Greater Niagara Region
May has finally arrived on the calendar. However, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. Cold, wind and rain started this week out, but by the start of the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby on Friday, the weather should finally break for anglers.
This is a busy time of year in Niagara Falls, USA country. The annual Spring Media Event coordinated by Destination Niagara USA is underway and some nice fish are being caught despite the weather. Bass action in the lower river and out into Lake Ontario on the Niagara Bar has been good to very good. Charlie Puckett and Dante Gramuglia, representing Flambeau Outdoors (makers of tackle boxes, rod storage gear, decoys and more) hit the lower river and almost immediately hit a 5.3- and 4.11-pound smallmouth bass using a Rage Swimmer and a blade bait – a 10-pound bass double header to kick things off. Steelhead, lake trout, smallmouth bass, and silver (white) bass are being caught by the media folks. We will have a more complete report for you next week.
In the lower Niagara River, there are still some trout hanging around, but they will be transitioning out before the month is over as the waters continue to warm. Conditions are iffy right now after wind and rain this week. Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls caught both lake trout and smallmouth bass from shore in the gorge this week on gold and chartreuse No. 3 spinners and pearl white 4-inch plastic minnows on a ¼-ounce darter jig head. He also caught some bass in the NYPA reservoir. Tommy Holycross of Wheatfield hit the NYPA platform last Friday and found water conditions are near perfect with few people fishing. He insisted it was the best of the year so far and landed some nice steelhead and a few bass. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls also hit the NYPA reservoir for an hour or two after work and has been averaging 5-7 smallmouth bass on No. 3 spinners and jigs. He caught a bonus rainbow trout on his most recent trip. There was an announcement this week that the Lewiston Chamber will be reviving the popular Smelt Fest and it will be held with the Griffon Restaurant on Water Street in Lewiston on May 26 starting at 5 p.m.
In the upper river, Capt. Justin Warriner of North Tonawanda reports that he has been using a combination of Ned rigs, drop shot techniques, and crankbaits to play the numbers game, targeting 8 to 15 feet of water. Casting jerk baits in the upper river can offer some great fun this time of year. Bassmaster Magazine editor James Hall is back in town this week as part of a Destination Niagara USA outdoor media event to see if he can replicate the outstanding fishing action he experienced this same timeframe last year casting jerk baits for smallmouth bass.
Fishing intel in the lake is a little harder to come by right now as anglers get ready for the big derby. However, Randy Jaroszewski of Hamburg with Team Ice Breaker fishing in the King of the Lake Tournament out of St. Catharines, Ontario last weekend finished in second place with a two-day score of 245.81 points based on 10 points per fish and a point per pound, less than 4 points out of the win. They focused their efforts on the Niagara Bar drop-off in 120 to 140 feet of water and a speed of 2.25 mph. Spin Doctors with meat was the best setup for bigger kings. They also caught salmon on Yalleye Mooneyes and chartreuse glow flies. Don’t think you need to focus on the Niagara Bar. Fish are spread out all along the shoreline.
The Lake Ontario Counties spring derby is beginning on Friday and the 30 Miles of Lake Ontario shoreline right here is the best place to be on the entire lake if past LOC leaderboards are any indication. For a quick lesson on spring salmon fishing, stop out to Bootleggers Cove Marina in Wilson for the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association’s “At the Dock” meeting May 4 on the back of Vision Quest VI with Capt. Pete Alex at 7 p.m. Hotdogs at 6 p.m. with Chef Marty Polovick manning the grill.
Wayne County Fishing Update
The LOC Spring Derby starts this Friday May 5th and ends the 14th. All the information including prize structure, rules, and weigh stations is on the web at loc.org
With a constant south blow last week and Monday, close to shore water is very clear. Your best bet for browns is at first light. If we get an onshore wind…predicated this week, fish the stained water.
Currently, the spring salmon bite has been excellent in waters 150 to 170 feet. The kings are hitting spoons off the riggers down 50 and back 90. Divers are also putting your lure in the mouth of kings.
Bright glow chartreuse spoons are working. Try some NK’s or go with Bay Rat LD stickbaits. The Fire Tiger color works.
Lake Ontario water temps are 49 degrees.
Pike and walleye season opened yesterday, May 1st. If you’re not busy hunting turkeys, fish off LeRoy Island the northeast side of Sodus Bay. Pike will hit live bait (pike minnows) and will bite the “good ole Eppinger Daredevil spoon.” Red and white works the best.
Spinner baits will also net northern pike.
East Bay also has a great pike population.
There have been walleye caught in Sodus. It’s not like the renown Oneida Lake fishery, however a few can be caught. Try over by the buoy at the entrance to the channel or between the islands in the bay.
The Port Bay water is dirty after our recent rainfall. Try for panfish next to the channel. There have been some crappies caught at the south end of the bay. They are suspended in 15 fow and will hit small bright jigs. Crappies must be 10 inches to keep.
Bait for fishing is available on the south end of Sodus at Davenports and Bay Bridge Sport Shop.
On Port Bay Jarvis Bait shop is open on Brown Road. The signs are on East Port Bay Road at the junction of Brown Road. In Ontario, Grantley’s Bait at 1864 Route 104 Ontario, NY.
Currently the water level is high in the canal. Use caution launching your boat. For safety try and fish in pairs.
There have been walleye catches near Swifts Landing Park in Palmyra. You can fish from the shores of the canal.
The New York State Canal Corporation recently announced that, conditions permitting, all portions of the New York State Canal system are scheduled to open Friday, May 19, 2023, at 7:00 a.m. for the 199th consecutive season of navigation.
