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Summer in WNY: Boating, black bass and bears, oh my!

While Memorial Day has become one of our most respected holidays of the year for good reason, it has also become the national icon for kicking off summer – that includes boating and fishing fun, with backyard barbecues to top it off. For all of us in Western New York and many other parts of the North Country, the fun-in the-sun idea is really good news!

For boaters, family boating days or fishing access to Lake Erie – our most popular waterway, the popular, public boat launches are all open. These include Erie Basin Marina: one ramp in, one ramp out, 25 car/trailer parking, 842-4141; the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor: seven ramps in, seven ramps out, 1,000 car/trailer parking, 828-0027; Sturgeon Point Marina: two ramps in, two ramps out, 100 car/trailer parking, 947-4452; Cattaraugus Creekmouth has three facilities on the south side of the creek in Chautauqua County, they are: Hanover ramp: one ramp in, one ramp out, 75 car/trailer parking, 934-2273; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation launch: one ramp in, one ramp out, 50 car/trailer parking; Hidden Harbor Marina: one ramp only, 25 car/trailer parking; Dunkirk Harbor: two ramps in, two ramps out, very limited parking, 366-3262; Barcelona Harbor: two ramps in, two ramps out, 85 car/trailer parking, 326-6633.

The fishing on Lake Erie has been nothing short of remarkable. The trophy season for black bass is open, allowing anglers to keep one trophy fish per day that measures over 20 inches – a spectacular fish for a smallmouth bass. Look for these monster early season fish around the breakwalls at Buffalo, Dunkirk and Barcelona Harbor and around near-shore reefs with gravel bottom areas in 20 feet of water or less. The bigger bass are fewer in number, but are often in 25 to 35 feet situated along offshore shoals near Evans Bar, Myers Reef, Seneca Shoal, Shorehaven Reef and the rocky shoals of Lake Erie State Park near Van Buren Point. This is the time of year to catch that six or seven pound bass you have always dreamed about. The most popular bait is a tube jig fished on six or eight pound test monofilament line, though perch anglers using live emerald shiners have also scored well on unintended bass catches as well.

Despite the recent heavy rains that muddied Cattaraugus Creek and all the southern tier tributaries where they received over four inches of rain last week, the yellow perch fishing has been the best all year. The hottest perch fishing area is located between Evangola State Park and Sturgeon Point in 52-56 feet, with gravel piles off Point Breeze and Evans Bar, the site for many limit catches in the last few days. Tandem wire perch or crappie rigs with snelled hooks and one ounce weights offering live emerald shiners fished just off the bottom are the best bait. Fish to over one pound are common with a 50 fish per day angler limit.

The walleye bite has just taken off in the last few days too, with best action to be found at night from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., especially around shallow water reefs and gravel bars in 6 -14 feet of water. Barcelona and Dunkirk area walleye anglers are boating limit catches trolling planer boards with nite-lite sticks using shallow running stick baits such as the traditional F11 Rapala® in color BCSD (bleeding chartreuse shad), the new F11 Scatter-Rap minnow in color AYU (olive perch bars on a silver background) – both of these are high floating balsa wood baits, the Renosky in perch flash color and other similar shallow running stickbaits.

Several anglers report limit walleye catches using this method, but drifting on quiet nights with calm water can also be great fun, simply casting these same baits with light tackle and limited boat lighting, or casting a jig head and 6-inch plastic powerbait worm, run in light contact with the bottom.

Lastly, the New York state spring turkey hunting season is still open, running through the end of May, hunting is open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 12-noon every day.

It is a great time to be a sportsmen! Enjoy!

New Black Bear Management Plan for NYS

The Department of Environmental Conservation adopted a 10-year black bear management plan, emphasizing an integrated approach to reduce negative black bear impacts by increasing public awareness, educating the public regarding human-bear conflicts, by addressing individual incidents of bear damage and by reducing bear populations where necessary.

The DEC’s proposed rule changes will establish bear hunting seasons in all of upstate New York, create a supplemental early firearms season for bears in the Catskills and Western Hudson Valley area and provide a uniform start for bow-hunting and early bear seasons in the Northern Zone Adirondacks.

One change also includes bear hunting in Western New York Regions 9A and 9F during the Southern Zone early and late bow-hunting seasons, regular firearms season and late muzzle-loading season.

Additional key elements of the plan include the scientific monitoring of bear populations, continued use of stakeholders, hunters, farmers and the general public, to assess bear impacts and identify population trend objectives, including recommendations to expand areas open to bear hunting.

The DEC will accept written comments on the proposed hunting rule changes through July 7 by sending an email to or by writing to: Bryan L. Swift, NYSDEC – Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY, 12233.

Federal Fish Hatcheries Downgraded

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one of several agencies restructured under the umbrella of the Department of the Interior and in recent years, the DOI has been tasked to promote wind and solar energy projects on public lands. This translates into a negative effect for fish and wildlife projects. Folks in the outdoor world are upset with the use of more than 500 million acres of federal lands for clean energy and redirected funding.

While the green energy idea all sounds like a noble objective, there is not enough room in the budget for clean energy development and to maintain the heritage fish and wildlife support goals of the FWS. The 68 hatcheries in the federal fish hatchery system have been affected, with many of these facilities reducing production or targeted for closing.

The reason we have federal hatcheries in the first place is to help replace the fish migration losses created when the federal river dam system was implemented a century ago, affecting the eco-system. Many of these facilities are over 100 years old, but they have been maintained and modernized until now. The hatcheries produce and distribute 140 million fish and eggs valued at more than $5 billion annually to their respective regional communities. I just know I dislike the smell of dead fish and dead fish eggs from mismanaged federal tax funding. I’m getting my pen, paper and a few stamps out.

Outdoor Calendar

May 31: NYS turkey season ends at 12 noon

May 31: NYS Archery Safety Course, Southtowns Walleye Assoc., located at 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., info: 627-0147, register on-line:

June 7: Kids Fishing Derby, 15-years-old and under, East Aurora Fish and Game, located on Luther Road, East Aurora, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., free. For information, call Dave Smyczynski at 949-9483

Send outdoors info to Forrest Fisher 10 days in advance, Email:


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