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Rod, Gun & Game: Lake Erie perch bite is strong

PERCH CATCH — Master angler Herb Schultz of Blasdell, was catching 12 – 13 inch perch last weekend near the Sturgeon Point marina. he said fish are biting around mid-morning.
In case you have not been paying attention, the Lake Erie perch bite is in peak form and may be the best it’s been in the last 20 years. Emerald shiners are the hot bait, with ample supplies at bait shops and at the foot of West Ferry Street for anglers dipping their own.

Anglers accessing the lake at the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor are catching perch off the windmills near the old steel plant in 45 feet with two-hook rigs fished right on the bottom. Similar rigs are working at Sturgeon Point in 45 – 50 feet right straight out from the launch and in 51 – 60 feet 3 – 4 miles west of the launch. Look for the circle of boats to find the moving schools of tasty perch, but try not to crowd anglers already on site, as boat noise from above can spook an entire school of fish to move to another area.

Last week, I was privileged to enjoy a fun perch fishing trip to Sturgeon Point waters at the invitation of master perch angler, Herb Shultz of Blasdell. Fishing with Johnny Held, Lenny Ingoldsby and Schultz, we also enjoyed day-long conversation about the upcoming hunting season, the Lake Erie water quality and NYS Safe Act.

Fishing only three-fourths of a mile out from the boat launch in 48 feet of water, we were alone for the first 30 minutes or so. As other anglers saw Schultz’s high-profile 22-foot fiberglass Starcraft fishing boat while leaving the marina, he seemed to draw a crowd.

The water was slightly stained from a combination of strong west winds and cooler air temperatures that provided the momentum for lake physics to initiate the annual cool-weather lake turnover, which causes the bottom and top water layers to mix and turn cloudy.

While this phenomenon occurs three or four times before winter gets here, when it happens, the fish usually become disinterested in chow, but recent fish-catching activity shows this is not so with the yellow perch in our eastern end of Lake Erie. At least not right now.

We moved about 1 mile west, to 50 feet of water where no other boaters were anchored and using his dash-mounted 4-inch Lowrance color screen sonar, Schultz said, “the fish are here, guys; let’s drop anchor.”

A few minutes later, we all had our lines in the water and the fish seemed to have a case of lockjaw. Held switched to a Ted Malota 2-spinner perch rig with minnows; Ingoldsby, to a custom in-line spinner two-hook crappie-style rig with colorful beads; and Schultz, to an all-monofilament two-hook rig. Over the next 30 minutes, only Schultz with his all mono-rig was catching any fish and the rest of us were solidly eyeing up the details of his “hot rig,” especially with every fish he pulled up, which occurred every minute or two.

Being the gentleman that he is, Schultz offered each of us a custom rig like his from a well-stocked perch fishing box and, only minutes later, we were all catching perch that had been spooked by wire rigs and spinner blades. “One more thing,” Schultz added, “I am tail hooking the minnows in one place, not two, like we usually do when fishing for perch.” This was an amazing discovery for some of us, that the fish would turn on and off with such a rig and minnow hook-up change.

“For perch, don’t get crazy with really light line and fancy rigs, you’ll just break them off and spook other fish, like you guys did,” Schultz said. “Perch are fish that feed when they are hungry. They don’t care about anything else except where that minnow is coming from; just get it down there!”

Schultz said he uses 50-pound leaders to make the rigs, then 20-pound test to tie the hook leaders on. Schultz uses gold-plated Mustad hooks on a two-hook rig he ties himself with a sliding-loop bottom hook. If you want to know more about that trick, talk to Schultz at the next Southtowns Walleye meeting, held every third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. on 5895 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg.

Trout in Lake Erie tribs

Recent rains have clouded the usual popular Lake Erie trout and steelhead streams, which will benefit anglers wading these streams that were ultra-clear for a few weeks before the early week rains. Cattaraugus Creek, 18-Mile Creek, Canadaway Creek and Chautauqua Creek are all very popular fall steelhead streams for local anglers, with the Buffalo River system of waterways also attracting fair runs of steelhead, including at Buffalo Creek and Cayuga Creek. Popular baits include salmon egg imitations, Berkley power baits, minnow imitating lures, spinners and spoons, as well as an assortment of egg imitating flies and streamers..

Outdoor calendar:

- Oct. 17: Southtowns Walleye Association, monthly meeting, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., 7 p.m. start, food available, speaker Tom Owczarczak will discuss Alaska fishing, call 649-8202.

- Oct. 17: Erie County SCOPE chapter, monthly meeting, VFW Post 8113 (The Chicken Coop), 299 Leydecker Rd., West Seneca, open to public, 7 p.m., call 846-5448.

- Oct. 17: Federation of Fly Fishers – WNNY Chapter, Legion Post 735, 35 Legion Pkwy, West Seneca, fly tying 6 p.m., meeting 7 p.m., caqll 675-4766.

- Oct. 19/20: Niagara Frontier Gun Show, Newstead Firehall, 5691 Cummings Rd., Akron, 9 a.m. start, information online at www.nfgshows.com

- Oct. 21/22/24; NYS Hunter Safety Training, Niagara Gun Range, 3355 Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda, call 693- 4000.

- Nov. 2: Evan’s Rod & Gun Sighting –In Day, $5 fee per gun, targets every 25 to 100 yards, NRA Instructors and Ted Malota will be on hand, 864 Cain Rd., Angola, call 549-0333.

Email outdoor information to Forrest Fisher, 10 days in advance, at nugdor@yahoo.com.
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