With the opening of big-game firearms season Saturday, streams and waterways now see even less fishing pressure from waders and boat-motor noises.
Add bouts of nasty winds and either rain or a brief dimpling of snow, which made it a bit tougher to enjoy the fun of fishing. Yet the few stream walkers and boating anglers were able to make it.
The statewide bass and musky season remains open until Nov. 30, and both species are actively hitting right now. Niagara River musky fishing can be tricky, but Chautauqua Lake has been a bit more cooperative for both hits and catches.
Bass anglers scatter and find fish in odd places as water temperatures fall below the 50-degree mark. Lake Erie reefs, the Niagara Bar and many an inland lake offer smallmouth fishing most anglers pass up at this time of the year.
Rainbow/steelhead trout keep waders and shore casters busy on both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The smaller feeders clear up quicker after a gushing rainstorm, but all feeders offer steelie prospects at times during the fall season.
Perch probably put the most lines in Western New York waters right now. Only a boat or two headed out onto Erie’s open waters, but the bays, shoreline ponds and larger creek mouths from the Niagara River to the Genesee River all provide a perch presence when bigger fish — trout and pike — are not schooling and on a shoreline feed.
Thanksgiving Day, falling a week later this year, puts many a deer hunter in the field one weekend earlier than usual. Fishing sites should be even more accessible and less pressured this coming weekend.
Cattaraugus Creek had been muddy following the last heavy rain, but all the smaller feeders have drawn good trout numbers and nice catch chances. The most mentioned smaller feeder has been Chautauqua Creek at various sites upstream.
As with all feeder streams, some activity occurs at the mouth and angler numbers can be higher. But a start near the outflow often reveals what kind of movement fish are showing with changes in water temperatures, clarity and flow.
Most of the experts make a pass or two at the mouth but do most of their serious and substantial fishing upstream.
Closer to the Catt, Silver Creek has seen some good trout treks with only minimal fishing pressure.
Upper Niagara River shoreline fishing is mainly for perch, with a few trout thrown into the mix. Minnows are the menu for perch at the Squaw Island lock and the foot of Ferry or Ontario Street. Trout casters go with Vibrax spinners or Little Cleo spoons mostly along the locks, but a few trout still show at Ferry Street, according to Bill Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle.
Lower river shore casters outnumber boaters in Devils Hole and the bite is good for both out-of-season lake trout and steelhead trout. Boaters connect from the hole down current to Fort Niagara with Kwikfish. Either a silver or gold metallic base will do; a chartreuse overspray has been most effective of late.
Shoreline perch dominate; stream levels and clarity change but the trout run is solid; Niagara Bar drifters are doing well.
A good mix of lakers, browns and steelies hold over the bar and a Kwikfish is about all that is needed to catch fish. Finding the better edges of the bar up the take, but those days when boaters can safely get over the river’s outflow have been rewarding.
“Musky fishing has been good,” said Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors in Lakewood. Sperry has done well casting the shallows at depths of less than 10 feet in both the North and South Basin. He notes that trollers have connected best at shallower depths along weed edges.
The bass bite has been good for smallmouths with minnows and an assortment of hard baits. With no catch reports as yet, Sperry has seen an uptick of vertical jigging for walleye around Long Point. Perhaps better results will come in after deer hunters get back on the water to work walleye.
Hatcheries stay open
Planned cutbacks and closings of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish hatcheries in 2014 have been put off for the coming year, but insiders report the battle to shut down hatcheries is merely delayed and far from over.
For nearly a century USF&W programs have been designed for mitigation stocking. That is, conducting programs to reduce fish-stock releases, especially in areas where natural reproduction might be increased through improved water quality and stream management.
Fears loom that reduced stocking services could mean losses of fishing license sales and sales tax revenue. The federal hatchery services the Western New York area mainly with cold-water fish species reared and distributed from the Allegany National Fish Hatchery in Warren, Pa.