The first day of summer is also the day when bass and musky season opens in New York State . Anglers can officially catch fish at midnight on Friday.
The season’s start features contests and recreational outings. The next weekend, anglers can look forward to a license-free weekend of fishing June 28-29.
Bass anglers working Lake Erie and Lake Ontario close to Province of Ontario areas should be cautious of both border crossing and possession of bass. The Ontario bass season does not open until a week after New York.
Musky anglers everywhere have to keep in mind the various length limits from the 30-inch statewide measure to a 48-inch regulation for Great Lakes and their tributary waters.
The Southtowns Walleye Tourney ended Saturday, but officials will not disclose winning fish and their entrants until after the Tournament Picnic on Saturday afternoon at the club grounds, 5895 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg.
The perch bite continues. Bait schools still hold in the upper Niagara River, but area bait stores are either low or out or emerald shiners. Call your favorite bait dealer before heading out this week. The perch and bass bite continues, but bait might be debatable.
Perch schools hold solidly off Sturgeon Point and well west. The most mentioned depth for more than two weeks has been 56 feet. Closer to Buffalo, nice pockets of perch open up at depths of 42- to 46-feet and some schools have been found closer to and inside the harbor. But the more consistent ringback tone has sounded out deeper.
Walleye trollers are starting to see some activity off Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek at varying depths with lures trolled closer to the surface than the bottom. Lead core line runners still run three and not more than five colors to get to walleyes right now.
Southtowns Walleye Tourney leaders logged fish at 11- and 12-pound marks, but the word often was an odd fish here and there rather than a workable school that could be charted and followed.
Predictions for the bass opener point mainly to 25-foot depths from Buffalo Harbor to the state line. Early morning runs can produce nice numbers as shallow as 8 or 10 feet, but the better results for numbers and sizes are coming from 15- to 25-foot depths.
With reduced numbers of sheepshead in Lake Erie, bass anglers using live bait have a better chance at hooking smallmouths with crayfish than in Erie’s storied past, when sheepies were everywhere out there.
Dave Watts at Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Derby speculates that the arrival of round gobies could have caused a loss of spawning successes for these generally unwanted sheepsheads. For now, either crayfish (crabs) or larger minnows would be good bass forage for opening day.
Fishing can be hit-or-miss, so-so and patently unpredictable waters right now. A turnover last week had some cold water surface, a massive alewives die-off pushed bait schools around, with what regulars consider a water column still containing too much bait.
On the plus side: these pockets of bait pushed into narrow depths often have king salmon, coho salmon and a few brown and steelhead trout moving into 50- to 75-foot depths at times.
Trollers have to do some running to find fish, but many of the successful runs are over depths of less than 100 feet either side of Oak Orchard Point and eastward.
Two opening day bass contests are open to area anglers.
• The popular Wagon Wheel Restaurant Smallmouth Bass Contest had been held each opening Saturday for more than 15 years.
This year, contest coordinator Bob Hubler announced that the same contest rules and payouts will be offered, but it now will be the Kelly’s Corners Bar and Restaurant.
Just Smallmouth bass will be weighed in, with 100 percent in payout prizes going for the biggest bass and the top three heaviest two-fish entries.
Competition goes from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. and scales open at 524 Cayuga Drive in Niagara Falls at 3 p.m. For registration details, call Hubler at 785-5589.
• Old Orchard Beach Fish and Game Club’s 20th Annual Bass Contest will be held out of the state launch at Silver Lake, with signups taken from 5-8:30 a.m. and competition starting at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Six top prizes will be awarded during an awards picnic at the clubhouse.
For complete details, call (585) 356-3418 or go to oldorchardbeachfishandgame.com.