Anglers can give thanks for a cornucopian fall season of tolerable weather and nice catches of everything from panfish to muskellunge.
Winds could have been a bit more cooperative, but warm temperatures and fairly good water levels on lakes and streams in early autumn made accesses and catches enjoyable.
Perch remain the most productive panfish, but few musky-minded anglers have gotten out to the hot spots on the upper Niagara River and both basins of Chautauqua Lake to hook into the biggest member of the esox (pike) family.
Seasons for both bass and musky remain open until Saturday for area waters in New York State. Promised cold and stormy conditions might put off the next serious musky trip until the spring opener, the third Saturday in June.
While walleye have made an occasional showing along shore in the upper river, rainbow/steelhead trout have put in more appearances at sites where most casters were reaching out for perch.
Irondequoit Bay provided the most shallow-water perch prospects earlier this fall, and the last good catch readings remained at 15- to 25-foot depths for boaters who could get out before and during the start of gun deer season.
If patterns prevail, typically the place boaters last see good perch schools at Irondequoit is where the first walkers find them when ice forms.
Boaters have pretty much left the deeps between Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek. All center docks have been pulled from launch ramps at both sites. The last word from Rick Miller at Jerome Miller’s Bait & Tackle in Irving was “shallower.” The few boaters that got out during mid-November scored well at depths of 40 feet and often shallower.
With holiday gatherings set for Thursday to the weekend and firearms deer season continuing to Dec. 8, many fisheries should be wide open to the well (warmly) dressed angler right now.
“They’re all frozen over” was the general read from Dave Watts at Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Derby.
In fact, smaller streams along the Lake Erie shoreline show sheet or skim ice in most places and angler pressure has been low and slow from Buffalo to Barcelona. A few walkers have worked Cattaraugus Creek during periods of slight clarity, but many shallow areas often begin the day with a pane-like glass surface, a pain for trout anglers.
Lake Ontario streams have seen better conditions for fish movement and angler activity. Waders either side of Point Breeze have hooked into both steelies and brown trout while working Oak Orchard Creek and nearby smaller streams.
Many of Ontario’s creeks have a trout presence from the mouth of the Niagara River to well east of Oak Orchard Point. Johnsons Creek showed the most activity for both steelies and browns, but Eighteen Mile and Twelve Mile creeks often see some peaks in trout movement.
Stained waters clear quickly after a storm and the smallest lures and fly patterns often get the most hits and fish. On both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario feeders a small (panfish-sized) jig and a waxworm often get chewed when bigger terminal tackle becomes too visible.
Lower river high
Cold, north winds have become more thrilling than chilling for boaters able to work drifts in the lower Niagara River.
Capt. Chris Cinelli put clients onto about 30 fish Tuesday morning while drifting egg sacks. “Bead color didn’t matter,” Cinelli said of the chartreuse start that went to pinks and yellows with equal successes.
Lake trout, closed to angler possession until Jan. 1, are at their peak of fall spawning. “Just about every trout we cleaned is loaded with laker eggs right now,” Cinelli said of the brown trout and steelhead trout that lie close to the bottom and feed heavily on lake trout eggs drifting down current.
The lake trout presence is even great out on the Niagara Bar, along with attendant egg eaters such as browns, steelies and the occasional coho salmon moving in on lake trout spawning around the bar.
Cinelli looks for continued good water conditions in the lower river, the result of north winds that do not stir Lake Erie waters and stain lower-river water clarity.
Bass University discount
The popular two-day Bass University comes to Western New York Jan. 25 and 26. The Convention and Event Center in Niagara Falls hosts this series of presentations given by professional bass anglers.
A 15 percent discount is offered for registrations made by Monday. Special rates are offered to students and kids age 17 and younger. See thebassuniversity.com.
Just about every report on invasive Asian carp deals with the prospect of invaders moving up the Mississippi River toward the Great Lakes. Look for a detailed report on Asian carp test findings on the Sunday Outdoors Page.