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CHECK WITH A RELIABLE SOURCE BEFORE HITTING THE ICE

Ice angling has many angles.

Some Southern Tier lakes froze over solidly before the heavy snows arrived. Ice on the Finger Lakes deteriorates as winds and snows block formation of good ice on central and north-central lakes in the state. Reports of fishable ice have come in for Case, Allen, Cuba, Red House and Quaker Lakes.

Simcoe Lake surfaces were solid at Pifferlaw last week, but a northwest wind earlier this week broke the ice and put it on shore. New ice has formed and may be safe by the coming weekend.

Boaters who can brave the cold drifts of the lower Niagara River and Niagara Bar find good steelhead trout numbers and lake trout, whose season reopened at sunrise today.

At all access destinations (boat, ice or stream wading), check with a reliable, first-hand source for current water and fishing conditions.

Before departing for a trip to Ontario Province or on waters in the Seneca Nation of Indians, be sure to renew your fishing license. A New York license is good until Oct. 1, but most other states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, renew with the new year.

Ice contest

Starting today, five kinds of fish are fair game in Chet's Fishing & Hunting Ice Derby. A $5 entry fee qualifies ice anglers to take prizes for the top perch, walleye, crappie, northern pike and bluegill in the contest which goes until Feb. 28. For complete details, stop at the store (1614 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Tonawanda) or call (831-0847).

Great Lakes feeders

The biggest feeder streams on both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, Cattaraugus and Oak Orchard, look better farther upstream.

Upper stretches of Cattaraugus Creek, and the larger feeder streams from Irving to Springville, draw steelies in spurts but with more consistency than smaller feeder streams.

Cattaraugus waters settled out earlier this week in the Springville-Gowanda area where waders hook rainbow trout in the 21- to 28-inch range. Bill Murphy at Bill's Sport Shop says, "They've been using yarn flies or Uncle Mike's floating single eggs to take these trout."

"At Oak Orchard Creek, water temperatures dropped to 34 degrees and there are still more browns than steelhead trout in the creek," says Ann Kustich at Oak Orchard Fly Shop. Right now, dead drifting flies in the current draws the most strikes; egg patterns always work well, she says. Bigger flies, such as woolly buggers, Mickey Finns and lucky buckys, entice in cold water. These streamer-like flies are tied with orange and white calf tail hair with an orange body. As at Oak Orchard, just a few local anglers have shown along Eighteen Mile Creek so far. The good winter run has yet to start, but fish will move into the bigger streams as the small feeders begin to freeze.

Inland lakes

Chautauqua -- Open water is rough to reach with a boat and some ice has formed at Burtis Bay, but any type of fishing access must be done with research and care.

Silver -- Walkers began crossing solid ice on Saturday, said Ted Newman at Mack's Boat Livery. South-end ice measures five inches over most of the shallow areas. First reports key on perch and bluegill, with only an undersized walleye so far. Hole punchers have yet to get out over deeper dropoffs. Tuesday's snow left a 5-inch covering on the ice, but Newman believes two more cold nights should freeze over the lake enough to cross open-water areas where walleyes could be found.

Honeoye -- "Ice is good on the south end and they're hammering the walleyes in 10 to 15 feet," says Dan Sharp at Honeoye Bait & Tackle. Jiggers tip the hook with oak leaf grubs for perch and sometimes bring up a 3-fish limit above the 18-inch length limit. Smaller jigs and grubs (mousies, spikes or waxworms) bring in more bluegill than crappie. Like Silver Lake, Honeoye has safer ice conditions at its south end right now. Most shallow-water surfaces measure five inches.

Oneida -- West end waters got two feet of snow on Tuesday and workers at Marion Manor on the east end of the lake Tuesday afternoon saw snow cover flatten waves off Lewis Point. The lake is cold enough for ice, but it will take a week for the ice to form and snow removal along the shoreline before ice anglers can get out to see if the great fall perch fishing continues into the winter season.

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