By BILL HILTS
Niagara Gazette — 1. Lake Ontario and tributaries
Lake fishing is slowly starting to improve with the warming weather trends. Boat trollers have been working along the mud line to take brown trout and coho salmon, although a nice Atlantic salmon was reported this week. Pier action has slowed a bit with the muddier conditions, but a few fish are still being caught on spoons. Some of the trout have had alewives in the stomach contents, which mean that king salmon shouldn’t be far behind. Lake water temperature was 41 to 42 degrees inside of 20 feet of water and creek temperatures were in the mid-40’s so things should be taking off soon. Perch and bullhead have been hitting over in Wilson. Most of the creeks are still a bit high and muddy after the rain. Some trout are still available in 18 Mile Creek at Burt Dam, but you will have to use brightly colored baits and work for them. Keg Creek was low and clear at last report, but the suckers have started to move in. Remember the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby starts on May 3. Registered in area shops or online at www.loc.org. A 24-pound brown trout was caught near the Oak last week.
2. Lower Niagara River
Things are finally starting to settle in with water color and fish cooperation after the pile of rain the area received last week. While boats still caught fish, it was a struggle and they really had to work for them. Water was stained a bit on Wednesday and they are forecasting high winds on Friday so that could impact conditions. Action continues to be for a mix of steelhead, lake trout and brown trout. Top baits continue to be minnows, pink egg sacs and banana baits like Kwikfish lures, all fished off three-way rigs. Shore fishermen are also reeling in trout off Artpark, Devil’s Hole and the Whirlpool. While the main run of smelt has not shown up yet, a few dippers are starting to pick up a few here and there off Lewiston. Up to 100 smelt were reported by at least one dipper north of Lewiston. Things seem to be getting close.
3. Upper Niagara River
The waters there are starting to clear after all the rain and run-off last week. John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda was fishing with Randy Tyrrell of North Tonawanda at the Holiday Inn Marina on Grand Island picking up some perch. While the numbers were not plentiful, the size was worth the wait. They could have caught more if Randy wasn’t keeping warm in the truck more than he was getting a line wet. Other marinas and bays around the island and along River Road were producing a mix of panfish. Trout are still available at the head of the river and above the rapids.
4. Lake Erie and tributaries
All the tributaries were blown out last week and the small to medium sized streams are starting to settle down again with a few fresh fish entering the system. Weather will be cooler again this weekend, with some rain in the forecast. This could impact those streams again. Cattaraugus Creek is too muddy. Harbors at Dunkirk and Barcelona are been producing a few trout but water clarity has been an issue there, too.
5. Chautauqua Lake
Ashville and Bemus Bays are producing good catches of crappie in five to eight feet of water according to local guide Craig Robbins. Also shoreline anglers are doing well in morning from shore and in the canals around Lakewood, Ashville and Bemus Bays. Fishing minnows or small jigs (1/32 oz) teamed up with jig heads without and a minnow under a float. Bullheads are available in the canals and from shore at night. Worms, leeches or chicken livers fished on the bottom at night are good baits to use.
6. Oneida Lake
Shore anglers are catching bullhead in many of the traditional areas such as off creek mouths and in Big Bay. Toad Harbor is a good spot for crappie with minnows or small plastics. The Oneida Fish Hatchery at Constantia has completed its egg take for the spring. If you are in town and would like to visit the hatchery, it is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Bill Hilts Jr. is the outdoor sports specialist with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.