Ice outings continue in all directions, but finding fish on the bite can be a challenge right.
Camera users from Lake Simcoe to the east end of Oneida Lake are seeing good schools of perch and larger game fish, but the choice of terminal tackle and being there at critical feeding times are essential for bucket-filling right now.
If severe cold and so-so biting binges are a turnoff for anglers, perhaps a visit to the WNY Sport and Travel Expo running Thursday through Sunday might offer some warming thoughts about forthcoming warm-weather fishing.
A few ice sites and lower Niagara River trout treks offer some nice catches, and the exhibits and seminars at the Expo might take more than a day to fully enjoy.
Hut and shelter keepers have until March 15 before they must be removed from ice surfaces in New York State and Ontario.
Ice depths vary. Simcoe snow cover has held depths to about two feet on most open-water areas of the lake.
Bait can sometimes be difficult to find up north, but Jerry Kucharchuk at Peninsula Resort in Pefferlaw has emerald shiners. Kucharchuk notes that finding bigger perch that bite has been a problem this year, but sometimes suspended schools of jumbo perch prove to be the better biters.
Good plastic jiggers continue to connect with both suspended perch out deep and crappies closer to shore in many western Finger Lakes. At Honeoye, deeper channels south of Log Cabin Point have produced Lake Erie-sized ringbacks during early-morning stints at depths of 25 to 30 feet. A white Maki Plastic or smaller Mr. Twister often outdo live minnows.
Closer to shore, the bluegill bite dropped off, but that one-year class of largemouth bass (legal keepers in Honeoye Lake) has taken over in the shallows and out deeper where perch have been schooling. Bigmouths have been caught amid perch schools at 25 feet at the same time that shoreline ’gill jiggers stick largemouths lightly biting on mini jigs.
Most Honeoye bass measure 13 to 14 inches, well above the 12-inch length limit and remain on the slim side. Anglers can keep a limit of five bass in Honeoye and most lakes eastward to Cayuga in the Finger Lakes until March 15.
A super small jig head and a waxworm vie with a plastic body as the preferred panfish entree right now. When crappie get picky, a smaller spike or mousy grub often does better on the picky biters.
The same system connects at Silver Lake, with the southwest corner near the boat launch providing the better bite for pike on tip-ups and ultra-light tackle for panfish.
The crappie bite has picked up on Silver Lake. Conesus Lake crappie hunters are still searching and hauling in hundreds of undersized ’gills in the process.
Ice depths differ between Honeoye and Silver Lakes. Honeoye has less than 15 inches at its center. Conesus can be a bit thicker than Honeoye. Silver reaches 20 inches or more in most open areas of ice.
Chautauqua Lake ice tops most western Finger Lakes at more than 20 inches and Lake Erie ice depths not only reach 30 inches but also develop shove-under ice in places. Take along a spud/poke bar, even if you have a power auger.
Lake Erie perch schools may have moved in closer to Sturgeon Point, but it is still a run to get over good-sized schools. Dave Watts at Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Derby has received nice reads at 58-foot depths. “But the good catches come from east, west and straight off the point,” Watts said of the Sturgeon Point fishery.
Smaller minnows work best out on Erie and in the South Basin of Chautauqua Lake, says Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors in Lakewood. Sperry gets some good reports about the morning walleye run in the north basin, but the crappie and bluegill bite puts more anglers on the ice right now.
The WNY Sport and Travel Expo seminar speaker program features expert local area charter captains with presentations focusing on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario fisheries.
Capt. Jerry Snyder of Dandy Eyes Charters works Lake Ontario trout and salmon waters as soon as ice disappears until well into fall hunting seasons.
Snyder begins trips out of Sodus Bay east of Rochester and moves to Wilson Harbor for the salmon run around Mother’s Day (May 11 this year). He will conduct seminars each day of the Expo.
Look for a detailed column about Snyder’s chartering exploits on the Sunday Outdoors Page.
Capt. Jim Skoczylas of Ultimate Adventure Sportfishing focuses on “Lake Erie Trolling Techniques” during talks on Friday and Saturday.
Other fishing-related Expo speakers are being added on line at sportandtravelexpo.com under “Schedule of Events.”