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Fishing Line

Winter arrived Tuesday with a backlog of ice formation that put anglers on area ice surfaces a week earlier than last season.

Most streams are locked tight with ice -- at least at their mouths -- and many ice-fishing sites are set up with solid surfaces for holiday weekend anglers.

Lower Niagara River waters have started to clear, following heavy winds that stirred Lake Erie waters and canceled out many a lower-river trout run. Good schooling of brown trout and steelhead trout offer promise of a resurgence of the early run of browns and steelies.

Capt. Chris Cinelli got onto river waters Monday and Tuesday for good numbers of steelies. "All [trout] went for egg sacks," Cinelli said of the 20-plus fish hooked the second day fishing the Artpark drift.

Early ice action and cold sunny days have made the season bright for everything from panfish to pike that hardwater anglers can get to and catch in good numbers.

Winter's official start Tuesday means each day will lengthen in daylight and lock in the cold-water patterns that keep fish in (somewhat) predictable holding sites for anglers fishing through ice or in open water.

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Feeder streams

Stream action remains in the works, but most activity has been confined to upper reaches of larger feeders along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Cattaraugus Creek has 5-inch ice pockets around edges where rainbow smelt begin schooling when Erie ices over. Not now. Not yet. But early ice formations and continued cold could offer another early smelt run similar to the one seen last ice season.

Both Oak Orchard Creek, up near the Waterport Dam, and Eighteen Mile Creek, under Burt Dam, have seen nice brown and steelie action. "Even a 25-pound king [salmon] came in last weekend," said Wes Walker at Slippery Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott Harbor.

Browns and steelies also move up Oak Orchard waters, when enough water comes through/over the dam give fish moving space.

Waters have cleared considerably and bait selections tend to shift to smaller, bug- or egg-like presentations.

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Ice action

*Buffalo Small Boat Harbor ice hardened at the south end enough for walkers to get out on the stairwell side late last week. Ice coated the entire harbor and could be good at the north end by the weekend, but the south side is a certainty for access and 4- to 5-inch ice.

*Silver Lake -- The walleye run has yet to match last year's first-ice forays, but a good mix of perch and bluegills has made it worthwhile for walkers out of Mack's Boat Livery at the southeast end or the state park launch site next to Silver Lake Marina at the southwest corner.

Small jigs tipped with grubs and spikes have been good for both perch and 'gills so far. Minnows stick perch better in deeper water.

*Honeoye Lake -- The walleye run at the south end equaled or exceeded last year's ice opener at the south end. Tip-ups set with minnows got most of the 'eye appeal, but jiggers bumped into a few feeders around set rigs.

*Bluegills and perch also turned on, with 'gills a bit larger than seen last season and perch scattered but hitting some of the same rigs set up for sunfish.

*Chautauqua Lake -- All of the South Basin (Bemus Point to Jamestown) has frozen over and most of the North Basin shows ice surfaces. But anglers heading to the Mayville end have thin patches close to shore as well as over the deeper holes.

Better access and crossing ice shows at the south end, with Burtis Bay seeing the most angler presence. Both perch and bluegills have cooperated at Burtis.

Fewer bouts of snowfall and steady cold, with lower wind speeds, have sped ice formation around the entire lake. The north end, with its hoards of bigger perch, could be solid by the weekend. But, for now, relatively safer ice has formed along the southwest side of the lake from Ashville Bay to Jamestown.

e-mail: odrswill@gmail.com

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