Statewide musky and bass season closed last Friday, but warm days have left some fisheries wide open for late-fall fishing fun on many fronts.
True, streams could use another round of rainfall and lake levels need to see increased rains and snows through the cold-weather season. But given all that, area anglers benefited from Hurricane Sandy’s deluge delivery. Boaters are able to get afloat and enjoy some productive outings while stream waders talk about an abundance of trout.
With winter just a couple weeks away and fall feeding forays doing a major ding to forage bases in lakes and streams, anglers able to sneak out of Santa-season plans can get in on some impressive numbers for early-December bites and catches.
Deer hunters will be afield for the regular gun season and muzzleloader minders will continue their pursuits until Dec. 18, so many a once-busy fishing hot spot is now open ready for some serious rod-bending and reeling.
Creek levels looked good from Buffalo to Barcelona on Monday; anglers enjoyed early-fall temperatures and fair-to-good steelie runs early this week. Cattaraugus Creek remained slightly stained but fishable. Promised rains and temperature drops should precipitate even better stream conditions for ‘bows headed into feeder streams.
Perch schools remain solid out deeper, but few boaters have gotten in on ringback runs. Most of the action picks up out deeper; Rick Miller gets reports from regulars of the better bite coming from depths of 56 to 70 feet. Earlier this week, bait schools showed solidly on the sonar screen at 40-foot depths, but the better bite came from 60-foot depths.
Last week, 62-foot depths showed the most marks and best buckets of perch. On Monday, over a depth of 64 was where to score for bigger perch.
Critics — anti-anglers and regular — point out that pulling bottom fish from Erie’s depths results in a loss of fish. Hooking mortality rates vary, but boaters who have been anchored a while and are catching fish always seem to be encircled by a flock of sea gulls awaiting castoff dead minnows and smaller fish too stunned to return to the bottom.
As always, when fishing over depths of 50, 60, 70 or more feet, ease the retrieval rate when setting the hook on a biter too small for filleting. Often, moving from a spot overrun with smaller fish can eventually produce a place with those plug-sized perch worthy of a fry, bake or broil.
Perch schools in the upper river have moved closer to shore. Casters had done well on walleyes at the foot of Ferry Street and Ontario Street a while ago, and some casters still give it a shot just before dark for rolling a marbleeye or two.
But the better shore bite has been yellow perch along Buffalo and Grand Island accesses. Jigs and small spinners take a few perch and other panfish, but a fresh emerald shiner shines when it comes to catch sizes and numbers, notes Bill Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle on Niagara Street.
Lower river drifters are seeing more steelies than lakers in ideal (mildly stained) waters. A meat menu — either egg sacks or live minnows — can hammer steelheads. “Even Kwikfish can take them now,” said Capt. Frank Campbell of a trout run that can produce a dozen or more fish per outing, with a couple at or above the 10-pound mark.
Stream action has slowed. “The fish are there but they have developed lockjaw as water levels drop,” said Sharon Narburgh at Narby’s Superette in Kent. Waders see fish in Oak Orchard well up to the Waterport Dam and in smaller nearby streams such as Johnsons Creek and Marsh Creek.
Smaller baits, longer fluorocarbon leaders and approaches away from other anglers all help in beefing up the bite.
Perch schools have moved into creek mouths from the Niagara River eastward to Sodus Bay. On warmer days, boaters have headed out to fish near creek mouths for a few nice ringbacks.
The most and biggest perch reports come from deeper waters of Irondequoit Bay. “There are only a few diehards still going out there and getting them good,” said Rick Reagan at Jay-Ve Fishing Tackle in Rochester. Reagan has a good stock of fathead minnows ,and they do the trick on perch in Irondequoit’s deeper waters. “They have to move around, but 50-foot depths near the (Route 104) Bridge have been best,” Reagan said of successful boaters’ recent outings.
At every site along the Ontario shoreline, a live minnow held close to bottom is the way to sit and hit on perch.