Ice anglers will have to wait awhile for presents from Lake Erie's 42-degree water this holiday season.
Feeder streams and shoreline areas remain open to boaters and shore casters. Great Lake and inland lake waters are several degrees away from the opportunity to test any new ice-fishing gear received as gifts.
Andrew Skudlarek of Orchard Park didn't have far to travel Monday afternoon when weighing in a 12.22-pound, 32-inch walleye at Pro Angler in Dunkirk. He hooked his monster with a minnow on a perch rig while fishing from Dunkirk Municipal Pier at midday.
A scale sample submitted to biologists at the Fishery Station in Dunkirk confirmed the big fish was an 8-year-old female.
Dunkirk Pier gets busier after dark for smelt anglers dunking minnow segments just below the water surface. Outlet waters in the harbor are still somewhat muddied. Browns -- but not many steelies -- were hitting skein before the mud moved through the outlet area.
Big walleye were hitting steadily at and just after sunset before recent storms roiled all shoreline waters around Gratoit Point west of Dunkirk harbor. Should the lake water (currently 42-degrees) settle before ice formation, flatlining long minnow-type baits (Bombers, Rapalas, Thundersticks, etc.) could still account for many walleye in the 8- to 10-pound class.
Tributary waters of the week flow in Canadaway Creek. While larger feeders still need time to settle, clear Canadaway waters have produced good steelhead numbers both above and below the Route 5 bridge. The better numbers of steelies are taken with egg sacks in waters above the bridge.
Lower river waters have become clear enough to call for smaller baits when drifting artificials from a boat or casting from shore.
Pink-detailed silver (No. 8) Kwifish on a long leader will take fair-to-good numbers of steelhead in most river drifts. Some brown trout have been taken, but most of the browns and lake trout are holding in Lake Ontario over the Niagara Bar.
Ice fishing lore and safety were the prime topics for speakers at the Southtowns Walleye Meeting Thursday night.
Capt. Kevin Caffery's main message to ice anglers was "stay visible."
Caffery, officer in charge of the Erie County Sheriff's "Sundowner Patrol," flies over all Erie County ice surfaces between 3:30 p.m. and dark.
Caffery's key points were: wear blaze orange clothing; avoid using an all-white windbreak; and add distinctive colors and markings to windbreaks, sleds and other large pieces of equipment.
He commented that ice near Sturgeon Point typically shows the most dramatic changes in conditions -- often in minutes.
Charlie Flessel, a long-time ice angler with much experience along the Hamburg shoreline of Lake Erie, knows that every ice angler works his sets differently.
Flessel prefers "rocker" tip-ups -- those that are balanced on a dowel resting on tripods. In deeper waters, he uses minnows on No. 4 or No. 6 long-shank hooks off 2-ounce spreaders set near the bottom. These tip-ups are placed in a triangle behind the windbreak on windy outings.
Last-minute shoppers can call 847-4600 and buy a gift that, in fact, lasts for the lifetime of a sportsman. That's the phone number of the Buffalo office of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Personnel there will be happy to explain the many possibilities for lifetime-license purchases.
The licenses not only eliminate reapplying each licensing season, but also provide advance notice of any regulations and permit changes.