Say “location” three times and fishing success often depends on that pronouncement repeated repeatedly.
Wind and weather conditions certainly affect where and how an angler is going to catch fish, but the top and bottom line to fishing enjoyment is to be where the fish are biting and to send them the right thing to bite.
As for location, angling seers and gurus ages ago have prompted anglers to “not leave fish to find fish” and in the next breath “you can’t catch fish where they aren’t.”
So anglers get faced with the dilemma that “patience is a virtue” but sitting and watching a line and pole where there are no fish – or at least none that are biting – might possibly be dubbed a “hurt-you.”
In recent weeks the focus in these Fishing Line columns has mainly been on the big lakes for reasonably good reason. Lake Erie is on flaming fire; Lake Ontario salmon are beginning to slam.
Inland lakes, streams and shallow bays are heating up. Many a shoreline shallow that produced pails of panfish and a panoply of plug-sized game fish are now well warmed and heavily weeded. The inland yardstick for a shoreline decline as been when waters reach 75 degrees. Last week when we pulled out of Cattaraugus Creek the surface temperature was 75 and the open-water reader reached 72 before noon.
Nonetheless, savvy anglers can find and hook onto fish in warming waters. During a recent outdoor writers outing in Tennessee we watched boaters working for both bass and panfish in waters fisheries biologists read at 80 degrees while they electro-shocked the shallows of a popular fishing lake.
Another difficulty in reporting on shoreline fishing locations is the pressure problem. Thousands can gather in one spot for a football, baseball or hockey game, but too many anglers all in one “spot” are just too many.
Boaters on Erie and Ontario can cluster in crowds at times. An old saw of Erie is that you can anchor two or three boats together anywhere over deeper waters and in a half hour there will be a dozen boats with anchors down within the distance of a football field. If the fish are biting, the anchoring might be more like a tennis court.
In the last two weeks the major input on column content has been polite, sincere requests for more information on smaller waterways and shoreline accesses that might be fun for all – kids, rookie anglers and anyone interested in catching, not just casting to, fish.
Here, then is a brief update on the Great Lakes and a few suggestions for fun runs to inland lakes and waterways.
Perch schools have moved deeper. Many of the shallower (40- to 50-foot) hot spots are now overrun with white (silver) bass, sheepshead and round gobies. Try scoping the depths of 60 feet or more off Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek for bait schools that attract mainly yellow perch.
The walleye bite continues in deeper waters. Buffalo-area drifters move out to 50-foot depths; Sturgeon Point-to-Dunkirk trollers work 30 to 40 feet down over 75- to 90-foot depths. West of Dunkirk and off Barcelona Harbor walleye schools have held in 60-foot depths and clustered out in 90 to 110 feet at varying depths each day.
Look for a detailed column on the New York Walleye Association’s Amara-Can Tournament on the Sunday Outdoors Page.
If you cannot catch bass with live bait on Lake Erie right now, consider photography or target shooting until the hunting seasons open.
King salmon, numbers and sizes, are moving closer. Trollers see kings over depths of less than 350 feet and run flashers and flies 80 to 110 feet for better catches when easterly winds subside. Brown trout still cruise close to shore in cold pockets often over depths of 60 feet.
The Erie Canal offers shoreline and paddleboat anglers the most versatile access and fish-species option of any Western New York waterway. Schools of fish, especially panfish, scatter along canal banks as soon as waters rise each spring and anglers could find fish above and below locks, around docks and in straight stretches that do not seem to have any kind of structure but channel drop-offs.
Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors in Lakewood sees a solid musky bite on perch colored lures, or anything with vertical stripes. Sperry notes a lack of weed growth so far this season and a scattering of bass and walleye. The better bass bite has been in the South Basin from shore and in a boat along shore.
Weed growth along the shores of Western Finger Lakes has been hefty, but casters working longer docks or paddlers in kayaks and canoes can find decent panfish schooling along weed edges near public launch sites at the southwest corner of Silver Lake, the state launch on East Lake Road in the middle of Conesus Lake and the weeds south of the Honeoye Lake launch at its southeast corner.
Next week: An entire Fishing Line column on inland waters. Forward suggestions and questions to the email address listed below.