BY BILL HILTS
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — 1. Lake Ontario and tributaries
Every year, the State of New York holds a special free fishing weekend to encourage more people to enjoy the Empire State’s fantastic fishing resources. Anyone can fish in the state for free Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 this year – but you do have to abide by the fishing regulations that are in place.
More and more, special events are being put into place to promote the free fishing days and encourage more people to get out and fish. On Saturday, the Olcott Lions Club will be holding a kids’ fishing derby in the Town of Newfane Marina from 8 a.m. to noon, another free contest for the youngsters. And if you play your cards right, you can make it up to Niagara Falls for the Festival of Fathers in Hyde Park from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be a kids’ fishing contest going on there, along with a bunch of other fun outdoor activities. Call 285-6984 for more information.
Father’s Day came a day early for Don VanArsdall of Henrietta, fishing with his son Jamie in Irondequoit Bay. The angling duo managed to catch a new state record freshwater drum or sheepshead last Saturday – a 26-pound, nine-ounce fish hauled to best the record by more than two pounds.
Bass season opens tomorrow, June 21, and you can then target bass with live bait and keep one for the frying pan if you’d like. Bass fishing has been good from the piers in Olcott to the dam at Burt in 18 Mile Creek. Bullhead, rock bass and northern pike have also been reported in those waters according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker.
Like the saying goes, fishing is least when the winds are from the east – and east winds have been impacting action in Lake Ontario. Finding pockets of warmer water has not been easy. Staying inside of 70 feet has been one approach but action has been spotty. Use spoons or stickbaits in the top 50 feet of water; browns are inside of 40 feet. You can find some warm water pockets out 250 to 350 feet, again targeting the top 50 feet of water, but you have to work for it. Some bigger kings have hit offerings below 80 feet in the colder water.
The Summer LOC Derby is now underway and it’s a wide open leaderboard right now. The top salmon is a 23-pound, 13-ounce king; the top lake trout is 21 pounds, 5 ounces; the top brown is a 15-pound, two-ounce fish and the rainbow-steelhead leader is an 11-pound, 11-ounce fish. Check out www.loc.org for an updated leaderboard or to find out where you can register for the event.
Don’t rule out Wilson Harbor for bass and pike either, perfect timing for the Wilson Conservation Club’s kids fishing derby, Saturday, June 21 in any Niagara County waters. Fish from 8 a.m. to noon. Fish are based on length.
2. Lower Niagara River
Lower river action for bass has been good and the timing is right for the regular season opener. However, the dreaded moss action that normally occurs in early June is running a couple weeks late and it is progressively getting worse right now, so that could be a complication. For the time being, use live bait like shiners or crabs for the opener; tube jigs, drop shot rigs and spinners will work for artificial.
3. Upper Niagara River
The regular bass season opens on Saturday, June 21 and the Opening Day Smallmouth Bass Contest normally run by the Wagon Wheel will be coordinated through Kelly’s Corners, 524 Cayuga Drive, Niagara Falls. Hours of fishing are from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the scales open up at 3 p.m. This is a two fish tournament and the minimum size is 15 inches. Your $20 registration includes the big fish pot. A fish fry and refreshments will be served after weigh-in is completed.
Bass season should kick off with a bang Saturday, especially around Strawberry and Motor Islands. Musky season opens on June 21, too, so get ready for some boat traffic for opening weekend if the weather is nice.
Shore fishermen will be heading to Broderick Park at the foot of Ferry Street for white bass, white perch and sheepshead; some walleye are being caught at night there. Yellow perch are being reported at Ontario Street near the launch.
The 19th annual City of Tonawanda kids’ free fishing derby at Niawanda Park Bandshell on River Road takes place on Saturday, June 21, from 9 a.m. to noon. Over $5,000 in prizes and giveaways.
The Tonawandas Chamber of Commerce will be holding its annual Hooked on Fishing Tournament June 28 and 29 out of Gateway Harbor and the Erie Canal. There will be plenty of fish caught as eligible species categories include bass, pike, carp, perch, walleye, bullhead and catfish. You can register as an adult for cash prizes or fish in the free kids division. Check out www.fishgatewayharbor.net or call 628-1247 for more information.
4. Lake Erie and tributaries
Daytime walleye fishing is improving considerably, according to Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls. Steve Brown of New Hampshire did well three days in a row with limit catches while working worm harnesses off the wind mills in 30 to 45 feet of water off three-way rigs. There was a 2-1/2 mile stretch of water that was holding large numbers of walleye there. They caught fish to 10 pounds.
Down toward Barcelona, Benny Karlson and his father, Tom, spent Father’s Day around 60 feet of water working watermelon-copper or perch-brass harnesses behind four colors of lead core line to take four nice walleye and a mix of other fish. Perch action has been a bit more scattered but if you can find them, you can do well in 35 to 55 feet of water from Sturgeon Point to Cattaraugus Creek.
For bass, most fishermen aren’t sharing too much information because of the opening day bass tournament. Capt. Joe Fonzi of Gasport showed off a seven-pound smallmouth this week, but bait and location are a secret.
Over in Erie County, there will be a Teach Me To Fish workshop at Chestnut Ridge Park. Contact Dave Barus at 652-2256 for more information.
Now that school is over and summer is in full swing, this is a great opportunity to explore the region’s numerous fishing holes.
Bill Hilts Jr. is the outdoor sports specialist with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.