Report from the Dock
If the air feels like summer, the water temperatures may not. What has been a cold spring has meant a slow warm-up in the water column compared to normal and anglers will want to adjust their fishing plans accordingly. This could surely affect the spawning cycle of both largemouth and smallmouth bass. It could be good news for trout anglers who have seen somewhat of a delayed spring courtesy of the colder temperatures of April and early May. Even those who fish the rivers and streams may be seeing some of their best conditions so far this season, barring more rain. Anglers/boaters can now expect to see boat inspection stewards at many boat launches. Help them out by keeping your vessel clean, drained and dry.
Trout fishing is in full swing on Adirondack ponds. Basically, when the black flies come out (and they’re out), that’s when the trout fishing is good. The Lake Clear Wabbler remains a go-to bait, with a worm trailer. Colors vary from pond to pond. Anglers need to know that targeting bass in most waters in Franklin and Hamilton is prohibited.
Striper anglers are having a lot of fun on the Hudson River as the peak of the season comes into play. Bass fishing clubs are starting to hold tournaments in the region. With trout stocking completed, the Kayaderosseras Creek is a good bet, with plenty of access throughout Saratoga County.
Catskills/Southeastern New York
The Hudson River striper fishery continues to be active as anglers enjoy the peak of the season. Catching herring for bait has proven challenging at times.
Central New York
The flow was running at 7,330 cfs in mid-May. The bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory personal flotation device (PFD) zones on the river.
The river was at 1,650 cfs as of mid-May.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
Walleye are being taken in 10 to 20 foot of water by anglers jigging or trolling. The cold and windy conditions of early May made fishing the lake difficult but warmer weather is expected.
Some yellow perch are being taken on small minnows in 20 foot of water. Bullhead fishing should improve with some warmer weather.
The lake level is back up making launching and retrieving boats easier. Look for brown trout and Atlantic salmon on the south end but watch out for debris, which are usually common this time of year after rain events..
Yellow perch and some smallmouth bass (remember it’s catch and release only) are being taken in 10 to 20 foot of water.
The summer flounder (aka fluke) season opened to spotty fishing, which may be attributed to the still cool water temperature. The best fluke fishing was reported in the warmer inshore waters of the State Boat Channel between Jones and Fire Island Inlets, in Jamaica Bay on the West End and in Moriches and Shinneock Bays on the East End. Anglers fishing the South Shore inlets reported that the best fluke fishing was during the first half of the outgoing tide. Bucktails tipped with squid strips, and squid-spearing combos were the top producers.
The weakfish fishing improved with fish between two and three pounds making up most of the catch with the occasional five-pound plus fish reported. Anglers reported catching the weakfish while targeting fluke and porgies in the Peconics and Gardineers Bays and targeting them directly with small bucktails and plastic baits in the South Shore canals and the back bays along the entire South Shore. Hot spots included the Quogue Canal, Jamaica Bay and around Jessups Neck.
The stripers have continued migrating towards the East End with an increased amount of fish reported in all areas out to Shinneock Inlet. Anglers clam chumming the South Shore inlet bridge and rips reported a few stripers each trip with most fish under 15 pounds. Anglers drifting live bunker reported a few stripers in the 30-pound class in New York Bight and Jamaica Bay. Both inshore and offshore there are large schools of bunker which are attracting and holding the larger stripers, which if last season is any indication, the bunker will stay throughout the entire summer and into the fall season.
Surfcasters reported catching stripers along the South Shore ocean beaches on clams, tins, and poppers, with the best fishing occurring at first light or late in the afternoon. Along the North Shore beaches, anglers reported stripers, mostly under 10-puunds, on tins, bucktails, and sandworm fished on the bottom. Flyrodders did well fishing sand eel and juvenile bunker imitations.
In all areas there were bluefish mixed in with the striped bass. Most of the bluefish were between two and five pounds. A few bluefish up to 10 pounds were reported in Shinneock Inlet and in New York Bight chasing bunkers.
The offshore fishing was tough this due to generally rough seas, but there were a few days when anglers headed offshore to target the recently arrived bluefin tuna. Bluefins in the 300- and 400-pound class were reported a few miles off the beach between New York Bight and Jones Inlet. These bluefins are passing through our area heading north to their summer grounds north of Cape Cod. Behind these giants will be school and large school bluefins.
Scott Jeffery at East End Bait and Tackle reported that striped bass, bluefish, porgies, ling, along with blowfish and kingfish caught in Shinneock Canal on squid-spearing combos, clams, worms, and Gulp Baits. Also, a few stripers and fluke were caught off the Ponquogue Bridge on clams and bucktails. The porgy fishing is heating up in the Peconics in all the usual spots, including Jessups Neck.
Overall, the freshwater fishing has been slow due to the dirty water created by the heavy rains during this report period. Most anglers targeted stocked trout, panfish and largemouth bass..
