before heading back to the North Pole -- after emptying his sleigh.
Inland lake panfish and trout along Great Lakes feeder streams offer fishing for warmly-dressed anglers dashing through the snow. Also, lower Niagara River and Niagara Bar drifts can deliver nice salmon and trout gifts.
If Santa delivers fishing tackle during his Saturday morning run, an outing along area waters later this weekend could be merry and bright.
Lake trout season reopens Jan. 1, but boaters have gotten more action from steelies than lakers lately. When winds make runs out to the Niagara Bar risky, drifters, with both New York and Ontario fishing licenses, find good steelie action while bumping egg or Kwikfish rigs along bottom.
When winds are slight or directly off shore, boaters head out to the Niagara Bar and drift over the top -- 10- to 20-foot depths -- at the start of the day and around the edges when the boat traffic increases.
Live bait -- chubs or larger minnows -- works best, but a little practice with vertical or roundhead jigs can sometimes result in some nice hookups. With either live or artificial baits, the best responses come when the lure is down among the snags. With the buildup of zebra and quagga mussel growth, snags are still possible but much less of a problem now.
Oak Orchard Creek fishing depends on the outflow released from the Waterport Dam at Lake Alice. Waders walk up to the dam and find either good fishing or very little fishable water. Light tackle, flies or ice-fishing jigs with grubs draw steelies and some browns. Downstream, pier anglers can connect with the passing steelie, but the big draw has been good perch schooling.
Runoff earlier this week muddied most streams, but shore ice washed out and waders could get into all feeder streams. Steelies come steadily into waters below Burt Dam. The few walkers who work Cattaraugus Creek below the Springville Dam find new arrivals of rainbows each time out. Rain and runoff lifted smaller feeders to more typical water levels. Cold, clear water calls for even lighter tackle and quiet stalking along all streams.
Cold air might freeze up shore access and low water levels make boat launching tough at some sites, but boaters able to get on lake waters have good panfishing in the shallows:
Seneca/Cayuga -- Both lakes draw perch schools at their north end. Seneca perch run deeper (30-35 feet) and Cayuga ringbacks like 12- to 15-foot ledges. Minnows do best. Boaters in Geneva Bay often hook a laker while perch fishing. The launch and park at Geneva is closed for repair. Roy's Marina or the Canal offer access to the Geneva area.
Conesus/Honeoye -- You've got the lake to yourself for perch and other panfish. Weedline bluegill and sunfish schools often join with perch in depths of less than 15 feet. Smaller minnows have also attracted keeper sized (18 inch) walleye at Honeoye.
Chautauqua -- Skim ice forms on cold mornings, but hearty boaters head out to 40-foot depths, along edges of deep dropoffs, for walleye during the day. Night casters still work the shoreline with larger Rapalas (No. 13) and Thundersticks at depths of less than 10 feet. Dress warmly for this one.