Water temperatures are slowly starting to drop in the Great Lakes, but a big motivation for anglers will be more rain on the tributaries to help stimulate the flow of fish in Erie and Ontario. Four streams in Lake Ontario will get some help from the Erie Canal.
Lake Erie and its tributaries
Walleye numbers in Lake Erie remain decent off Dunkirk and Cattaraugus Creek, where sticks and jigs are the preferred bait, Bruce Kowalski of TAAR Outdoors in Lake View reports. Perch numbers have improved at Evans Bar and West Catt. A few steelhead have been reported at the mouths of the Erie’s tributaries, but low water conditions and warm temperatures have prevented runs from launching in large numbers. Steve Brzuszkiewicz of Marilla plays the weather by ear, and when he saw a flat lake Monday (not what he expected), he hit the water and caught maximum walleye in 45 to 55 feet of water off Catt. His style is to belt a 4-ounce Fire Blade to maintain bottom contact. It was completed by 9:30 AM. Capt. Mark Lorenc of North Tonawanda targets 40 to 50 feet of water on either side of the cat this time of year, paying attention to wind direction. The fish can move a mile or two from this location and appear to move downwind. Lorenc prefers worm harnesses for all his fishing, using two-hook harnesses with a deep Colorado blade. He makes the same with a 4-foot fluorocarbon leader. It makes color changes throughout the day, but always seems to have one blue/silver blade and one perch-colored blade in the water. Lorenc says the fish are starting to return to the spawning areas, so in September and October he looks for structures in 25 to 50 feet of water, such as in front of windmills.
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Out of Dunkirk, Capt. Frank Schoonaker of Infinity Charters reported a great trip with a crew from Westfield, Pennsylvania. On their five-hour trip, they caught 17 graylings, the largest weighing more than 6 pounds. They also caught lake trout and steelhead up to 11 pounds. A 10-rod spread of 7 and 10 colors of off-board baseboards, high and low sliding divers, and downriggers all worked. He stayed west in 70 to 90 feet of water, fishing 35 to 65 feet. The best baits were Bomber Long A’s, Renosky plugs and R&R spoons. Remember, the year-end Southtowns Walleye Association one-day tournament takes place on September 23, and is open to the public. The cost is $40 per person, and is based on six fish per person. Check southtownswalleye.org for details or call 208-4245 for more information.
In the lower Niagara River Gorge, Mike Zehm of Niagara Falls is back casting his homemade No. 5 spinners targeting salmon and trout. On Tuesday, he hit his first salmon and missed four others. He’s also seen some big browns and steelhead already. Bass fishing has been a bit slow over the past week, but walleye action has remained steady for anglers in the lower part of the river as long as conditions are right, according to Capt. Joe Marra of Niagara Rainbow Charters. Using any type of spinner and worm with a southwest wind should attract some walleye. Fish are available from Devil’s Hole to the green can at Niagara Bar. Smallmouth bass are still available, but you have to work for them. Crayfish 3-way rigs are the best way to ensure some connections.
The action up the Niagara River has been good for both bass and walleye, according to Capt. Connor Cinelli of Grand Island. He’s been collecting a bunch of walleye around the head of the river using harnesses.
Bass fishing has been very good on crabs, shiners, Ned rigs and shot setups around Donnelly Wall, Emerald Channel and above Strawberry Island.
Lake Ontario and its tributaries
The fish approach the mouths of tributaries, especially where salmon and trout are stocked. For salmon, focus on Point Breeze, Olcott and the Niagara River. According to Karen Evarts of The Boat Doctors in Olcott, salmon and trout are holding off the creeks in the lake, and the spoon bite has been very good this past week, although plugs are catching their share of fish as well. One of the best colors currently is green. Having a red dot on it seems to make a difference. The best water depth was 80 feet to 150 feet. Pier action is slow, but some fish are showing, including some brown trout and king salmon. Some salmon were seen jumping in the harbours.
According to Capt. John Oravec aboard the Troutman, just off Point Breeze in OK and 6 miles east off the Little Flats, trolling flash/flies, cut bait rigs from rigs and dipwires has been productive for both salmon and trout. There were some nice additional fish like a 15 pound steelhead, a 14 pound perch, and a sprinkling of some Atlantic salmon. The bite of the spoon was key for Oravec as well.
Lake Ontario casters pick up a mix of salmon and brown from the piers and mouths of tributaries, insists Bruce Kowalski with TAAR Outdoors. Some fish have entered the streams, but their numbers are still low and the escape has only just begun. Water releases from the Erie Canal will begin September 15 for the Oak Orchard River and Sandy Creek in Orleans County and will begin September 21 for Eighteen Mile Creek affecting Burt Dam in Niagara. It should help bring salmon and trout to the tributaries and dock heads. Speaking of Sandy Creek, it was recently announced that the parking lot for the Sandy Creek Fishing Site on Route 19 (Lake Road East Fork) in Hamlin Township will be closed until September 16 for maintenance.
Walleye are still spread throughout the lower basin in 14 to 18 feet of water, according to Capt. Mike Sperry of Chautauqua Reel Outdoors. Trolling crankbaits works near the bottom at about 2 mph. There are also large schools of white perch and crappie. Sperry’s tip is to work on a grid rather than long, straight runs, especially after anchoring with a walleye. Continue working that area and change your trolling directions before moving forward. Vertical jigging has just begun in the North Basin, but the fish have not congregated deep yet. Jigging Raps, Gotchas and bladed baits like Steelshads will work in 18 to 30 feet of water. There are plenty of white perch, crappie and white bass in the same areas. Musky fishing is rebounding and should continue to improve as water temperatures drop and daylight hours shorten. There is still some good grass in the North Basin to wander through. The water temperature was 72 degrees.
Cayuga Lake: As the “supermoon” wanes, the bite has also slowed in the Finger Lakes, according to Capt. John Gulk of the Finger Lakes Angling Zone. Dark days and occasional rain have led to a tougher bite this past week. Anglers were also moving deeper into 110 to 140 feet of water.
Lake Owasco remains in good condition with excellent water clarity. Lake trout are being caught, according to Gulk.
Seneca Lake: Expect decent fishing from Sampson State Park south past Long Point and north to Geneva. Gulke insists that fishing outfitters are picking up lake trout and even a few browns.