Anglers are enjoying the ice depths and adapting to challenges when it comes to fish-catching.
Lower Niagara River ice conditions are good for boater and shore-bound anglers setting up to compete in the annual Steelhead Tournament on Saturday.
Most Great Lakes feeders have frozen over, with Ontario’s Waterport Dam and Burt Dam showing the only open trout waters below their flow. If the cold continues, ice depths across the Great Lakes basin could reach records for depths and surface areas ice-coated.
For depths, Lake Simcoe saw 20-inch ice weeks earlier, some of Lake Erie’s eastern waters have a 15-inch coating and most inland lakes have at least a 10-inch covering over shoreline areas.
The deep, central Finger Lakes retain open water, but many a bay, and normally open water at Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, is now accessible on ice.
• Lake Erie: Ice shoves and pressure ridges at Sturgeon Point have been smoothed over and walkers have better footage there. But the perch bite has come from depths at a distance.
“The bite starts at about two and half miles out at depths of more than 50 feet,” said Dave Watts at Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Derby about the fishing off Sturgeon Point.
For many with motorized gear, the run is 4-5 miles or more and the catch count varies. Some minnow minders have pulled 30 to 40 fish at times; most runners on the U.S. side see less than 10 keepers on average for a day’s run.
Reports from the Canadian side are similar. Machine runners head out to at least 50-foot depths off Point Abino close to the International Line. Perch schools are on the move, hugging bottom and despite their bottom foraging mainly hit live minnows.
• Chautauqua Lake: The walleye bite continues just at sunset along the deeper drop-offs between Dewittville and Mayville. “They’re fishing 30-foot depths there for perch and sometimes hit into walleye in the same place at dusk,” said Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut. Crappie schooling has yet to show, but some fair ‘gill and sunfish numbers continue at Burtis Bay.
• Western Finger Lakes: The Silver Lake crappie bite has picked up, but bluegills remain the mainstay at the southeast corner of the lake. Conesus Lake ‘gills are stunted, but the pike bite on tip-ups has been good. Honeoye Lake bass are everywhere; the ‘gill bite is fair and crappies are showing in odd numbers and places. The perch bite at the north end of Canandaigua Lake slowed but is still worth checking.
Jigging tip of the week: Last weekend’s cold front slowed everything, but for mini-jigging Maki Plastics and other plastic baits, add frost blue to assortments of pink for a tail-assembly offering.
The Niagara River Anglers Association’s Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Tournament competition starts at sunrise Saturday and goes to 2 p.m. for all waters of Lake Ontario and its tributaries.
Lower Niagara River fishing reports are good for boating access, water clarity and the catch count. Shore casters, often dominant in this contest, have good walking areas and catch reports from Artpark on the lower river and open water below Burt Dam in Olcott and Waterport Dam above Oak Orchard Creek.
The awards dinner this year will be held at the Fin, Feather Fur Conservation Society starting at 3 p.m.
Many entrants register at the NRAA sign-in trailer at Lewiston Landing on the morning of the contest, but anglers can drop by Creek Road Bait & Tackle in Lewiston to register in advance. For details and directions, call 807-6248.
For general information, go to niagarariveranglers.com.
Ice contests and results
• On Sunday, the Northeast Ice Fishing Circuit travels to Eddy’s Lakeside Restaurant (formerly Trident Marina) on Honeoye Lake for a competition that begins registrations at 5:30 a.m., a 7 a.m. start and a 1 p.m. finish.
Individuals or teams can enter a mixed bag of panfish that includes perch, bluegills and crappies.
For entry details on this ice contest, call Jeff Snyder at (585) 322-0063 or go to northeasticefishingcircuit.com.
• Capt. Bob’s Outdoors Ice Derby this past week saw three new division leaders. Barry Ball of Alden took the Perch Division lead with a 1.71-pound entry from Sturgeon Point. Wade Wynch of North Tonawanda moved to second place with a 1.69-pound ringback from Sturgeon.
Rod Froebel Jr. of Alden moved to first place in the Northern Division with an 8.6-pound pike from Silver Lake.
John Van Hoff of Tonawanda entered a 1.74-pound crappie taken at a pond in West Batavia.
For derby details, call 407-3021 or stop by the store at 10295 Main St. in Clarence.
Boat show upcoming
The Buffalo Boat Show sets up in the Bills Healthy Zone Fieldhouse in Orchard Park Feb. 26 to March 2.
Parking is free and major marine sales reps will have demo models on the floor for everything from cruisers to paddleboats.
For exhibitor and vendor information, check with Catherine McCracken at 873-7199, Ext. 101. For details on the show, go to buffaloboating.com.