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ENDURANCE REQUIRED TO WIN NRAA TOURNEY

Boaters and shore casters will be steeling themselves against the elements Saturday morning to fish the Niagara River Anglers Association's Winter Steelhead Tournament.

Anglers can fish waters of the lower Niagara River, Lake Ontario and any of its U.S. or Canadian tributaries for steelhead/rainbow trout. Prizes go to the top three entries.

Typically, the NRAA Steelie Tourney is an endurance contest as well as a fishing contest. Contestants dress well for these outings and, typically, surprising catches come in each year. Water conditions have been favorable for lower river steelie action and prospects look good for this weekend.

For last-minute entry details, check with Rich Fortier (282-4635).

Ice outings

Simcoe - Simcoe gets the most ice angler attention right now and perch remain the top target. Operators steadily move huts out to deeper water to get over good perch schools. Randy Carleton has set up several perch huts over 40-foot depths to give his customers a better chance for a 50-fish limit.

Bob Henkel of Clarence and Town of Tonawanda angler Tim Kernahan got their limits on the second day of a two-day outing with Randy's Huts. "We fished in water more than 30 feet deep and had to work for them, but perch were hitting all day long," Henkel said. Most of his fish went for minnows.

Attractants often steer perch to a hut site. A small fly tied 18-24 inches above a minnow rig and tipped with a grub (waxworm, mousy or spike) will sometimes bring in fish with just a slight jigging motion followed by a hit on the minnow. As a control, watch a minnow-only set on a nearby line to see which gets the twitch.

Lake Erie - Reports of ice conditions around Sturgeon Point vary daily, with no solid read on fish locations or movement. Check with anyone who has been out on the ice recently. Erie is iffy. For a close option, try Buffalo Small Boat Harbor. Perch schools, mainly smaller ones, move through with some nice ringbacks showing up in no set pattern or place. Deep channels can be productive, but check to be sure no ice breaker lanes were opened under light coverings of snow.

Chautauqua - Tip-ups open 'eyes as well as vertical jigs. Joe Woodford at the Bait Pond has used a minnow-tipped jigging Rapala next to a tip-up rig in 20-foot depths off Long Point two evenings this past week. "I have as many hits on the set rig as on my hand-held line," he said.

Schools move steadily and hits come irregularly, but 'eyes have shown in these relatively shallow depths mainly during evening hours. First light can be good when cloud cover shades sunrise light.

Finding big perch can be a bigger challenge than prize 'eyes. Ringback reports range from 10-foot depths along Mayville weed edges to 40-foot depths north of Long Point. Movement, of both location and lures, picks up perch.

Honeoye - The lake's ice provides a lovely setting for ducks. A large flock of mallard ducks, numbering up to 500 birds, has taken up night-time residence in an open section of water at mid-lake just north of California Point. Anglers can fish through 10-inch ice over 20-foot depths surrounding this open water, but these ducks return from feeding on nearby farm fields each evening and stir water enough to keep it open as their nightly sleepover spot, says Mike Holton at Honeoye Bait & Tackle.

Walleyes can be easier to find than good bluegill schools, Holton notes. He has hooked 'eyes well above the 15-inch limit with a jig and minnow during evening hours around this open hole. Check for ice depths when fishing this area.

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