Notable Freshwater Fishing Regulation Changes
The following list offers a summary of the most notable fishing regulation changes resulting from the adopted rulemakings described above.
- New statewide regulation for rainbow trout, brown trout, and splake in lakes and ponds. The season will now be open year-round, with a five-fish daily limit, any size, with a “no more than two longer than 12 inches” harvest rule.
- Statewide Atlantic salmon regulations will now allow for a year-round open season.
- Ice fishing is permitted on all waters in New York unless specifically prohibited with the exception of Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren, and Washington counties where previous rules remain.
- New specific dates replaced floating dates for statewide season openers to include:
- May 1 – Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel, and Tiger Muskellunge.
- June 1 – Muskellunge. (Note that in 2022, DEC will allow for the fishing of muskellunge beginning the last Saturday in May to accommodate previously planned fishing trips);and
- June 15 – Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass.
- A five-fish daily walleye limit in Oneida Lake.
- A new regulation to limit the growth of the walleye population in Skaneateles Lake. No daily possession limit; 12-inch minimum size limit, open year-round.
- The statewide sunfish daily harvest limit has been reduced from 50 to 25 fish: and
- The statewide minimum size limit for crappie has been increased from nine inches to ten inches.
Orleans County Sportfishing Coordinator Ron Bierstine:
About now, pre LOC Derby and during the Derby, there’s typically a routine migration of activity toward the Niagara bar. Of anglers, of course! Trollers are chasing a good concentration of Kings and Lakers from there all the way back toward 4 Mile and Wilson and Olcott. The Spring LOC Derby for this year runs from May 5th – 14th, 2023. Good luck if you choose to compete. Don’t be one of those anglers every year that reels in a derby qualifying fish but didn’t purchase at least a one day derby ticket! You can compete and still practice catch and release for fish not making the derby cut since cold and mostly shallower water spreads afford the chance to release hardy fish this time of the year. Small Kings now become big Kings by fall and next year! Otherwise hard working anglers like Captain Chas from Searcher Charters keeps plugging the home waters around Point Breeze and takes full advantage of the lack of other trollers. “It’s been good over the past week, conditions are changeable, there’s colder water around just lately. It’s been a mixed bag catch for salmon on divers followed by lake trout and then cohos on the surface. Most productive has been in 80 – 130 fow with 72 Monty spin doctors and flies.” Captain Tim Hummel from Fish in the Box Charters also has been targeting the lake trout for some clients who really like those heavyweights. He’s had some action in the eastern waters off Point Breeze.
Pier pressure and land lubber shoreline casters are also into a few brown trout thanks to that same cool water Captain Chas commented on that’s hanging around. The weather for now definitely is cool enough not to chase brown trout back to deeper water and there’s near shore bait lurking.
At the last Lake Ontario Fishery Advisory Panel (LOFAP) on Apr 11, 2023, NYSDEC introduced the concept of Parentage Based Tagging or genetic coding of broodstock salmonids. This is an exciting method whereby stocked fish (Kings for now) are genetically matched back to parental broodstock. Validation studies so far show this method to be as accurate or more then mass marking or fin clipping for determining hatchery vs wild fish. This can give an accurate picture of salmonids in the Lake and can be used for further investigations beneficial for the fishery as the technology and library of coded fish expands.
Lake Ontario – Mexico, NY
The lack of big winds this week has led to some clear water conditions. Meaning for the biggest concentration of brown trout you should stay near the creek mouths. From the mouth of the Salmon River to the Catfish creek has been good. But the three main spots continue to be Grindstone, Butterfly and the Catfish.
Fish are shallow, in 8-20’ of water. The best stick bait colors are black/sil/org, ridin’ dirty, firetiger and clown. Spoons that have been working include frostbite, ‘57 Chevy, uv green glo, alewife, Lance 2 face, and gold perch.
Lake Ontario – Oswego
The fishing has been on fire! Heavy rains last week led to a big increase in the Oswego River flow, creating perfect conditions to catch brown trout! It doesn’t matter if you head east or west, brown trout have been plentiful along the shoreline to 30’.
In typical spring fashion planner board and small divers are taking fish. Flat lines from 75-150’ and 1 and 2 color leadcores have been best. The best baits are: stick baits in blk/sil, baby bass, jailbreak, and ghost. Our “go-to” spoon colors have been blue dolphin, frostbite , yellow nbk, and gold doctor.
If you slide out to a little deeper 40-90’ there have even been kings lurking around. Try 4-10 color leadcores, 30-70’ down on downriggers and slide divers, 40-100’ out. Stingray spoon have been the best, in diehard, artic ice, uv tux and pickleseed.
Oneida Lake Hatchery Tour & WalleyeFest Tagging
Join “The Awakening Angler” on a tour of the Oneida Lake Walleye hatchery in Constantia NY. See how baby walleyes are made and watch a fish get tagged for The Oneida Lake WalleyeFest.
Oswego and Salmon River Reports
Throughout the spring and summer, both the Oswego and Salmon Rivers offer a variety of fishing opportunities, including panfish and bass. The Oswego also offers carp and walleye opportunities.
Year-Round Notice (Oswego River): There are mandatory personal flotation device zones on the river. The Oswego Fire Department offers loaner life jackets at no charge through its “Loaner for Life” program. For more information contact the east fire station by calling (315) 343.2161 or Click here for the Brookfield Varick Fish Safety brochure.
Free Oswego Fishing Guide
The 68-page guide includes a detailed overview of fishing opportunities on eastern Lake Ontario, Oneida Lake, the Oswego and Salmon rivers and a variety of other tributaries, as well as the more than 40,000 acres of public lands available for hunting.