It's Free Fishing Weekend and there are family and kids events on Saturday and Sunday at Broderick Park in Buffalo and on Saturday at Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, Hyde Park Lake in Niagara Falls and Olcott Beach. If you want to chase muskies, there is a catch and release tournament Saturday on Chautauqua Lake as well. Get out there and enjoy New York's outstanding natural resources.
There were some much better reports coming from Wilson, Olcott and Point Breeze of late as some nice kings moved back into area waters. Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown reported a mixed bag of salmon and trout on Tuesday off Wilson in 250 to 350 feet of water, working spoons in the top 80 feet of water. Divers and lead core caught fish, as did a couple of the riggers. Outdoor writer Ron Hustvedt Jr. of Minnesota was on board with his two kids, his father-in-law and his nephew from Minnesota. They all managed to reel in a couple of fish each, including king and coho salmon, lake trout and steelhead - completing a bucket list of sorts. The group had just finished fishing in all five Great Lakes, and caught fish in each, since the kids were released from school. The Summer LOC Derby starts June 30 and runs through July 29.
The Southtowns Walleye Association's walleye tournament came to a close, but the awards winners won't be revealed until the picnic June 30. In the meantime, walleye and bass action has been fair to good overall. Winds can play a role as far as direction and severity. John Van Hoff and Randy Tyrrell of North Tonawanda hit Barcelona to catch a pile of walleye over the weekend, but the biggest they could muster was "only" an 8 1/2 pounder. Everything was taken using dipsy divers and lead core line with stickbaits as an enticement.
Bass and walleye are the two most sought after species in the river right now, both above and below Niagara Falls. They are being caught from boat and shore, perfect timing for the Family Fun Days at Broderick Park. Casting jigs, spinners and live bait will all take fish. Boaters can target around Strawberry Island for the best chance at both. Remember that muskellunge season is now open in New York waters of the Great Lakes. Lower river action has been fair for bass on shiners or tube jigs. Live bait is now an option if you want to target bass in the river.
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!
Free Teach-Me-To-Fish Event: Saturday, June 9th from 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM. Tifft Nature Preserve's Lake Kirsty, 1200 Fuhrman Blvd., Buffalo. At this free fishing event, no fishing license is required to fish. Participants can learn about fish species, fishing techniques and tackle at the education stations. Kids age 15 and under can register to win great fishing prizes in the random drawing. Fishing rods are available to borrow or bring your own. Worms provided for bait. Adult accompaniment is required for all youth participants. Contact the DEC at 716-851-7010.
Shore anglers can catch a variety of warmwater species at sites throughout the upper Niagara River. Catches of bass, yellow perch, white bass, sheepshead and sunfish are common at shore sites in late spring. Keep in mind that black bass fishing in the upper river is by catch and release only, artificial lures only until the regular season opens on third Saturday in June. Some walleye have been showing along Unity Island.
Surprisingly, there are still plenty of steelhead in the lower river and some boats have had double digit catch days this week. Enjoy it while it lasts, as warming waters will push them back to the lake soon. A bottom bouncing rig with minnow or flatfish lure works well for steelhead in the upper drifts. Decent numbers of smallmouth bass are available from Devils Hole to the Niagara Bar
King salmon action remains strong, but fish are moving around, requiring a bit more searching. This week the better king bite has been between 80-200 feet of water from Wilson to Hamlin, on lures run 50 to 80 feet down. Spoons continue to get most attention, but some of the bigger kings (over 20 pounds) have hit flasher fly combos. Off the Niagara Bar, depths of 200-250 feet of water has been productive. Anglers targeting kings are also catching some lake trout, coho salmon and the occasional steelhead or Atlantic salmon. At harbor sites, anglers can catch a variety of warmwater fish including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, bowfin, yellow perch, rock bass and other sunfish. You never know what you will catch next.
There are still some walleye available at night in the nearshore shallows, however that bite is tapering off. The daytime action has been decent to good at mid-depth areas, including some limit catches. Out of Buffalo, anglers are catching walleye off the windmills in 30-40 feet of water. Productive methods include trolling with worm harness or stickbaits near the bottom, or by slow trolling (1mph or less) with a bottom bouncing rig and worm harness. From Sturgeon Point to west of Dunkirk, depths of 40-50 feet are good starting points. Depths around 40 feet off Van Buren Bay has been a hot spot. Worm harnesses or stickbaits run within 10 feet of bottom is a good bet. Working the deeper edges of the walleye spawning structures is also worth a try.
Smallmouth bass are still biting well in the Lake Erie Harbors and the catches are improving around the nearshore reefs and shoals.
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