New York State's Free Fishing Weekend is set for this weekend, June 25-26, and there are plenty of events for the entire family to keep people busy - and happy – right here in Western New York! In this day and age where nothing seems to be for free any more, the Empire State will offer up an opportunity to fish all around the state without purchasing a license. You do have to follow the fishing regulations in the water you intend to fish however. For salmon and trout, action has started to heat up a little bit out of Wilson and Olcott. Boats have been heading out to 350 feet and beyond off Wilson for a mix of steelies and kings. Action has been a bit closer off Olcott, with some fish being taken in as close as 100 feet of water according to Capt. Vince Pierleoni. 100 to 180 feet of water – when they can get out there. DW Spoons are the primary enticement, but don’t rule out flasher-fly or flasher-cut bait, especially for bigger fish. Target the top 60 feet according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker. There are also fish in the 330 to 380 depth contour. The Summer LOC Derby is set for July 1-31. Go to www.loc.org for details. More cash is up for grabs!
In the Kelly's Korners opening day bass contest, it was Dan Hudson of Tonawanda winning with the best two fish weight of 10.25 pounds. Not far off the pace was Bob Hubler of Niagara Falls with a total of 10.07 pounds, but he had big fish that hit 5.75 pounds. He was using a big chub in 40 feet of water to take his lunker catch off Wanaka, where many of the fish came from. Bass are still available in the river, too, with the bass opener in Canada happening on Saturday, June 25. There are numerous events that coincide with the Free Fishing Days weekend and at the top of the list is the Gateway Harbor-sponsored Hooked on the Tonawandas Fishing Tournament held the entire weekend.
Register for the event if you are an adult for a nominal fee. Kids under 16 can register for a free youth division. You are restricted as to where you can fish in the Canal, what amounts to about a one mile stretch between Tonawanda and North Tonawanda from the Niagara River to the City line. You can register at area tackle shops or stop down to Gateway Harbor in North Tonawanda on Friday to register. Species categories include bass (both largemouth and smallmouth), bullhead, channel catfish, carp, perch, northern pike and walleye. The weigh station will be open 7 am to 6 pm on Saturday; 7 am to 3 pm on Sunday. This is a transition year for the event as the local organizing committee hands the contest off to the Boys and Girls Club of the North Towns
Action in the Lower Niagara River has been plagued by moss, but that doesn't mean you can't catch fish. Capt. Dave Tripiciano organized an outing for young Shelby, a teenager with Muscular Dystrophy last Tuesday out of Youngstown. Using the expertise of some local fishermen like Tim L., they managed to lift Shelby's 350 pound wheelchair into the boat and drift for smallmouth around Fort Niagara. They found an area that was pretty-much moss free and caught bass up to 4 pounds. Shelby was granted this trip through an organization called Moment of Peace Adventures of Pennsylvania and, in addition to visiting Niagara Falls (and being the first physically-challenged person to utilize the facilities at the re-opened and revamped Terrapin Point), they had a great time. Tim had been doing very well in that area on smallmouth the two days prior, too. When he fished in the main river, though, it was a tough go with the moss. Shiners were the best bait, fished off three way rigs.
Boats will be out plying the waters of Lake Erie on Friday the 24th in pursuit of bass and walleye with the hopes of scoring a basseye for the event raising funds for Cystic Fibrosis. Both bass and walleye action has been good. For the Kelly's Korners opening day bass contest, many of the anglers fished off Wanaka in 30 to 40 feet of water with large chubs a favorite bait. Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston was fishing off Wanaka with Joe Oliverio of Lewiston (who placed third) and he insisted the key to their success was using a chartreuse-colored Dye-A-Live. They boated over 50 bass for the day, many in the 19 inch range. His best depth was 37 feet of water, just south of Seneca Shoal. For walleye, one of the better areas has been around Myers Reef in 30 to 50 feet of water, bottom bouncing three-way rigs with a chartreuse and green-silver or copper-orange bladed worm harness.
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.
Filamentous algae, or "moss" continues to frustrate anglers in the lower river. Closer to the mouth of the river it has been less of a problem. Smallmouth bass fishing in the upper drifts has been tough due to the moss. Anglers working the mouth of the river report decent smallmouth bass catches on live shiners and crayfish.
June is traditionally a down month with lighter angler effort, and this year was no different. However, trout and salmon fishing has started to pick up off Niagara and Orleans Counties. Between Wilson and Olcott, trollers have seen an uptick in mature king salmon catches (Chinook salmon). Depths of 150-200 feet of water have been productive for kings and steelhead in the top 70 feet. Anglers are also catching king salmon at depths over 300 feet near temperature breaks. Large spoons have been tops over flasher-fly combos and cut-bait rigs. Out of Oak Orchard and Sandy Creek, anglers have been catching a mix of king salmon and steelhead in 100-200 feet of water on gear run 50-100 feet down.
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