Spring is trying to bust out all over but ice on Lake Erie is still helping to put a damper on things. A recent satellite shot showed about 45 percent coverage, but winds and warm temperatures starting Thursday could help considerable. More than an inch of rain earlier this week put all streams at high and muddy. It should definitely attract more fish with the smaller streams clearing first like 4 Mile, Keg and Hopkins being good bets. Downsize your baits with a single egg, single egg pattern flies or sucker spawn. Casting the creek mouths with spoons or spinners should also work, the same general areas where trollers are starting to work the shallows inside of 20 feet according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker. Use stickbaits off the back of the boat - long lining or with inline planers - to get your lure down. Troll the mudline, weaving in and out through the clean and dirty water. Chartreuse, orange, fire tiger and purple have been hot color patterns and mostly browns have been caught. Off the piers in Olcott, a mix of browns, coho salmon and steelhead were being reported. A few perch have been caught, too, but in the clean water areas outside of the mud.
As the waters start to warm, look for panfish in the bays start to turn on a bit. Broderick Park and Bird Island Pier are good spots to try and cast for trout with spoons or spinners. The ice boom at the head of the river is still in place and it will not be removed until there is less than 250 square miles left in the eastern basin of the lake. NYPA is conducting fly-overs to assess the situation on a regular basis.
Trout action was going pretty good until the rain. Water was stained at mid-week, but it should start to clear by the weekend. Devil's Hole had clearer water than down river, which could make a difference. Getting down to the shoreline isnít easy with both Devilís Hole and Whirlpool state parks stairs still closed as of this report. Call for updates at 716-284-5778. The Artpark lower trail is your best gorge option, not the stairs off the main parking lot in Lewiston. Those stairs are still closed, too, until mid-May. On the Niagara Bar, a few lake trout and brown trout are hanging around with minnows or Kwikfish your best enticements. No reports on smelt yet other than a few smaller ones have shown up in the bellies of hungry trout on the bar, but none in the river yet.
Ice is still creating problems on the main lake with 60-70 percent ice cover as of this report but nothing safe. The ice boom will not be pulled until there is less than 250 square miles of ice left so it could affect walleye and bass openers May 3. All the tributaries are high and muddy after the rain, but when things start to clear there should be plenty of fish around. Casting the creek mouths for trout should also be an option. Ditto for the fishing platform in Dunkirk. Use spoons or spinners for hardware; minnows or eggs for 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.
Lower river waters were quite stained at mid-week, however conditions are now shaping up nicely for the weekend. Boaters previously saw decent steelhead action in the upper and mid-river drifts on three-way rigs with minnows, egg sacs or Kwikfish lures. Shore anglers can target steelhead, brown trout and lake trout from Artpark, Devils Hole and Whirlpool State Parks. Drifting egg sacs and minnows (under a float) or casting spoons and spinners are good bets. River water temperatures are still in the low 30s, due to the extensive ice covering that remains on Lake Erie. The smelt run that is usually underway by now, will likely be delayed for a couple more weeks because of the cold water temps.
Out on the Niagara Bar, boaters are catching brown trout and lake trout on 3-way rigs with minnows or Kwikfish lures.
All of the Lake Ontario tributaries, both big and small are running high and muddy today. The high stained flow will likely persist at Eighteenmile and Oak Orchard Creeks through the weekend. The smaller streams such as Fourmile, Keg and Hopkins Creeks may come around some time tomorrow. Look for increased numbers of fresh steelhead in the creeks as they drop back to fishable levels. Spring run steelhead will hit egg sacs, egg pattern flies, trout beads, jigs with grubs, streamer patterns, bugger patterns, minnows and nightcrawlers.
Cell: (716) 550-0413
Email: e-mail Wet Net Charters