Labor Day Weekend could be better for both warm-water species (walleye, bass, pike, etc.) and the late-summer run of trout and salmon in the big lakes.
Many a fish species has its allure, but the most mentioned success stories from recent outings have been of bass. Sizes get the big play for photo sessions and bragging rights, but a continued run of nice catch counts in assorted sizes make smallmouths and largemouths a worthy target for the recreational angler.
Even Lake Ontario, with its depleted smallie count, offers some fair-to-good largemouth possibilities in bays and creek mouths from Rochester to the Niagara River.
Live bait has been lively. In general, nightcrawlers (worms) have been good for walleye; crayfish (mainly soft-shelled crabs) have worked best for bass. Leeches can be deadly and bigger chubs take their share of game fish, but worms and crabs get the most attention as summer fisheries head toward fall feeding forays.
Artificial lures of all kinds have gotten all kinds of play this summer. Crankbaits have succeeded on many inland lakes where moss and algae bloom. Shore casters have worked crankbaits on everything from bass to pike to walleye this season.
Spinner baits seem to be in a tie with whacky worms (center-hooked plastic baits) in all waters open to bass fishermen. Worms are the easier option; size is a slight factor in selecting a rubber worm that works best when just dropped and allowed to wobble toward bottom like an injured, easy target for feeding fish.
Spinner baits call for some sizing up, but the beauty of the smaller sizes is that it works on good-sized panfish (bluegills, crappie, perch, sunfish, etc.) as well as bass, pike and walleye.
Color selection has varied. With increasing water clarity, greens and yellows have been more effective than white or “glossy” (silver, gray, pearl) jig bodies on most inland lakes. Vertical stripes help. With a profusion of perch the past two years, even lakes with minimal perch presence have been good for body baits, jig plastics, and spinner blades with bands that make things look like a tasty perch fingerling.
Speed kills. Often slower speeds can draw strikes from lazy fish – pike and bass as well as walleye. Recent cold fronts and that skein of cool nights have lowered water temperatures and often slowed both bait and game fish movements.
But do not be lulled into a slow troll, retrieve or drift presentation. For example, last week on a fly-in fishing trip to the Gouin Reservoir a snag on a drift called for running up to pull a jig out of the rocks. With a 20-HP motor running just 15 feet overhead, a northern pike hit that jig as it popped out of the rocks and was being reeled in fast to check for hook and body damage.
As always, check safety gear aboard the vessel and watch for what could be heavy boat traffic this weekend of predicted warm weather. Even with a flotilla of fishing and cruising craft out there, bait schools abound in Great Lakes and inland lakes.
Everyone checking out the overall walleye moves put the bulk of fish out deep and headed west toward Ohio. But some well-equipped drifters still poke a few ‘eyes in the headwaters of the Niagara River. Boaters working U.S. waters still see a fair share of walleyes on drifts close to buffalo.
The same can be said of 60-foot depths off both Sturgeon Point and Dunkirk Harbor – at times. This past week, with bouts of high winds and farm-pond calms, walleye trollers have had some unusual catches shallower as well as deeper. While depths are a factor, heights of movement for feeding fish vary. This past week, expert anglers report finding fish close to bottom at 60-foot depths and less than 25 feet down in waters deeper than 80 feet.
Speed and boat direction might be more important than terminal tackle. Mark Scoville, walleye troller of note, has run Renoskys (minnow-type body baits) for good catches all summer. Other experts have gone with worm harnesses most of the time. Both offerings have scored well at deep and shallow settings.
With all the good and mixed walleye reports, a run for bass and/or perch could be just as good this weekend and in weeks to come.
Kings are moving into shore. Casters off Olcott Pier have connected with a couple of Chinook, but the schooling salmon are still a big off shore.
Wes Walker at Slipper Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott gets good reports of kings running as close as 40-foot depths, but the bulk of the big boys — and mamas — hold at 60 to 140 feet and hit at mid depths for trollers right now.
The shoreline king run might be early this year.