Just when things were looking good for ice fishermen, along comes a warm spell bringing wind and rain. It might take until the weekend for things to harden back up a bit, but if we get some snow on the ice, all bets are off. Snow on ice acts as an insulator and ice doesn’t harden up as quickly. Some of the smaller lakes like Loon Lake in Steuben County are probably still good. So is the south end of Honeoye. Oneida Lake has some decent reports out of Big Bay but everything else on the lake is questionable. Closer to home, some people ventured out onto Buffalo Harbor last week but that’s questionable at best right now. There’s construction going on so access is restricted. Parking is at the lot nearest Charlie’s Boat Yard at the northern most launch ramp. You should have at least 4 inches of ice for it to be safe. Some emergency numbers you should have in your phone include: Buffalo Harbor State Park Office – 822-1207; State Park Police – 278-1777; DEC – 851-7000; Border Patrol – 774-2753; and, of course, call 911 in case of an emergency. As always, make sure you pick up after yourself. They are talking about having extra garbage cans available and even a portable toilet.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
Greg Schloerb of Amherst shared some information he garnered first hand from Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek in the Town of Newfane. Water was low and clear, making fishing difficult, but he did manage to catch some nice browns, steelhead and a small Coho salmon fishing the creek the day before and the day after Christmas. Rain and snow melt didn’t help much in the water clarity department and flow was down. The hot bait for Schloerb was a hand-tied white jig tipped with a wax worm and fished under a float using his center pin outfit. The highlight Monday morning was a doubleheader fishing with his buddy Saith J. Shine of Niagara Falls. Greg topped the duo with a 10.7-pound brown. Cold temperatures are supposed to be blowing back into Western New York quite literally and we’ll see what the lake-effect storm brings us on the weekend. Warm temperatures and rain could help, but the weather forecast doesn’t look good moving forward with lake effect snow a possibility. Ice action at Wilson is marginal. Some safe ice still exists, but Scott Brauer of Gasport recently tried it and he had 5 inches of ice … but he was next to some open water. Be careful out there! Remember the start of the NYS Winter Classic Tournament (www.nyswinterclassic.com) and the Captain Bob’s Contest is Jan. 1 and 2 respectively.
Near-perfect conditions in the Lower Niagara River earlier in the week will undoubtedly be affected by the high winds and cold front that moved through the region on Monday and Tuesday. In fact, Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters was battling the winds on Tuesday morning and it was a tough drift from a boat. He could also watch the water slowly change color and make it more difficult for the fish to see the bait. With the wind, Kwikfish and MagLips seemed to work best. Young 8-year-old Paul Orsi of Youngstown had the hot hand earlier this week, catching both walleye and lake trout. Remember, lake
trout season opens up on Jan. 1 in the lower river; it’s open all year on the upper river and Lake Erie. Once things settle back down – maybe by the weekend – we should see egg patterns showing back up. Shore fishing continues to be a mix of spoons, spinners, eggs and egg imitations. Look for slightly clearer water and brightly colored lures or baits to tip the fishing in your favor. Glenn Strzelczyk of the Town of Niagara reports that upper river action was good for lake trout recently, especially at the foot of Ferry Street and along Broderick Park. Spoons and spinners work there, too.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Most of the Lake Erie tributaries are high and muddy at the time of this report according to Nicholas Sagnibene of Ellicottville. Your best bet is to find the smaller streams for clearer conditions. Everything from Buffalo Creek to Canadaway Creek are muddy. Cattaraugus Creek should be high and muddy the remainder of the week. The cold front should help stop the staining and things should be back in order by the beginning of the new year. Sagnibene took a nice steelhead from Clear Creek on the Seneca Nation using a white egg. He reminds anglers that the fishing on the Nation closes down on Dec. 31 and does not reopen until March 1.
Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors said that the recent warm spell and rain put a hold on ice fishing. Prior to that, there was about 4 inches of ice being reported. The northern basin was producing some walleye but hard-water jiggers using No. 7 and No. 9 Jigging Rapalas. Wait until the weekend before you try it again according to Sperry.
Inland streams are in good shape according to Sagnibene, who operates out of Adventure Bound on the Fly. The water is cold, but nymphs and streamers are working nicely on trout. Some of the top streams have been Upper Cattaraugus
Creek, Lime Lake Outlet and Elton Creek – all open for catch and release fishing, artificial baits only. Nicholas caught some nice browns in there using 4-inch long articulated streamers. Best pattern was a Mallard Dungeon, tied by local angler Mike Ilecki. When fishing the inland waters, Sagnibene likes to get his fly deep. With a bugger or streamer, cast across the stream and throw line mends upstream to let the fly sink. Then slowly swing/strip the fly out of the current to the bank.