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All fishing seasons are open and a go starting Saturday, and this weekend offers anglers license-free outings in New York State.

On Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, bass anglers have to hold off on keeping bass in Province of Ontario waters until that opener at midnight on Friday.

Big-fish catches abound. From a monster sheepshead caught in Irondequoit Bay to the top winners in the Southtowns Walleye Association’s Annual Tournament, fish stories are rife.

Look for a detailed summary of the Southtowns Tournament results on the Sunday Outdoors Page.

BASSEYE DOINGS

Thursday evening starts the 13th Annual BassEye Celebrity Challenge with a dinner and auction at the newly appointed Rich’s Renaissance Atrium on Niagara Street and the fishing competition out of Buffalo Small Boat Harbor on Friday.

For last-minute details and ticket information, call 204-2535.

LAKE ERIE

The BassEye competition is basically a fun fundraiser held at the start of the summer season, but the event brings together some of the best and most experienced charter captains and hard-core bass and walleye anglers in the area on one day.

No two of the last 12 BassEye fishing days have been the same. Anyone fishing the Buffalo Harbor/Eastern Basin waters this week will be dealing with similar challenges the fundraiser folk will face.

The first week of summer last year saw an influx of walleye schools arriving in Buffalo waters from the north shore. Boaters could drift mid-depths above the head of the Niagara River with bottom-bouncing rigs to connect with respectable numbers of ’eyes.

The same scenario seems to be setting up for this coming week and season. Trollers can run all kinds of worm harnesses at 30- to 45-foot depths off the Departure Buoy, Seneca Shoals and Myers Reef, but drifters have gotten the drift.

Drift rigs have been re-catching on in recent years. Long before side-plainer rigs became popular for suspended schools of feeding walleye, a June Bug Spinner and a worm (often threaded on a Yellow Sally fly) was standard fare for drift Erie’s walleye waters.

Now, drifters go with lighter worm rigs off three-way swivels and monofilament rather than wire or braided lines on the spinners. Smaller spinner blades in either the rounded Colorado or the pointed/oval willow leaf work well.

Also, every day out with these drift rigs means another color dominates. A chartreuse/yellow has been hot. Hot pink often takes over in both overcast and direct-sunlight days. The more important factor here is to get over feeding fish than to have the hottest color and dynamic depth working for you.

Same goes for bass catching. Smallmouths had been big in the shallows, but the nicer smallies are now moving off the shallow shoals and heading out to slightly deeper waters, according to guide/captain Jim “Big Greek” Rores. He suggests looking at depths greater than 20 feet at the start of the day.

Many an artificial will bang bass. The whacky-worm plastic, a “rubber worm” hooked in the middle, often works as well as live bait. But the consistent numbers on bass in warming waters comes with live bait. Either crayfish or a good-sized golden shiner brightens most days spent bass busting.

Live bait is an absolute for picking off perch; most bait dealers still have emerald shiners. As with bass, perch searchers are moving deeper to find good schoolings. Depths of 40 feet off Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek had been solid for more than a week. Now, that number has grown to 56 feet.

LAKE ONTARIO

Trout and salmon trollers have worked near-shore 50- to 100-foot depths and suspended depths over 450-foot readings in search of solid numbers and sizes of kings and trout. Lake trout responses remain so-so as well.

Better bets for casual/recreational anglers have been an improved bass bite and plentiful panfish. Wes Walker at Slippery Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott has seen resurgence in sizes and some numbers of bass in Eighteen Mile Creek. “They’re getting them all the way to the dam,” Walker said of bass under Burt Dam in that feeder creek.

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