By BILL HILTS
Niagara Gazette — 1. Lake Ontario and tributaries
It’s the final weekend for the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby and there’s $15,000 on the line for the Grand Prize salmon. The biggest salmon, which is currently a 27-pound 10-ounce king hauled in by Justin Monin of Lewiston, is currently leading the way for the big cash prize. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown is tops in the lake trout division with a 27-pound 13-ounce fish. Due to a rule change this year, the Grand Prize fish has to be a salmon. Yablonsky has won the spring derby with a lake trout before … but not this year. Top steelhead is 14 pounds, six ounces and top brown trout is a 14-pound 15-ounce fish. Current walleye leader is 12 pounds, two ounces.
It’s still not too late to register. Log on to www.loc.org for details. To help celebrate some of this great spring fishing going on around Western New York, some big name media are in town representing publications like In-Fisherman, Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Bassmaster, On The Water and The Fisherman to name a few.
There are also some TV shows like Big Water Adventures, Mid-West Outdoors, and In-Fisherman that are on the water shooting shows for the future. Lake trout fishing has been very good on the Niagara Bar, but they are catching a few kings, cohos and a mix of other fish.
Mark Davis of South Carolina had the big laker for Tuesday while doing some filming on the Bar, a 25-pound 12-ounce lake trout. His highlight, though, was a 5 1/2 foot sturgeon that hit his bait. Jeff Pierce of Scottsville, National Sales manager with Mustad Hooks, also caught an early season bass off Fort Niagara on the Bar that tipped the seven pound mark a few weeks ago, too. In Wilson and Olcott harbors, bass, pike and panfish are all being caught along with the occasional trout according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker.
A few straggler trout have been reported at the dam, too, but that run is nearly over. Water temps were over 60 degrees. The deadline is fast approaching for the pro-am tournaments and this year there’s an extra $35,000 on the line if you fish the Classic Division in both the Niagara and Orleans events the first two weekends in June. Check it out at www.lakeontarioproam.net. The Wilson Harbor Invitational Tournament is this weekend on Saturday.
2. Lower Niagara River
Trout are still hanging on in the river, offering a mix of steelhead and lake trout with the occasional brown trout. Devil’s Hole and Artpark offer some of the best chances for trout from boat or shore. Minnows or Kwikfish are the best baits to use, fished off of three-way rigs if using a boat. Shoreline casters can use twister tails, spoons, spinners or egg sacs fished under a float. Warm water fish are starting to turn on, too, with bass, suckers and sheepshead all being caught with the trout. Niagara Bar action was good over the weekend for three generations of the Fekete family – Bill, Bill and Corey of Ransomville. Nine-year-old Corey caught his first lake trout and coho salmon while using black and silver spoons in 30-40 feet of water at the mouth of the river and in front of Fort Niagara.
3. Upper Niagara River
Decent yellow perch catches are still being reported around Broderick Park, Squaw Island and around the Ontario Street launch area, as well as around Grand Island. Panfish are also starting to turn on with the warming waters. Bass fishing is catch-and-release and both largemouth and smallmouth are available. You must use artificial baits to target bass. Some crappies have been reported where the Canal and Tonawanda Creek come together in Pendleton.
4. Lake Erie and tributaries
Some of the national writers have sampled the early bass fishing on Lake Erie that opened last weekend. While a few fish over six pounds have been caught, the magical fish over seven pounds is still waiting to be caught. Well, at least with the media contingent. One was caught the day prior to the May 4 opening by Michael Webb of Toronto while fishing with Capt. Bruce Blakelock of Lewiston – a seven-pound six-ounce smallmouth that hit a tube jig in the south gap area. Bob George, National Sales Manager with Buck Knives was out with Capt. Terry Jones to take 60 bass on Tuesday using a mix of tubes and stickbaits. Targeting the middle gap along the break walls and off Hamburg Beach in 8 to 12 feet of water was producing the most fish. Most of the tributaries are over as far as the trout run. The only exception is Cattaraugus Creek. Smallmouth bass are moving into the lower sections of streams and so have some catfish. The lower section of the Catt and 18 Mile Creek are good spots to target for channel cats. Yellow perch action continues to be good in 45 to 55 feet of water near Cattaraugus Creek. The Sturgeon Point launch is closed for dredging. Some walleye action is being reported at night along Hamburg Beach with trolled stickbaits.
5. Chautauqua Lake
Good numbers of crappies are still being caught in the canals around Lakewood, Ashville Bay and Burtis Bay. Ditto around the open waters off Mayville and Bemus Bay in six to ten feet of water on small jigs tipped with a tube or grub and tipped with a minnow. For walleye, try trolling the weed edges in Warner and Dewittville bays with worm harnesses or stickbaits in perch colors.
6. Finger Lakes-Inland Waters
Lake Alice – The bluegill bite is starting to happen a bit more frequently according to Mike Waterhouse. The best spots have been around the Waterport Bridge and the Kenyonville Bridge.
Oneida Lake – Fishing has been steady according to reports. In the Cicero-Mattydale Lions Club Walleye Tournament last weekend for the opener, Joe Thomas of Olcott won the $1,000 check with a 26-inch fish he caught at night fishing near Scriba Creek in Constantia. Other good spots include Sylvan Beach, Lewis Point, near the Route 81 bridge, Big Bay and around Buoy 117. Dark jigs top the list, but yellow was also working. Walleye Magnets and Dixie Spinners were catching some fish, too.Bill Hilts Jr. is the outdoor sports specialist with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.