By Craig Robbins
LAKE ERIE AND TRIBS
Stream levels have dropped back quickly since last week's rains. The smaller and some medium-sized streams are in good shape. Cattaraugus Creek is running high at 1,270 cubic feet per second. Some steelhead are still in the streams, but numbers are starting to dwindle. Spring run steelhead hit a variety of baits, including egg sacs, egg pattern flies, trout beads, jigs with grubs fished under a float, minnows, night crawlers, streamer patterns and bugger patterns.
Smallmouth bass are just starting to show in the lower ends of the tributaries. Creek temperatures are still cool, fluctuating between the upper 40s and low 50s. As creek temperatures warm, look for the smallmouth bass action to really take off. Woolly buggers and minnow imitation patterns are good bass offerings for fly anglers, and spinning anglers generally do well with stickbaits and natural baits like minnows, crayfish and worms.
The Ice Boom has been removed and the Chautauqua County end of Lake Erie is officially wide open. With that being said, it's important to keep in mind the post ice debris that will be floating on Lake Erie for the next few days.
Walleye season opened this past Saturday, but until the water starts to warm up - it's currently in the mid-to-high 30s - the bite won't be good for a while. Early season walleye anglers generally do best in shallow spawning areas at night. Trolling in 6-15 feet of water with shallow diving stickbaits or worm harnesses over rocky/rubble areas is a good bet.
The harbors are good spots for smallmouth bass when the special season opens on Saturday. These areas warm quicker than the open lake, drawing in smallmouth bass. The harbors at Barcelona and Dunkirk are great places to start
This past week, Chautauqua County hosted the Association of Great Lake Outdoor Writers-AGLOW for their annual Cast'n Blast. Anglers fished Chautauqua Lake and found walleyes in front of Chautauqua Institution just outside the weed line in 8-14 feet of water. Smallmouth are on the move into the shallows in the lower basin in Ashville Bay and the northern side of Bemus Bay. Three-inch tubes and artificial crawfish style baits are working best.
UPPER NIAGARA RIVER
With the ice boom removal underway, floating ice will impact shore fishing areas. In the meantime, ice-free harbor and marina sites are a better bet for yellow perch and sunfish. These areas warm quicker than the main river channel, attracting both bait and panfish. Emerald shiners are the top bait for perch and sunfish, but other small minnows and worms will work, too. Look for crappie schooling in the backwater areas of Tonawanda Creek, between the confluence with the Erie Canal and the Niagara River.
Keep in mind that down river of the Peace Bridge, smallmouth bass fishing is by catch and release only, artificial lures only, until the third Saturday in June.