By Bill Hilts Jr.
Niagara Gazette — 1. Lake Ontario and tributaries
New York State’s Free Fishing Weekend is next Saturday and Sunday, June 29-30. It’s an opportunity to get out and try your hand at fishing in the Empire State and not have to worry about a fishing license. However, you do have to abide by the fish regulations for the water you intend to fish.
You can check out regulations at the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov or visit your nearest license-issuing agent. Next Saturday is the Olcott Lions Club kids fishing derby, scheduled for the Town of Newfane Marina between 8 a.m.-noon. The summer Lake Ontario Counties derby (www.loc.org) is underway, as well, and the early leader is a 26 1/2-pound salmon caught by Brady Mickatavage of Pennsylvania. The summer derby continues through July 28.
Wes Walker at the Slippery Sinker in Olcott reports some brown trout action inside of 60 feet in the lake and a few salmon, mixed with trout, are being reported in the mid-water of 80-150 feet and out deep from 350-450 feet. Smaller fish like cohos, steelhead and smaller kings are being caught on spoons and flasher-fly in the top 50 feet of water; bigger kings are coming from 70-100 feet down. Olcott and Wilson harbors are producing smallmouth and largemouth bass, while rock bass and carp are starting to move in right now.
2. Lower Niagara River
Some nice bass were caught during opening day contests around the area last Saturday. At the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Niagara Falls, Paul Devlin won top two-fish honors with a total weight of 9.82 pounds. Bob Hubler was second with 9.73 pounds, but included in his catch was the biggest fish overall – a 5.36-pound smallmouth taken from Lake Erie. Third place was Mike McGrath of Niagara Falls with 9.58 pounds for two fish. Not too much going on as far as fishing in the lower river because of the moss situation. Bass are available throughout the system, but you have to work for them. Some silver bass are still being caught off of the NYPA fishing platform in the Niagara Gorge.
3. Upper Niagara River
There are quite a few special events going on to coincide with the special Free Fishing weekend, starting with the Hooked on the Tonawandas Fish Tournament set for June 29-30. Register in the Adult Division for cash and prizes or sign up for the free kids division for youngsters under 16 years of age. All fishing will take place in a one mile stretch of the Erie Canal between the cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. Eligible species include bass, walleye, northern pike, carp and perch. Check out their website at www.fishgatewayharbor.net or call 628-1247 for more information. Also next weekend is a Family Fishing Day at Broderick Park in Buffalo from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. each day.
Moss is posing a bit of a problem for bass and musky fishermen. No reports for the musky opener that we heard about. Bass are still available from the head of the river to Strawberry Island.
4. Lake Erie and tributaries
There has been a very good walleye bite going on off the windmills, near Hamburg, Sturgeon Point and around Seneca Shoal. Troll stickbaits or worm harnesses in 30 to 40 feet. Bottom bouncing rigs with a worm harness will also work. The Southtowns Walleye Assn. will be holding its awards ceremony for the walleye tournament held last week at its clubhouse located at 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg starting at 1 p.m. today.
Perch are still hitting off Sturgeon Point all the way to Cattaraugus Creek and beyond in 50-65 feet of water. Smallmouth bass are open season now and fish can be caught from 10-35 feet of water. If you want bigger fish, target deeper waters. Mike McGrath of Niagara Falls was working the 30-35 foot contour line on the outside of structure and caught his biggest bass using shiner-colored tube jigs. He used as light of a jig head as he could get away with, which is sometimes difficult when the water is rough. Saturday for the Wagon Wheel contest he was using a 3/8-ounce head.
5. Chautauqua Lake
Walleye fishing has picked up off Warners Bar. Try drifting a split shot rig with a leech or crawler. For bass, try casting spinnerbaits over the top of weeds. Best colors have been white or black-yellow. Largemouth have been hitting spinnerbaits in the narrows between the ferry and the bridge.
A fair number of crappie are still being caught in both the northern and southern basins. Key is to find the school of fish and then stay on them. Use small tubes tipped with a shiner.
6. Finger Lakes - Inland Waters
• Lake Alice-Glenwood Lake – Bluegill and crappie action is on the rise again and bass fishing was decent for the opener. Today, the 3rd Annual Glenwood Lake Carp Derby is taking place. If you would like to find out more information, contact 585-318-4310 or 716-913-2120.
• Oneida Lake – Walleye fishing has been good when the winds cooperate. The best waters to target have been 20-30 feet with black and purple bucktail jigs, blade baits and stickbaits in perch colors. Some walleye are being caught by shoreline casters just before sunset and just after sunset with stickbaits and jigs. Bass fishing season is now in full swing. Fish stick worms on either side of weed beds, off rocky points and other types of structure like reefs or shoals.Bill Hilts Jr. is an outdoor writer with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at email@example.com.