Mean temperature mood swings have helped to level some rugged, snow-drift covered ice surfaces this past week.
Touches of rain and slightly above freezing air have eased trek time across many an inland lake and bay area.
Erie remains eerie for ice activity. Slush ice and ugly surfaces render the Pinehurst area on the western side of the Hamburg shoreline an on-hold situation.
In general, perch prospectors are digging deeper for golden opportunities. But a few shoreline shallows still resound with ringbacks.
Northern pike often haunt the weed-edge wilds each ice season and pike reports usually tail off as the hard-water season progresses. This year, reports of hefty-sized water wolves have been howled from Lake Ontario shoreline bays and many western Finger Lakes shallows.
Ice fishing contests set for Feb. 5 at Wilson Harbor and Irondequoit Bay should see some sizable toothy tribes whoop it up at weigh-in. Actually, the Wilson Derby measures for winning pike entries.
Walleye have been skittish but bass have been on the bite in lakes where smallmouth season remains open.
Ice thickness increases, a boon to cautious ice creepers. But snow cover and thicker ice means fish movement and feeder forays lessen and hits sometimes go amiss.
Lighten line weight, try smaller jigs, flies, and spoon-shaped artificials, move until you can get over fish that might be interested in -- or annoyed by -- your bait.
Tip of the week, from Dan Reagan at Jay-Ve Fishing Tackle in Rochester:
Perch generally move out to deeper water and bucket fishermen often sit over shallows and catch mainly minnow-sized perch. Reagan suggests working shallow-water areas fully enclosed in a tent or portable hut. "You should be able to see down into the hole and watch fish movement as you drop the bait," he suggests, pulling the bait away when runt-sized ringbacks eye the bait.
Jig and hold out for the bigger perch -- or any other panfish species and pull away from the smaller fish that pass. True, many of the larger fish in most species tend to head for deeper waters, but the more visible shallows might produce sizable, bucket-worthy fish for the pan.
>Hot ice areas
* Buffalo Small Boat Harbor -- The word "move," often in reference to harbor-area ice, can't be said and written often enough. Bigger perch often show up in deeper drops outside the Small Boat Harbor inner breakwaters. The smelt run may be a few weeks off, but some nicer-sized schools of perch venture into ice-covered harbor areas.
* Silver Lake -- Mornings have been fair, evenings have been better. Jiggers and minnow minders have had to work for every perch caught. The bluegill run offers more fun.
* Conesus Lake -- Northern Pike have shown better than average along shoreline shallows. The bluegill bite continues, with a run of runts before a 'gill with some girth grabs the bait.
* Honeoye Lake -- A contingent of deep-water sentinels post over 30-foot depths on the east side off and just south of Log Cabin Point. Walleye, bass, and perch hit at alternate times of the day. Perch have shown the most numbers, but a surprising number of bass have been on the bite at all hours of the day.
* Chautauqua Lake -- Ice surfaces smoothed this past week and ice depth increased with snow-less sub-zero temperatures Sunday night. Deeper waters north of Long Point to Dewittville have been most productive for bigger perch. Depths of 45 feet get the most mention, but some rangers have ridden out to 60-foot depths to round up ringbacks.
* Lake Ontario Bays -- Irondequoit Bay has finally frozen over enough for safe walking out in the middle. Thin ice around the center buoys last week produced nice perch at 20-foot depths. Most ice areas now have a 4- to 5-inch depth of solid ice, but the best fishing may be at greater depths this week. Bayside Restaurant, 279 Lake Road in Webster, will hold its 14th annual Ice Fishing Derby from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 5. Awards go to three places for pike and perch. Call (585) 323-1224.
At Wilson Harbor, pike activity has been high. A Wilson Tuscarora/Wilson Harbor Ice Fishing Contest on Feb. 5 pays winning entrants in four fish categories: trout, pike, perch and any panfish. Call 425-3018.
* Lake Simcoe -- Deep water dominates. A few good perch pails have come in, but plug-sized production comes from huts set up over depths of 30 feet or more.
Many a lake trout/whitefish hut ends the day with a pile of perch without a trout.
>Lower Niagara River
Drifters now have clear waters but ice floes. Lake trout have moved into the lower river in solid numbers, but the steelhead run remains solid above and below Lewiston landing.
The Niagara River Anglers Association will hold its Steelhead Contest on Feb. 12. Call 731-4780.