Ffishing has been pretty good on the lake as things have slowly started to turn around. Most the boats headed out to over 400 feet of water to set up their programs. While spoons caught a large percentage of the fishing, flasher-ly also started to produce fish consistently. According to Kyle Hovak, they kept their downriggers from 40 to 80 feet down and had some decent luck. Dipsy divers were anywhere from 150 to 250 feet back and some of their bigger fish came at 180 feet back on a No. 3 setting. They used a Capt. Volume spin doctor with a green hammer fly to take some nice fish, including a 21 pound king that placed second in the Meddaugh event.
With the moss gone, action in the upper river has turned on for smallmouth bass according to Mike George of Niagara Falls. Using shiners fished off three-way rigs, George was fishing with Roy Larson of North Tonawanda fish just three hours to catch more than a dozen fish in the 18-19 inch range while drifting the west river. Some walleye are available around Strawberry Island at the head of the river in the Emerald channel. Musky action has been around weed edges and drop offs with large tubes or body baits. Shore anglers have been picking up white bass and white perch off Broderick Park area on shiners. Some yellow perch, bass and walleye have also been caught by shore casters.
The Niagara River Anglers Association is getting ready to hold its annual bass contest and timing looks to be about perfect. Joe Oliverio of Lewiston was out targeting bass in some of the lower river sections using golden shiners off three-way rigs. It's still not too late to enter the contest and you can even sign up the same day at Fort Niagara between 5:30 am and 8 am according to contest organizer Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston. Once again this is a 100 percent payback contest with all the food afterwards being donated on the lower river charter captains. Drabczyk also noted that he targeted walleye on the Niagara Bar earlier this week and did very well on walleye using worm harnesses. He actually caught five nice fish using three-way rigs. While he was catching walleye, though, he also managed to catch a dozen bass as incidental catches. Remember that the NRAA contest is restricted to the Lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario.
Walleye action has slowed a bit off the Buffalo area, but fish are still available if you work for them. Roy Larson and Mike George fished two mornings off Buffalo near the Canadian line in 50 foot depths to take a dozen nice 'eyes on worm harnesses off three-way rigs. The further west you go, the deeper the fish are. Off Sturgeon Point and west, best success was coming in 70 feet of water; off Dunkirk and beyond we heard 80 foot depths and deeper. Worm harnesses or stickbaits will catch you fish. The perch bite is still available off Sturgeon and Cattaraugus Creek is 45 to 65 foot depths, but that has been tougher, too. Bass fishermen are still hitting some nice smallmouth in the 25 to 45 foot range around structure like Myers Reef, Seneca Shoal, Evans Bar and all of the popular bass spots.
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.
Now that moss has dissipated in the lower river, anglers can get more moss-free drifts. Anglers catch smallmouth bass from Devils Hole down to the mouth of the river. Boaters can drift with a 3-way rig with golden shiners, crayfish or tube jigs, or can cast towards shore with jerkbaits and stickbaits. Walleye usually start to show in the lower river by mid-summer. Drifting with a 3-way rig and worm harness or yellow sally rig (with worm) is a good bet. The best drifts for walleye include the Stella drifts, Artpark drift and Coast Guard drift. Out on the Niagara Bar, trolling with worm harnesses has produced some walleye catches.
Overall, the trout and salmon fishing has been decent, and is slowly improving. The most consistent action has been over deep water, with fish riding high in the water column. Off Olcott, trollers report better action outside 400 feet of water. Spoons, flasher-fly combos and cut bait rigs have produced good numbers of large steelhead with a fair number of nice sized king salmon mixed in. A few coho salmon, lake trout and even the occasional Atlantic salmon or brown trout round out the deepwater catches. The scenario is much the same off Oak Orchard. The better catches have come over depths of 300-450 feet, high in the water column. Oak anglers are also catching mostly steelhead with some nice kings mixed in.
There are some catches coming from shallower depths of 150-250 feet of water. However, it has been hit or miss. A bit of searching is required to find smaller pods of feeding salmonids. Brown trout are still available inside 60 feet of water on spoons run near the bottom.
Harbor fishing has been fair for a variety of warmwater species. Predators like bass and pike have been taken on stickbaits, spinnerbaits and live shiners. Sunfish and perch catches have been spotty.
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