Many an avid angler now focuses on deer hunts and Thanksgiving gatherings.
Freezer-filling and turkey gobbling take up much fishing time, but anglers can give thanks that this area offers outdoors options too many to get to every season of the year.
Right now, anglers have fair-to-good trout takes in tributary streams and a Lake Erie perch presence that few are free to enjoy, with all the other mid-autumn activities ongoing.
Streams of consciousness
Anglers and fish fanciers curse and caress the rainfall hurricane Sandy brought to area streams. Agencies west of New York — some in Pennsylvania and many in Ohio — got negative reports from anglers about Sandy’s battering, but stream-conscious trout trekkers along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie saw nice spikes in trout numbers — browns on Ontario and steelies in Erie’s feeders — with the rise in water levels.
Friday’s predicted rain could change tackle options, but clearing waters have many a fly and single-egg flinger opting for the smallest terminal teaser to tempt trout.
The search for perch
Good reports of perch presence in shallower confines and tighter schooling patterns have come from the shallow edges near Lake Ontario in Irondequoit Bay and the Geneva end of Seneca Lake.
But for boaters close to Buffalo, the deep-water perch run from Sturgeon Point westward to just past Cattaraugus Creek can be stunning — in numbers, if not super sizes.
Monday, after many a day spent with bow and gun trying to waylay a whitetail, an opportunity opened for an afternoon outing for Erie perching, Longtime friends Ken Maciejewski, now of Hamburg, Joe Fischer of Cheektowaga and I gave the waters off Cattaraugus Creek a search for perch.
Rick Miller at Miller’s Bait & Tackle in Irving had reports of many great catches the previous Saturday and a few good numbers on Sunday. The spots most hot had been a 46-foot drop-off directly off the mouth of the Catt. For the past two or three years, a 68- to 72-foot “ledge” halfway between Sturgeon and the Catt had been most productive for perch on warm fall days persisting into December.
Miller has heard of many successes at 56-foot depths just west of creek mouth off Silver Creek and Eagle Bay.
As we headed out we saw just one boat anchored over that 56-foot area; that vessel moved minutes after we started sonar snooping along the creek’s drop-offs.
Many a school of baitfish showed in wide patched at suspended levels and near bottom when we got to 40-foot depths. A quick stop over the 46-foot ledge proved perplexing. The sonar screen was busy with alternate exhibits of baitfish and prey fish at many depths. But it took just a few minutes to know these were either non-feeding fish or bass, sheepshead, walleye, white bass, perch and other big biters gorging themselves on all that bait.
We then started heading directly into the light northerly with hopes of coming onto another ledge with fewer forage fish and better biters. That slow cruise lasted nearly an hour before the screen started showing bunches of belly-to-the-bottom boys down there. Dropping anchor in 69 feet of water and letting out enough line to lock in place for the last four hours of the day, we started fishing.
The sonar screen lit up with fish of assorted sizes; the bites came as soon as we could get a minnow rig down close to bottom. But our minnows attracted mainly smaller perch. Some fought well, bending a lightweight rod for what looked like a fillet-worthy fighter. Many turned out to be runts, nice fighters that Fischer referred to as “over-achievers.”
Ken “Mach” was doing the same thing with a multiple gang rig set up with crappie “lears”, wire struts that put the hook out and away from the main line.
For variety, I tried a fine-wire spreader with small, chartreuse spinner blades and then a three-hook, vertical rig with a heavy, yellow jig to drop down quickly.
Both got bit; both caught fish. But it took all of us some 20 to 25 fish before measuring a perch that stretched past the 10-inch mark.
As the sun approached the horizon we guessed the catch count well beyond 200 perch reeled in and released to keep the nearly 70 “respectable” fish. Mach caught many, including a few smaller keepers that were fillet-worthy.
Fischer took top honors for monsters, lifting in two fish that exceeded the 13-inch line and a half dozen other foot-long folk.
Talk has it that Gene Pauzek, outdoor writer from the Dunkirk area, has been steaming to that 56-foot ledge/edge just west of the Catt. If you boat is still mobile, we might see you out there.
Happy turkey day!