Things are still messed up in the lake but fishing action is still decent considering what anglers have been facing. Capt. Bob Cinelli of Newfane reported that he was fishing out of Olcott earlier this week to find cold water just 20 feet below the surface during the morning. By the afternoon, the conditions were a bit better as the water moved around. Best mature salmon water has been 30 to 120 foot depths throughout the day. Use all the hardware that comes out of the tackle box for this time of year - plugs, spoons, flasher-fly and meat rigs - traditional baits for fall salmon. A second bite has been found in 200 feet of water and deeper for an occasional mature salmon, some immature kings and steelhead. Cinelli only went as far as 300 foot to take his fish and spoons were his best lures. Water coming out of 18 Mile Creek is still 70 degrees, but if we get some cooler rains it might trigger some fish to come in. As of right now, there were no confirmed reports off the piers and nothing up at Burt Dam except for a few smaller trout and some bass.
Bass fishing continues to be good in the upper river above Niagara Falls and one of the best spots is the head of the river where Lake Erie flows in near Buffalo. Try using a three-way rig with a crab or shiner. Some drifters like to throw on a tube, also off a three-way, or just tied direct to the line and bouncing the bottom. For musky, try using large tubes around Strawberry Island or the Huntley Power Station. From shore, panfish and bass are being caught primarily on live bait.
This Cystic Fibrosis Lower River Challenge was held this week and we'll try and have a full report for you on Sunday. In the meantime, bass fishing was good most of the week - both in the river and on the Niagara Bar. Gary Hall of Niagara Falls was fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls to prefish the CF event and he reeled in a six and a half pound smallmouth from the Coast Guard drift on a crab on Tuesday. They nearly duplicated that feat on Wednesday with a 21-1/2 inch fish that was released to fight another day. While a majority of the boats were fishing for bass, a few of the guides headed out for walleye. Capt. Jeff Draper of Grand Island was using Kwikfish lures off three-way rigs to reel in three walleye from Devilís Hole. They also lost a nice musky. Speaking of walleye, Paul Luzzi of Lewiston has been doing well all week on walleye using worm harnesses on the bottom from Stella and Pine drifts. Remember that the Power Authority is still offering a free shuttle service from Lot C at the Visitors Center to the fishing platform. While fishing is not hot and heavy yet, a few salmon have been caught off the platform.
The top of the list is yellow perch with some of the best fishing taking place off Cattaraugus Creek and Sturgeon Point in 60-65 feet of water. Fish the bottom with emerald shiners. For walleye, schools are a bit more scattered now but that doesn't mean the boating haven't been picking any up. You just have to work for them a bit harder. Stickbaits and worm harnesses top the list of lures. Off the Catt, try in 70 to 80 feet of water. Down in Dunkirk, some of the best fishing has been in 90 to 110 foot depths. Bass fishing can be good, but a lot of that is predicated on location and weather. Look for the best action in 15 to 40 feet of water with live bait or tubes. Drop shot rigs can also be effective. Some trout have started to make passage into some of the tributaries like the Catt - in the lower stretches.
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.
Anglers are still catching walleye in the lower river and out on the Niagara Bar. In the river, anglers are picking up some walleye from multiple drifts by drifting with a 3-way bottom bouncing rig and worm harness. River anglers saw some improved smallmouth bass catches this week. The cold nearshore waters of Lake Ontario pushed smallmouth bass into the lower river. Smallmouth can be found all the way up to Devils Hole, but the catches were best near the mouth of the river, off Fort Niagara State Park and in the Coast Guard Drift. Drifting with a bottom bouncing rig and crayfish, shiner or tube is a good bet.
With colder nearshore water temperatures, the better trout and salmon bite continues to be over deeper water in Lake Ontario's western basin. Out of Olcott, trollers are catching steelhead and king salmon (chinook salmon) of mixed ages in 250-450 feet of water. Trolling with large spoons, flasher fly combos and especially cut bait in the top 70 feet has worked well. Oak Orchard anglers see similar catches over depths of 300-500 feet, on gear run between 40-90 feet down.
Catches of mature king salmon in the nearshore areas has been few and far between. However, over the next couple weeks, increasing numbers of staging king salmon should show in shallower water of 40-100 feet. Look for kings at the shallower end of that zone at first light and work progressively deeper water as the sun climbs in the sky. J-plugs, flasher-fly combos, cut bait rigs and large spoons are good offerings for staging king salmon.
King salmon catches at the Niagara Bar's drop-off, well, dropped off. This week, action has been better on the bar for lake trout and walleye. Some nice catches of large walleye have come on worm harnesses trolled near the bottom in the vicinity of the green buoy. Trolling with spoons near the bottom is a better bet for lake trout. Smallmouth bass are also available on the bar, especially near the mouth of the river. Bass anglers do well with a 3-way rig with shiners or tubes.
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