Like walleye, perch are having an erratic run in Erie’s eastern basin.
For weeks, boaters have been working trolling or drifting rigs over depths of less than 50 feet in U.S. waters east of Sturgeon Point.
Warming surface temperatures should push these walleye schools deeper and eventually into international waters.
But a few boaters drifting depths of less than 30 feet have connected with walleyes — not a bass in sight — while running lighter spinner-and-worm rigs. The last blow may have changed that shallow-water feeding foray, but Previous runs along rock or gravel bottoms east of Sturgeon Point, either side of the Eighteen Mile Creek mouth, produced spring- or fall-like fishing conditions
If you have a pet spring drifting spot in waters at the head of the Niagara River, give it a try. Some areas take you well into Ontario waters and a non-resident license is a must. Along Donnelly’s Wall down to the Emerald Channel and out to Waverly Shoals still produce walleye in areas that should be just bass and gobies by now.
Out deeper, purple or green variations on worm harness blades gets major mention, but hard baits such as Renoskys, Rapalas and some models of Thundersticks do the trick. Bright colors in many pattern variations have worked, but the killer color on Renoskys has been the red-headed gold body.
Perch prospecting often will not pan out in mid-summer heat, but a few boaters have found cooperating schools off Cattaraugus Creek and slightly east. Most mornings begin with a reconnaissance run at depths either side of 60 feet.
But a few venturesome perchers have hit into schools of ringbacks along shallow drop-offs less than a mile from shore at depths up to 20 feet. None of these schools hold along these structures. Experts guess they are either pursuing crayfish of passing minnow schools. Either way, minnow bait works better than nightcrawlers when perching, on average.
Bass can be fun in either the upper or lower river. Drifters working around Strawberry Island and the east river have done well with crayfish along weed edges.
Lower river drifters have had good hookups with live bait or vertical jigs in many of the popular lanes. Moss is a presence but not a major problem.
Worm harnesses with red and yellow beads and blades have been good on some lower-river drifts in places for walleye. Drifters have to do some looking and checking, but a few bigger fish have shown up for bottom-bouncing rigs.
Karen Evarts at Boat Doctor in Olcott says, “They’re on fire out there,” a reference to the steelies out deep and pockets of king salmon in closer.
Orange has appeal for steelhead salmon cruising close to the surface over depths of 350 to 500 feet. Orange spoons, spinners and flashers are smelters for steelies right now.
In closer, trollers have done well on bigger kings, some at and above 25 pounds, since the water column has become a bit more stable. Either spoons or flasher rigs connect; green colors have been the most productive in relatively clear waters at depths of less than 100 feet.
Western Finger Lakes
Inland lakes waters have warmed considerably. The only major fish die-off seen to date has been at Canandaigua Lake. Most carcasses were carp and the best guess so far has been a post-spawn shock with not enough oxygen in rapidly warming waters to sustain recovery and early-summer feeding.
Perch has been the biggest draw at Canandaigua; sunfish have dominated the Honeoye Lake fishery; weed edges at Hemlock have shown good number of crappie; Conesus Lake is seeing a perch rebound, and Silver Lake weeds hold a fair number of perch as well.
Several major tournaments/derbies are set for the remainder of the summer on the Great Lakes. Here are two open to area anglers in late July:
• Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout, out of Cattaraugus Creek, Friday and Saturday. Call Bob Rustowicz (830-6394).
• Niagara River Anglers Association “Annual Niagara River Smallmouth Bass Contest,” lower river, Lake Ontario and it tributaries, Saturday. For registration options, go to niagarariveranglers.com.