Another few cold nights and an inch or so of rain and many anglers will be ecstatic – especially steelheaders.
Weed growth is taking the same tack as tree foliage this year – lush but ready to turn early and often.
Inland lakes anglers have seen a spike in weed-edge activity for everything from panfish to musky movement. Trollers and drifters have gone with assorted hard baits, but a live bait offering might be just right for walleye, pike and maybe even bass right now. Walleye experts from the Midwest have high praise for live-bait rigs drifted or worked in currents. Perhaps that might be a good option for Western New Yorkers looking for ‘eyes.
Panfish tend to school at this time of year, but the schoolhouse often takes up different locations early each fall. Check out the weed edges and pockets for nice sunfish-family folk (bluegill, sunfish, etc.) but many other panfishes work structure edges such as rock piles, drop-offs and anything sticking up off bottom.
Crappie schools can be notoriously drop-off conscious several yards beyond a cast sent along a weed edge. Slowly work drop-offs where panfish were plentiful in and around weeds last spring. That might be the place to start looking deeper but tight to shore for a good score.
Many a rubber/vinyl jig body will work magic on bass and walleye right now, but keep an aerator going on that bait bucket and check out spots with a big minnow sent slowly to the bottom.
Lake Erie
Breezes were a factor most of last week, but just simply getting over a working school of perch meant making moves not seen since the spring.
While the 60-foot starting point has been good off both Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek in recent weeks, pockets of perch have moved into odd drop-off areas either side of Evangola State Park.
Few boaters have checked out the park area; things have been so good west of Sturgeon that most just don’t want to burn the gas to make survey runs. Try it.
Deeper drops just west of the Catt also have produced during early-fall stints in years past. The Silver Creek drop-offs show at 65 to 74 feet; outcomes vary. But when deeper schools move shoreward in search of bait schools, these humps can be good.
Walleye trollers have stored most gear for the year, but give bass a try. Bigger fish move in and cruise edges at Seneca Shoals, Myers Reef and skirt edges inside and out at Evans-Angola Bar.
Curiously, late-season walleye trollers had fun most of that warm-weather fall season last year in areas where bass should have dominated.
Niagara River
Keep in touch with anyone fishing the lower river for salmon. The bite varies at Whirlpool, Devil’s Hole, the power plant fishing platform, Artpark and shore sites downstream. But good salmon numbers remain and shore casters can connect with just about any weighted bait that will drop into shore edges.
Boaters have to work close to shore and often miss fish that shore casters can reach. Egg sacks continue to top the list for straight drifts. Kwikfish make it easier to reset after a catch or drift, but they seem to work better when a breeze gets them wobbling well in the current.
Lake Ontario
All reports come from shore casters and waders along the Ontario shoreline.
Casters below the dams at Waterport and Burt have to time their arrival to meet fish movement and minimal fisherman pressure.
Browns show around piers and steelies move up current with king salmon.
Rains put a few more fish into mid-sized feeders, but the better fish presence remains at Eighteen Mile Creek and Oak Orchard Creek.
As waters clear, terminal tackle becomes critical, with small flies and egg imitations on fluorocarbon leaders to fool wary salmonids.
Steelheader journaling
Area anglers may be familiar with a guide-writing guy named John Nagy. The Pittsburgh-based writer produced four editions of his popular “Steelhead Guide,” which keys on fly-fishing techniques for Lake Erie steelhead trout. This text offers tips useful anywhere steelies swim.
Now, Nagy has produced a “Steelheader’s Journal,” for all seriously interested in efficiently planning and recording trips on Erie tribs.
Along with journaling slots, Nagy provides knot diagrams, do’s and don’ts for particular situations, checklists, profiles and everything an angler might think of — or forget — before and during a fishing trip.
Signed hardcover copies can be obtained directly from Great Lakes Publishing or through the web at