The hard water transition is starting to happen around Western New York, but it’s still not as safe as it could be according to Scott Brauer of Gasport, Ice Team Pro for New York. “Ice fishermen need to take responsibility for your own safety,” he insists. “This past weekend I was in the Adirondacks with a spud bar in my hand checking ice thickness constantly, ice pics around my neck. I also had a rescue rope in case I ran into someone having a problem. Four inches of black ice is considered safe but conditions can vary greatly … even by a few feet. Never fish alone and wear some type of personal flotation device. Stop and drill a hole every once in a while to see how thick the ice really is. There is no such thing as safe ice.” Brauer recommends holding off for another week. Check out this video for safety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KDqEJlwclg
Terry Webber of Michigan, an avid ice fisherman and owner of Michigan Stinger spoons, drowned recently in his home state while ice fishing. He contributed much to the Great Lakes fisheries and he will be missed.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Tributary action is slow right now according to Danny Colville at Colville Outfitters in Hamburg. You really have to pay a lot of attention to the weather to get any action in. Best creek right now for open water is Cattaraugus Creek. Eggs or egg imitations are being used along with jigs under a float and tipped with a wax worm or spike. A variety of fly patterns will also work. Remember that you need a special license if you fish on Seneca Nation lands and those waters will be closing down on Dec. 31, reopening on March 1. If you really have an itch for an Erie trib and want to take a drive, 16 Mile Creek in Pennsylvania, just over the state line, has a warm water discharge that keeps the water flowing according to Colville.
A fresh run of salmon made it into the Oak Orchard River this week according to Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga. Using small jigs tipped with spikes and fished under a float, he managed to hook up with
eight salmon and a few brown trout and steelhead. Water conditions were low and clear. Black and white colors worked best for him. Over at 18 Mile Creek in Newfane, open water was being report from the dam at Burt to the stairs according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker. A little tint in the water was being reported. Fish action was mostly steelhead and browns with jigs tipped with wax worms the best bait. The big news was that the back bay of Wilson was reporting 5 inches of ice. A few anglers were taking advantage of the hard water and catching pike, perch and steelhead. Best fishing time has been in the afternoon. With the slightly warmer temps this week, caution is advised – especially if there’s snow on the ice.
The bite was good Monday and Tuesday this week for boaters braving the cold in the lower river. Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown reported that the hot ticket this week was egg sacs fished off three-way rigs. Monday and Tuesday were both good days for steelhead, but the water was changing color from the high winds on Tuesday and we’ll have to wait and see what happens to the water clarity. Shore fishermen may have the upper hand if the water turns color. Look for anything remotely clear. Glenn Strzelczyk of the Town of Niagara has been doing well casting locally made Chuck Booker spoons and spinners in UV colors when the water stains up. Artpark has been a good spot for casters. Using heavier hardware has been important to get your baits to the bottom as quickly as possible. Vary the retrieve speed. Remember that lake trout season is closed until Dec. 31 on the New York side of the river, as is musky.
There’s a thin layer of ice on the lake according to Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors in Lakewood. It could be safe enough by the weekend but follow all of the safety rules and don’t take any unnecessary chances and don’t fish alone.