By Craig Robbins
With this past weekend's weather turning from rain to snow, early winter Lake Erie tributary fishing is running wide open. Rain and snow has found the majority of the steams running fast and muddy, but the weather forecast should clear them up by week's end.
The smallest streams or the upper reaches of streams are your best bet this time of year. Medium-sized streams such as Chautauqua and Eighteen Mile creeks could take at least a couple days to settle down. Cattaraugus Creek is running at nearly 3,000 cubic feet per second, well above the ideal fishable range of 200-400 cfs and likely won't be an option until later in the week. Many anglers have reported better early season steelhead action compared to the previous years. There are good numbers of steelhead in the streams and spread throughout their reaches.
Lake Erie steelhead commonly hit natural baits like egg sacs and worms, flies such as egg imitations, streamers and bugger patterns, and lures like minnow-type stickbaits and in-line spinners. Anglers can also target steelhead from the Cattaraugus Creek breakwall or off creek mouths by casting spoons, spinners and stickbaits.
Some Lake Erie anglers were chasing yellow perch in between windstorms this week. Despite stained water conditions, perch anglers saw a good bite in 45-55 feet of water, between Cattaraugus Creek and Dunkirk Harbour with emerald shiners are the best bait
With the regular muskie and bass season winding down this week, anglers are getting in their last chance to chase their favorite fresh water species.
This past week anglers were doing well for muskies along weedlines in the northern basin, trolling with large jointed stick baits and casting weed edges in the southern basin around Lakewood Bar.
While there hasn't been much talk about walleye fishing this week, some folks are working the deep holes off Long Point, Warners Bar and Upper Dewittville Bay with jigs. Vertical jigging around the sides of deeper holes in 25-45 feet of water with Swedish pimples and blade baits tipped with a minnow or jigging Rapalas are good bets
UPPER NIAGARA RIVER
It has not been a good week to fish the upper river, as high winds muddied waters on Sunday and again today. When conditions improve, anglers will still have good opportunity for smallmouth bass and muskellunge. Previously, smallmouth bass anglers reported a good bite around Strawberry and Grand Islands. Live golden shiners have been best, but artificial swimbaits have also produced. Anglers can target musky in the river by drifting along weed edges or over bottom structure with 8-10 inch tube jigs, large stickbaits or large shiners. Musky are generally caught in the outer Buffalo Harbor by trolling large stickbaits. Minnows have recently produced decent catches of yellow perch for shore anglers at Broderick Park and Squaw Island. Often in fall, shore anglers also catch some rainbow trout from Bird Island Pier, Broderick Park and the northern tip of Squaw Island on drifted egg sacs or casted spoons and spinners