It's derby time around Western New York and fish are trying to hide from anglers looking to cash in on the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby, as well as the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby. According to Capt. Bob Cinelli of Newfane, there have been three distinct fish-catching lines out in the lake as of Tuesday - 90 to 130 feet of water for staging king salmon and the occasional brown or lake trout; the 25 to 27 GPS line out in the lake for a mixed bag of salmon and trout; and the 30 to 32 GPS line heading north with a focus on steelies and cohos, with the occasional king. Spoons, flasher-fly and cutbait rigs are call catching fish. Cinelli recommends anything glow. Glenn Bird of Barker has been focusing inside of 100 feet in front of Olcott and picking up mature kings on cut bait and flashers - right on the bottom. His biggest king came by using 500 feet of copper in 90 feet of water. Speaking of cut bait, stop in to see Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors. She has the new N&D Brined Herring Strips that have been hot out on the lake. The Niagara Bar is hot and cold, seemingly predicated on wind direction. Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown did well over the weekend with eight nice kings with a northwest wind. When that wind switched, though, he was back to catching shakers. His tip of the week comes from customers who were not in the derby on Friday - reeling in a 32 pound salmon that would be leading all of the derbies right now. You have to be in it to win it!
Bass fishing has been fair to good depending on who you talk to. One spot that was producing smallmouth was at the head of the river for Nick Dougherty of Lockport and Lyndon Hilts of Gasport. Tube jigs were being used with the hopes of keeping other fish off like sheepshead that didn't count in the Odyssey. Of course, it didn't keep a 32 pound carp from hitting Nick's offering and he now leads the Carp Division of the Odyssey to the dismay of defending champion Karen Cinelli although she weighed in a 29 pounder on Wednesday). The head of Strawberry Island is still a good spot for bass and walleye, too. Worm harnesses work best, but you should be able to use something like Kwikfish off a three-way rig or live bait like shiners and crabs.
Some nice walleye have shown up on the leaderboard for the Fish Odyssey and the lower river is the destination of choice for a big one. Scott Ludwig of Niagara Falls is at the top of the heap with a 12 pounder caught on a worm harness. Two other fish over 11 pounds round out the top three - all on worm harnesses. As far at the bass fishing, it's the same story all along – hot and cold with certain periods seeing an increase of fishing action when they feel like it. The only exception is when Lake Ontario sees a flip in water temperatures, forcing the bass into the warmer river waters. That happened last weekend and fishing was outstanding for bigger fish up to 5 pounds. However, that was short-lived once things turned back to normal in the lake. No word on the first salmon in the river yet, but salmon have started to stage in other areas.
Walleye action has been more to the west near the Pennsylvania line, although a few smaller 'eyes were being report off some of the reefs like Myers or Seneca Shoal on three-way rigs and worm harnesses. Another approach is wait for early evening just before dark and try casting weight-forward spinners tipped with a crawler. Bass action has been inconsistent. Look for structure in 20 to 45 feet of water with tubes, live bait or drop shot rigs.
Bill Hilts Jr. is a past president of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association. Hilts is an avid outdoorsman, an outdoor writer who has contributed articles to numerous national and local magazines, newspapers, and other publications. Hilts is also responsible for Niagara County Tourism Sportfishing Programs. He freelances from his home in Sanborn N.Y. Hilts was inducted in the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame in the Spring of 2007!
His column is seen in the Niagara Gazette on Fridays. The Niagara Gazette is the area's leading outdoors sports information newspaper.
The first verified king salmon catch at the NYPA fishing platform was reported on Tuesday. This is just the start, look for salmon action to build during the next couple of weeks. Anglers are still catching walleye in the lower drifts and out on the Niagara Bar, including some over 10 pounds. Controlled drifting with a bottom bouncing rig with worm harness is a good bet. Smallmouth bass continues to be spotty. Bass fishing has been best when upwelling events mix colder waters and drive bass up into the warmer mouth of the river
Niagara County trollers are catching some staging mature king salmon (Chinook) in the nearshore area at depths of 60-120 feet of water, with some brown trout and lake trout mixed in. Look for kings at the shallower end of that zone at first light. By 8 AM, the deeper end of that zone is a better bet. J-plugs, flasher-fly combos, cut bait rigs and large spoons run in the bottom 10 feet, are good offerings for staging king salmon. Anglers have seen a decent deep water bite over depths of 300-500 feet. Large spoons,
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