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ICE IS GOOD AT MOST SPOTS; NOW FIND THE FISH

As in real estate, the key to good ice fishing results is: location, location, location.

Good, solid ice has formed on all inland waters offering ice fishing. Now, the trick is to find the right site to be over active fish.

Ice thickness reduces oxygen in most shallows -- away from feeder streams, creeks and rivers -- sending walleye and other larger predators to slightly deeper waters. Panfish move with the forage, following minnows or finding aquatic bugs where they can. If it comes to a choice between holding over an ice hole with hope that a school will arrive or moving to a spot deeper or slightly shallower where a depth change might attract fish, make the move.

Lower River/Niagara Bar

Scatter is the pattern for lower Niagara River steelies. John DeLorenzo has found fish in drifts well below the Devils Hole currents. Hits come with either Kwikfish, skein or egg imitations. With Lake Erie freezing over, lower river steelhead fishing should continue to improve.

Fly fishing course

George Besh will teach a four-class fly fishing course ($19) Wednesdays from 7:30-9 p.m. beginning Feb. 2 as part of the Clarence Community Education program. For details, call 759-8331.

Fishing festival

The SONS of Lake Erie will be offering a free fishing event during the third annual Winter Festival. On Saturday, anglers can fish either open water or on ice anywhere in Pennsylvania near Erie. Anglers weigh fish in either the senior or junior division. Registration is not required; just bring in fish for weighing at Smith's Bait at the foot of State Street. For complete details, call (814) 453-2270.

Ice survival skills

Nothing replaces caution and good sense while on ice, but Lt. Jim Koch of the Town of Hamburg Police Dept. and Det. Bill Yeates of the Buffalo Police Dept. gave some helpful tips to all attending the Southtowns Walleye Association's January meeting.

Yeates suggested looking for clear ice formations for the safest conditions.

"A Snow and ice mix can be confusing and 'candle' ice is dangerous," he said. Candle ice shows thin fingers of melting ice, which allows water to soak through and melt solid ice below. Avoid walking or riding over cracks, pressure ridges and any ice elevated above the water surface, both Yeates and Koch recommend.

Investing in a flotation-type coat or suit helps retain body core temperature. Koch pointed out that the body begins uncontrolled shivering with just a 3-degree drop in core temperature and a person becomes irrational once that temperature drops 15 degrees. A Mustang suit is one of the more popular brands of flotation suits that keep the victim floating and insulated against cold water.

A throw bag and ice spikes are two more devices Koch and Yeates recommend while walking or traveling on ice. A throw bag contains a coiled rope, which can be tossed to a victim; he can grab at the bag more easily than a rope. Ice spikes, gripped in each hand, allow a victim to regain footing on the ice surface after falling through the ice.

Good sense, knowing when to stay off weak/poor ice surfaces, can be the most valuable tool when planning an ice outing.

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