1. Lake Ontario and tributaries
Sportfishing in Western New York is literally busting out all over and at the top of the list is the Spring Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby, slated for May 1-10. Of course, if past performance is any indication of where anglers want to be, this Western Basin of Lake Ontario has produced more than 50 percent of all the winning catches, year after year. Don’t believe us? Check out their Web site at www.loc.org for past winners and where the weigh stations are located in Youngstown, Wilson and Olcott. Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker reports that brown trout and coho salmon fishing continues to be good along the shoreline in 40 feet of water or less; decent lake trout action has been found in 60 to 100 foot depths. Use spoons for the lakers and stickbaits for the shallower trolling. Many of the lake trout are stuffed with alewives so look for king salmon to start arriving right around the start of the derby. Lake trout were starting to be caught by the Killer B fishing team north of the green buoy marker on the Niagara Bar, as well. Canadian Dave Sullivan and his Hot Reels team, who was the first Canadian team to win the Niagara County Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament in 2007, won the King of the Lake Tournament kick off in St. Catharines, Ontario last weekend. The next tournament on their series docket is the Wilson event set for May 8-10. Check out their Web site at www.thekingofthelake.com for details. Some salmon and trout are still being caught off the piers, but water temperatures are slowly getting up there to push fish into deeper waters. In the meantime, it’s not all about just salmon and trout. Kyle Stabler of Sanborn caught a 32-pound carp this week while he was fishing Olcott Harbor for perch. He was using minnows for his impressive catch. While there aren’t as many steelhead in the 18 Mile Creek system, some of the warm water fish species have started to turn on. Walker reported that he took a small boat up the creek and pounded on rock bass and some reports of largemouth are being caught all the way to the dam. Crappie and perch are also being caught in Olcott; with a similar report out of Wilson for perch, crappie and northern pike. By the way, northern pike season opens on Saturday.
2. Lower Niagara River
Fishing has been a bit more difficult this week for the Lower Niagara Steelhead Challenge that was taking place Wednesday and Thursday this week. Steelhead are still available from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar and many of the drifts in-between. Minnows and Kwikfish are leading the way for top baits. We’ll have the report on who won the Challenge in Sunday’s column. The first Friday in May is the Greater Lewiston Smelt Festival and Mike George will be leading the Niagara River Anglers Association in the annual smelt dip and fry at Lewiston Landing starting around 5:30 p.m. Smelt dippers are still picking up fish at night. Don’t forget that the LOC Derby is starting up May 1 and one of the sleeper locations for the Rainbow/Steelhead division is this lower Niagara. For lakers, the Niagara Bar is king and you can troll or drift/jig for fish. Closest weigh in station is Petroy Marina in Youngstown.
3. Upper Niagara River
Heidi at Big Catch reports that they are still getting trout at the foot of Ferry Street, with a few bass also being caught. It’s catch and release until the regular opener in June, unless you’re fishing Lake Erie. The special early trophy season starts up May 2. Crappie and perch are being reported at the sand piles and around the tunnels. Perch and a mix of other panfish was coming from the Buffalo Boat Harbor. In the locks, perch and trout were being caught during the day; catfish at night. Catfish were also being caught at Buckhorn Island on Gran d Island. The Holiday Inn on Grand Island was also producing some perch and crappie. Hot bait for perch has been rosy reds; small goldens have been leading the way for crappie.
4. Lake Erie and tributaries
The big news is the opening of the trophy bass season May 2 on the lake. The other popular season opener is for walleye the same day, so you will have anglers pursuing both this weekend. For the bass, state regulations allow for one fish with a minimum size of 20 inches in length per person per day. Target around the break walls in Buffalo harbor for a good start. Walleye fishing will probably be taking place at night with stickbaits in front of Hamburg. Some bullhead are being caught in Dunkirk Harbor. Trout are still in a few of the tributaries like Cattaraugus, Canadaway and Chautauqua. The Catt is also good for bass and catfish during the early part of May.
5. Chautauqua Lake
Crappie action is still going strong in the narrows between the bridge and the ferry, as well as off Rock and Grass islands. One inch tube jigs or 1/32nd ounce jig heads tipped with a minnow is a good way to go. The big talk is of the walleye opener on Saturday. Craig Robbins recommends trolling a worm harness in eight feet of water in the evenings off Driftwood and in Warner’s Bay on top of the weeds early in the season.
6. Finger Lakes-Inland Waters
Honeoye Lake — Panfish is the target on Honeoye according to Dan Sharp at Honeoye Bait and Tackle. Crappie, bluegills and sunfish are all being caught closer to shore right now in 4 to 5 feet of water at the most, inside the weeds. Use fathead minnows for the crappie, as well as small jigs tipped with a spike or wax worm. Bluegills are hitting nightcrawlers and jigs tipped with a spike or wax worm. The water is still a little cold for walleye, but if you want to chase them for the opener, try using a bucktail jig tipped with a crawler, bass shiners or leeches to take the ‘eyes during the day. At night, use straight or jointed Rapalas of the floating variety and either troll or cast toward shore.
Canadice/Hemlock lakes — Crappie have been cooperating with fathead minnows the food of choice. A few lake trout have been reported in 30-40 feet of water, either trolling or casting. If you want to cast, use the large Kastmasters, Cleos or Swedish Pimples.
Conesus Lake — A lot of Northern pike have been swimming around so it should be about perfect for the Saturday opener. Use live bait like pike shiners or troll with Rapalas. Tossing big buzz baits into the weeds is also a good approach. Crappies are being caught in the northwest corner of the lake, close to shore.
Seneca Lake — Perch fishing has been good in the south end of the lake in 20-30 feet of water.
Bill Hilts Jr. is a past president of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association. Contact him at email@example.com.
1. Lake Ontario and tributaries