With the opening of the inland trout and salmon season just around the corner on April 1, it's important to note that the Department of Environmental Conservation's fish hatchery personnel have been keeping busy. In fact, they are ahead of schedule thanks to the relatively mild winter we've enjoyed.
Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek were producing fish consistently, both pre- and post-spawn steelhead according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker. Brown trout are still around, too. According to Walker, egg sacs and grubs were working on the pre-spawn steelies; worms and minnows were working on the post spawn fish. A few have been caught on jigs. Some perch fishermen have been taking a few fish from Olcott and Wilson harbors, but there was some chunk ice around keeping boaters from making it out into the lake. That should be gone this week. Some pike have been active in the harbors, but that season is closed. Piers still had ice on them Tuesday but that should be gone by the weekend. They are forecasting some rain Friday through Sunday.
The stretch of river below Niagara Falls finally cleared up again after last week's hard blow turned the green water to a brown mud color. Monday, the water changed to a nice green again with about 2 feet of visibility according to Capt. Ted Kessler of Grand Island. With north wind in the forecast, he's hoping it will maintain a viable color for fishing. According to Kessler, there is plenty of fresh steelhead in the river with a decent amount of lake trout mixed in. Best drifts have been Artpark and Devil's Hole; best baits have been pink egg sacs and large emerald shiners. Ricardo Davila of Wheatfield actually took some cautious steps into the gorge early Tuesday morning and he was rewarded with five nice lake trout casting soft plastics. He reported that the water was still a good green color. No reports in the upper river.
Most of the tributaries off Lake Erie are slushy, but there are some fish in the upper reaches according to Danny Colville of Colville Outfitters. The Buffalo River tribs have been fishing better. If you can find open water in the lower ends of the streams, you can expect to find steelhead chasing minnows according to Colville. Of course, they will readily grab an egg sac, too. A little further to the south, some of the mid-sized creeks are seeing decent numbers of trout toward Dunkirk. He reports some nice brook trout are mixed in with the steelhead and, if you are lucky, you may just catch a lake-run brookie mixed in with the steelies.
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!
River waters have good color and clarity at present. Anglers have been catching a decent mix of steelhead and lake trout from both boat and shore. Controlled drifting with three-way rigs with egg sacs, shiners or Kwikfish lures is the typical boating approach. Egg sacs or shiners cured with a florescent colored dye product get plenty of attention. Shore anglers can target trout at Artpark, Devils Hole and Whirlpool State Parks.
Harbors are again ice free and open to the lake. Brown trout should be available inside 20 feet of water.
Eighteenmile Creek is currently running a little high and stained, with about 8 inches of visibility. Prior to the flow spike, decent numbers of fresh steelhead were reportedly moving in. More fish could move in on the tail of this higher water event as well. Oak Orchard Creek is slightly high and stained with about 2 feet of visibility. Almost all of the freestone streams are currently high and muddy. Keg Creek is one exception with only slight color, but light numbers of fish. Egg sacs, egg flies, trout beads and grub-tipped marabou jigs are good trout offerings.
Ice coverings on piers are melting away. Olcott Harbor's east pier is ice-free, while the west pier is still covered. Ice status of other piers is unknown. Spring casting for trout is often productive at pier sites.
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