Anglers looking for one place to catch a variety of big fish have a super assortment of species to pursue along Lake Ontario’s shoreline shallows right now.
With water temperatures rising, fish moving along shore in either pre- or post spawn stages and abundant bait to forage in the shallows, Lake Ontario is the place to go.
Ontario waters were the place to go for several tackle company reps during a Niagara media event held this past week out of Lewiston.
Some reps headed up to Lake Erie to get in on the early-season bass fishing that impresses all visitors interested in battling big smallmouths.
All media members signed on with the Lake Ontario Counties Derby while fishing the lake; many picked up an Ontario Province fishing license. With both, they could cover good trout and salmon waters on either side of the Niagara River. Most did, but the better bite showed mainly in New York waters throughout the week.
On Monday, I joined Jeff Pierce, a sales manager with Mustad (a top selling hook) and Zack Rednour, national sales manager with Flambeau Outdoors.
Pierce showed impressive managing skills on lake trout with his 20-foot Skeeter, a deep-V hull that functions like a bass boat.
Rednour, with a company well known for its tackle boxes and fishing accessories, talked more turkey than tackle while we fished the Niagara Bar. After all, spring turkey season is open in New York State and back at his home in southern Illinois.
But it did not take Pierce long to put Rednour onto his first laker catch, a nice fighter that fell just shy of 10 pounds. As the morning progressed, Pierce put us onto bigger and better lakers on virtually every side of the Niagara Bar.
Pierce resides in Scottsville, near Rochester, and regularly fishes the bar and just about anywhere he can sink a Mustad hook into scrappy fish.
His gear is typical for Niagara River and Niagara Bar drift fishing. But his terminal tackle is a combination of fine tuning and lure selection. Along with using the Seaguar fluorocarbon leader lines, his tackle choices vary from the usual banana-type lures typically used on these drifts.
“I like the Worden’s Fatfish; it can be run a bit faster than banana baits out here,” Pierce said as Rednour hooked into another laker that morning. Pierce also goes with Worden’s Mag Lip lure, another long-lipped body bait that shows an exaggerated wobble like a banana-type bait and can be run at faster speeds.
Pierce sets his own speeds on bar-current drifts. Most boaters just let the water and wind action put them into fish, but his heavy fiberglass boat kept a steady pace powered with a Minn Kota front-mount Terrova model motor that holds at a steady trolling speed or fixes the boat at a pre-set anchor point when needed.
Most of our fishing was on the move. By the end of the day, Pierce, the seasoned veteran at bar drifting and hopping, had Rednour, the newcomer at this kind of fishing, into a bunch of bruisers that easily passed a scale’s 15-pound mark.
By Monday, Lake Ontario Derby anglers had fish above 20 pounds as the last entry of the Lake Trout Division’s top 20. So most of the fish we caught were released, some after a quick photo shoot.
On several occasions we would have a double-header going; no bragging rights could be made for three on at once. One of the doubles was a pair of clean lakers in the 10-pound range. Both were released right after the photo.
Both Pierce and Rednour are avid bass anglers, so Pierce took a break from trout drifts and began working the rocky edges around Fort Niagara. As with the trout, we hit into bigger smallmouth bass; three of the four weighed in on either side of the 5-pound mark. Pierce’s first smallie fell just short of the 22-inch mark. Even the lowly sheepshead — we got two that day — put on a ferocious fish fight.
We didn’t talk much product, but Rednour brought samples of Flambeau’s new T3 tackle box.
This model is a mini front loader, priced under $20 and set up for easy moves along shore or aboard a boat.
It was put to the test later in the week on inland waters.
It works well hauling big bass baits or mini panfish floats and jigs.
Other product intros included Buck Knives new line of filleting knives. The knives were a demo item at the media gathering, but they saw good field service on a panfish run later in the week. Buck filleting knives hold a good edge through boning and skinning sessions. Check them out at buck.com under the fishing knives section.
The Lake Ontario Derby ends today at 1 p.m. with expectations of some impressive fish sizes. Lake Ontario’s fishery is just getting warmed up for summer runs. Check the Derby Leader board (loc.org) for the catch locations and lures used; most are from ports in Western New York. Fort Niagara to Point Breeze should prove to be a great fishing destination throughout the late-spring and summer seasons.