Hunting season openers for deer, cottontail rabbit and woodcock in Western New York opens even more waters to anglers seeking solitude while finding where the fish are biting.
Many an access will be more open for shore-bound and boating anglers to get out and fish. Continued warmth and breaks in the string of high-wind days have given open-water anglers a few good early-fall outings, but some access bans and restrictions are worthy of note.
Public fishing areas are not open to anglers and other outdoors-enjoying folks at federal refuges such as Iroquois and Montezuma. A news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that current program funding expired September 30 and all recreational activities have been canceled.
The release noted, “public access to (USF&W) properties will be prohibited and fish and wildlife management activities and public programs will be canceled. This includes all recreational activities like hunting, fishing, bird watching, hiking, etc.”
For more details on these closures, go to doi.gov/shutdown; oneinterior.gov; or opm.gov.
Also, the New York Power Authority announced closure of the public fishing pier at the base of the Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant weekdays for the remainder of the fall fishing season. Safety concerns prompted officials to close the area while installing a paved access road separating pedestrians and motor vehicles.
Windy conditions are the only restriction on anglers working Erie’s open waters. When breezes are balmy boaters are able to get to deep-water perch sites for some impressive catches. Bigger ringbacks are not everywhere in 60- to 72-foot depths; all schools are not solid numbers of fish measuring 10 inches or more.
In fact, many a waypoint (marked GPS reading) that was a hot spot a day earlier could be a blank sonar screen and a fishless foray today. Once boaters headed west from the head of the Niagara River reach 30-foot depths, bait schools show scarcely on the sonar screen. Often, those schools are suspended way off bottom and well away from bottom areas most perch maintain as their base/habitat.
Bait, for dealers and recreational anglers, has been a challenge. Emerald shiners move in and then away from shore in the upper Niagara River and along the lake’s shoreline. Perhaps that might explain why the lake’s perch schools have remained deeper in recent years.
On the plus side, boaters gather in packs over 62- to 68-foot depths between Sturgeon Point and Cattaraugus Creek. With bait on the move and wave directions changing daily, perchers have had to move around each day to find fish. When waves and schooling cooperate, limits of bigger perch have come in at both the Catt and Sturgeon with either emeralds or golden shiners.
Most boaters have put away their trolling rigs, but a select few trollers out of Barcelona Harbor have brought in limit and near-limit catches of walleye from depths of less than 100 feet. Success stories come from both sides of the harbor and, like the perch prospectors, some trips take more of a reconnaissance run than catching time.
A lack of rainfall has dropped water levels below depths allowing for trout entry, but Cattaraugus Creek has been a rainbow runway for the past two weeks. Water clarity has increased; spinners and spoons have been more effective than egg sacks since waters cleared last week.
“This is the best fishing has been in years,” said Pat Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle about the deeper Lake Erie perch schools, the shoreline perch bite in the upper river and the continuing bass fishery that have served as a consolation for the slow start to the lower-river salmon run.
Water temperature readings in the high to mid 60s have kept bait, panfish and the bigger game fish on the move everywhere. Boaters see the most action above and below the falls with bass; drifters go with live minnows of all sizes for smallmouths. Drifts around Strawberry Island have been productive in clear, warm river waters.
Serious salmon seekers have gone with longer fluorocarbon leaders and lightly color-stained skein to hook Chinook. Guides and charter boaters have worked entire mornings for two or three fish. Charter Captain Jim Rores likes the size of fish in this year’s salmon run, but he usually is running limit-catch outings for kings right now. “I’m looking for things to pick up between now and Oct. 15,” Rores said after a productive but hard day on the water Tuesday.
Ted’s all set
Ted Decker at Ted’s Tackle in Lakeville is fully set up now in the new shop at the north end of Conesus Lake, next to the lake’s outlet on Route 20A. The Shop opens at 6 a.m. Friday to Sunday during the fall season. For details, call (585) 429-0587.