Fishing season is almost here
Written by Niagara Gazette   
Sunday, 15 April 2007 15:23

The last of Lake Erie’s ice is now flowing downriver and in a short time fishing can begin in earnest.  It generally takes anywhere from 10 days to two weeks for the ice to meander its way from Lake Erie to Ontario and during that time trying to do any decent fishing on the Niagara can be difficult and dangerous.

It’s hard to believe two weeks ago the ice field in Lake Erie measured well over 1,000 square miles, but since then has melted to about 250, triggering the removal of the ice boom.Considering the kind of weather we have been having we can only wonder at the rapidity of melting when temperatures are slightly above freezing.

For many years it was my belief that the ice boom should be removed sooner than New York Power Authority decided it should. It was only when I looked at a photo taken from space showing the huge ice field in Lake Erie and the thin thread that was the Niagara River that I realized the river couldn’t possibly handle it.
(By the way the stream we call the Niagara River isn’t a river at all, it’s a strait. A strait, according to the dictionary, is a stream that connects two bodies of water. It is unlikely anyone will start calling it the Strait of Niagara anytime soon.)

Close to the time the special bass season opens on Lake Erie, May 5, the spring wild turkey season will kick off May 1. If the flock I’ve been keeping an eye on all winter is any indication of most of the state this should be one of the best seasons ever. The flock of 13 was still together when last spotted about two weeks ago. All looked big and healthy and there wasn’t a scrawny one in the bunch. Two of the toms had beards that were about 6 inches long. Since then I’ve been seeing them in twos and threes, mostly hens later in the day.

This leads me to believe nesting is going on and if the weather cooperates we could have a bumper crop of poults later this spring. So far this spring weather conditions are not all that promising for successful nesting. These observations have been made around Niagara, what’s going on in the Southern Tier is another story. The spring 2006 take statewide was 27,700 birds and it is hoped this year the take will exceed the 36,800 taken in 2003. The abundance of acorn, beech and other natural crops last fall was outstanding and with the exception of parts of the Southern Tier the birds made it through the winter well fed and in good shape. Another reason why wild turkeys in Niagara County were well fed most of the winter could be the many bird feeders in countless backyards.

Many who maintain feeders are constantly trying to outwit squirrels that are notorious for cleaning out a feeder in a short time. I have a feeder that is suspended from a steel post with a baffle on the upright that so far has foiled squirrels from climbing to it, but the feeder is found empty most mornings. I spotted the reason one day last month. A deer approached the feeder, reared up and nudged it with her nose causing the seeds to spill. What the deer didn’t slurp off the ground the turkey cleaned up in the morning.

After you’ve gone for wild turkey and on the following Saturday you decide to try for bass in Lake Erie one of the finest launch ramps I know of is the one at the foot of Sheridan Drive on River Road, Town of Tonawanda. It’s a lumpy ride up to and under the Peace Bridge into the lake and you would be well advised to wear a life jacket for the trip. Get a chart of the lake and you will notice the north and west breakwaters are closest to the Peace Bridge and an excellent area to start from. The chart will show many small shoals and rock outcroppings that are sure to hold bass. Your depth finder will show you where they are and if you take advantage of current and wind drifting over them should produce results. Beware Bird Reef immediately after you have gone under the Peace Bridge, it’s very shallow and could damage a prop. Stay on the Buffalo side of the Roundhouse and you will be in American water.

If you head for Lake Ontario, the sandbar in front of Fort Niagara is your best bet. During the first part of the bass season the fish are nesting in that area and although they can’t be kept until season opener on June 16 you are allowed to fish for them on a catch and release basis. As the season gets older the bass scatter and from then on you have to hunt for them. If weather conditions are such, wind mostly, that keeps you off either lake the Niagara River, upper and lower, can be excellent. Many of us fish the upper river near the power authority intakes. There are many rock structures that hold fish and don’t be surprised if a musky takes your offering. Out front of the bathing beach at Beaver Island State Park has always been a great bass hangout. It would take more space than I have here to list all the great bass spots in the upper Niagara. The lower river is also excellent for bass fishing and a favorite area for many is Peggy’s Eddy offshore of Joseph Davis State Park. One of the absolute top drifts in the lower Niagara is from below Youngstown to the U. S. Coast Guard Station. Until underwater weed growth takes over you can fill a limit on one drift. Once you find the depth the fish are at stay with it and this is where an electric trolling motor can be a fisherman’s best friend.

Most of our bass fishing is for smallmouth bass, but the largemouth bass fishing can be good also. Any of the many docks in both the upper and lower river can hold bass close to or under them. The outlet of Big Six Creek on Grand Island is a great place to cast for largemouth. Try wading out a short ways and you will find a rock-strewn bottom that holds fish all summer. The short stretch of Big Six Creek from the marina to the river holds largemouth too, but boat traffic in the summer greatly hinders fishing.

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