-old Chinook. But either bait-school presence in the shallows and/or the reducing daylight hours have salmon making the run for shore earlier than usual.
Get ready for the Second Annual Hooked On the Tonawandas Tagged Fishing Tournament set for Sept. 15 and 16. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has released 100 tagged fish at Gateway Harbor in the Erie Canal.
For details on this event, call 692-5120 or go to gishgatewayharbor.net.