St. Lawrence River
With the northern pike season now opened for its first month, fishing is picking up very slowly, as the water temperature inches up a fraction of a degree at a time. The river temp remains in the mid 40s at the time of year when it should be in the mid fifties. Perch fishing is good if you can find a school to anchor over. As usual, it’s a game of hide & seek. The next hurdle will be the bass opener in three weeks. It’s going to take a lot of hot days to get the water temp up to the spawning and egg hatching range of between 50 and 55 degrees. Guides anticipate it being a pike fishing weekend, as not to interfere with nesting bass. Pre season bass fishing is prohibited on the St. Lawrence and Canadian studies have shown that a bass removed from its nest is certain death for both un-hatched eggs and unguarded fry.
Fishing activity has remained steady according to Rich Chapman, of Chapman’s Sport Shop, in Hammond. The crappie and bluegills are biting well in the warmer shallows. Pike fishing has been difficult to assess with the lack of anglers. Those fishing are reporting catches on both live bait and before the weeds spring up, Mepps spinners..
Capt. Allen Benas, 1000 Islands Fishing Charters. 1000-islands.com
Western New York
Walleye anglers are doing well at night by trolling and jigging along emerging weedlines and rocky shores in 5-15 feet of water. Shore anglers can also catch walleye during low-light periods by casting stickbaits. During the day, target depths of 30 feet of water and around the rims of the deeper holes in the north basin. Trolling with stickbaits and vertical jigging have both been productive. Visit the Chautauqua Lake page for more fishing information.
Lake Erie & Tributaries
Anglers continue to see best walleye catches in the nearshore shallows at night. Trolling with shallow-diving stickbaits at speeds around 1.5 mph near rocky structure works well. Good spots to try include Shorehaven Reef, Bournes Beach, Green Hills, Van Buren Bay, Evans Bar, off Hamburg and near the mouth of Smokes Creek. However, any nearshore structure has potential. Daytime anglers report decent to good walleye catches by vertical jigging and trolling the deeper ledges outside of the traditional night grounds in 20-30 feet of water. Smallmouth bass are showing in decent numbers around nearshore structure and marina breakwalls. Sturgeon Point boat launch is closed due to sandbar at mouth.
In the tribs, woolly buggers and streamers are good bets for fly anglers, and spinning anglers do well with stickbaits, minnows, and jigs with grubs or plastics fished under a float. The lower section of Cattaraugus Creek is a good spot to target channel catfish. Nightcrawlers, chicken livers or raw shrimp fished on the bottom works well, especially at night. The deeper holes in other creeks may hold catfish as well. Anglers can also catch catfish along the Lake Erie shoreline on calm nights, especially near stream inlets.
The spring salmon bite continues to be particularly good for trolling anglers from the Niagara Bar to Olcott according to reports in Lake Ontario. Josh Dunkelberger of Olcott reports they were 3 for 6 on kings using a GRC lemon fly with a lemon ice spin doctor in front of Olcott. They also had six on UV Blue Dolphin and NBK spoons 45 to 65 feet down over 60 to 120 feet on the riggers, 112 to 125 feet back on the divers set at 3.5. Karen Evarts at the Boat Doctors says action in front of Olcott has been super from 60 feet of water to 90 feet of water with chartreuse and black magnum spoons. Quite a few kings in the 20 to 25-pound range have been caught. There are good numbers of fish with some lake trout mixed in. Check out the new 24-hour bait, lures, and everything else machine at their Olcott shop due to social distancing concerns.
Out of Wilson to the Niagara Bar, Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown reports pretty much the same program in 50 to 100 feet of water with magnum spoons, kings and lakers. Color does not seem to matter on the spoon. A few fish are being caught on flasher-flies up and down the lake, too.
On May 6, Morgan Fonzi of Gasport reeled in a big white bass from the lower Niagara River that weighed 3 pounds, 8 ounces while fishing with his dad, Capt. Joe Fonzi of Gasport. Little did they realize they were holding onto a new record catch. The previous record was a 3-pound, 6-ounce fish caught by Robert Hilton from Furnace Brook in Westchester County, a tributary of the Hudson River, back in 1992.
The father-son duo was just out fishing in the lower Niagara River last week (May 5), not targeting any specific species and catching a mix of trout and smallmouth bass. They started catching white bass and they decided to stick with them, ending up with around 25 nice-sized fish. Included in their catch was a 3-pound, 10-ounce white bass, what locals refer to as a silver bass. They look like a small striped bass, swimming up the Niagara River every May to spawn. The first record ended up on the cleaning table.
The next day they went after white bass specifically and found the bigger ones were holding deeper. The most effective bait was a 5/8-ounce Steelshad blade bait in a gold color and that was the bait Morgan was using to reel in the record catch. The rest is history. Congrats Morgan!
Good numbers of steelhead are still in the river and bass are not as active as they should be with the cooler temperatures, but still active none the less. From shore, the Mike and Mike show (Mike Rzucidlo and Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls) was still going on despite some turbid conditions last weekend. Casting spinners and jigs, they managed to catch steelhead, lake trout, smallmouth bass, and silver (white) bass from shore. Boaters off the mouth of the river near the fort can take smallmouth bass in close or salmon and lake trout a bit deeper using 3-way rigs and MagLips or Kwikfish. At least, when the winds cooperate. When the winds are light, good numbers of small boaters are targeting kings around the green buoy marker. In the upper Niagara River, some bass and walleye are being reported, along with some perch.
Bill Hilts Jr., niagarausa.com