The good news is that Saturday and Sunday of this week there will be three different fishing derbies on the lake available for competition anglers to take advantage of. The bad news is that with the recent storm activity, the lake flipped and the near-shore fishing has done an about face. When things settle back down look for some mature kings showing up inside of 100 foot depths. Use meat or flasher fly to entice those fish to hit with an outside chance for a magnum spoon to work for you. Brown trout are also available inside of 60 feet when the waters return to normal, with smaller spoons your best bet for a hook-up. Most of the fishing for salmon and trout will be out deeper. Look for stable water conditions and pods of bait to set up with spoons or flasher-fly.
Bass is still the hot bite around the river. All the traditional spots are holding fish and live bait like crabs and shiners lead the way of best baits to use. Worm harnesses will also catch a mix of fish, with an occasional walleye also showing up. You may be more likely to catch a sheepshead though. Strawberry Island is a popular spot as is the west river along the parkway. Reefs like Staley's or deep holes like Thompson's are good spots to target smallmouth with the latter a popular spot during the Fish Odyssey Derby due to its reputation for bigger fish. While largemouth bass is not part of the contest, you can be part of a state contest that will be run through Labor Day if you want to try and go for it. The IFISHNY Challenge is underway, helping to kick off a new Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife app for your smart phones. Catch the largest largemouth or striped bass between now and Labor Day and win a lifetime fishing license. Itís a little known fact that a state record largemouth was electro-shocked in the upper river a few years ago.
Bass action has been spotty in the lower river. It can be good one day, not so good the next. Use live bait or tubes in the river or on the bar area off the mouth of the river. Crabs will also work for you. For walleye, Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Drab's Charters has been pulling fish from the bar area around the green buoy marker, as well as some of the drifts in the river like Stella and Jackson. Three-way rigs with worm harnesses is his preferred technique, but he uses his trolling motor to increase his speed just a little bit to trigger fish strikes. Speaking of walleye, the Niagara River Anglers Association will be holding their lower river walleye contest on Saturday, August 23 and if you are going to be in that you better be in the Fish Odyssey Derby, too. There is a separate division for walleye in the contest.
Walleye action has started to slow a bit. Located bait is one key to finding some active fish and Chuck Booker of Amherst did just that while fishing with Bob and Bob Fronczak off Sturgeon Point. Targeting 60 feet of water there were pulling worm harnesses off No. 40 jet divers behind planer boards or they were using downriggers 50 feet down with stickbaits - black and silver Renosky lures. They also caught fish on a NASCAR Deadliest Katch spoon. The sticks and spoons had a piece of worm trailing on the hooks, too. Best color harnesses were firetiger, chartreuse and nickel with red. Bass action has been good on the reefs and shoals. Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Drab's Charters had a a couple great days around Seneca Shoal, pulling tubes along the bottom or drifting live shiners on three-way rigs. The tubes were actually out-producing the live bait.
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.
Smallmouth bass fishing has been hit or miss lately. Anglers primarily catch smallmouth bass by drifting with bottom bouncing rigs with shiners, crayfish or tubes, or by casting stickbaits towards shore. The better walleye fishing has been out on the Niagara Bar. However, anglers are picking up a few in the Stella and Jackson drifts. Drifting with a 3-way rig and worm harness or yellow sally rig (with worm) are traditional river walleye tactics.
It has been a rough, windy week on the big lake. A fair number of anglers got out early in the week, but very few have been out during the last 3 days. The lake recently experienced some upwelling events, resulting in cold, unstable nearshore waters. Earlier in the week, the most consistent and productive fishing was very high in the water column, over depths of 150-450 feet. Spoons and flasher-fly combos run in the top 40 feet produced mostly catches of steelhead with some mature king salmon (chinook salmon) mixed in.
It is now mid-August, which is generally the time when staging king salmon start to 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.
Prior to the rough weather, some king salmon were starting to show along the Niagara Bar drop-off or "ledge", in 100-200 feet of water. Magnum spoons and flasher-fly combos were producing a mix of kings, brown trout, lake trout and steelhead. Over the next couple of weeks, look for king salmon to stack up along the ledge in preparation for their spawning run up the Niagara River. Anglers are picking up some walleye and smallmouth bass on the Niagara Bar in the vicinity of the green buoy. Trolling or bottom bouncing with worm harnesses is a good bet for walleye, and smallmouth bass anglers do well with a 3-way rig with shiners or tubes.
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