Santa's bag of holiday gifts for anglers should have included some fishing tackle geared for open waters.
Lakes, rivers, and bays that often provide solid ice between Christmas and New Years are still showing waves and open access areas at boat ramps.
Feeder streams from Barcelona Harbor to well east of Point Breeze on Lake Ontario remain open and at nice flow levels for trout trekkers.
While most boaters have winterized their motors and have hulls set aside in storage, a solid core of hardcore boaters -- not just along lower Niagara River currents -- set out in search of everything from walleye to perch.
A column on one of those all-season boaters will appear on the Outdoors Page this Sunday.
Don't (bother) trying this at home, but boaters can still pull out of Cattaraugus Creek -- and perhaps nearby launch sites -- and hit into perch.
Side docks have been removed from all public access launch ramps from Buffalo to Barcelona. Small Boat Harbor and Erie Basin Marina are closed to accessing the water with a boat on a trailer now.
But hearty souls-dressed in ice-fishing type gear still have a fun run with plug-sized perch off Sturgeon Point and around the Catt at depths of 50 to 55 feet. Buffalo-area access is limited to the foot of Sheridan Drive and Ontario Street ramps.
At all early-winter boating sites, be sure to have enough PFD's (personal flotation devices) on board and warn when occupants are afloat.
The weather could get even nastier and ramp sites should freeze over soon, but the ringback revival prompts thoughts of a nice run on ice and even nicer spring perch scampers.
Feeder readers vary as to trout-run reports. Steelies have been seen and caught along Cattaraugus Creek waters from the mouth at Irving to directly under the Springville Dam. Stream-flow conditions, high and muddy, keep waders off the Catt during periods of rainfall and snow-melt runoff.
Eighteen Mile Creek has yet to see good up-stream runs of rainbow/steelhead. But both Canadaway Creek west of Dunkirk and Chautauqua Creek farther west support fair numbers of trout. Warmer late-fall weather and a late arrival of good water levels slowed the early run of steelies.
DEC creek surveyors are working stream areas along the entire New York State shoreline. When working, be sure to share catch and fish sightings when you see checkers afield.
Steelies may hold off their entry into Dunkirk Harbor until actual winter conditions arrive. Shoreline water temperatures often hold above 40 degrees and substantial bait presence in Erie's open waters may keep them out of the harbor until later this winter.
But the warmth has not kept brown trout from coursing about harbor waters. Casters at the Dunkirk City Pier and the Harry Probst fishing platform at the power plant's warm-water outlet hit into browns. "Spinners and spoons work better off the pier and egg sacks have been good at the outlet," said Gerri Begier at Bill's Hooks, a tackle shop west of Dunkirk on Route 5.
Begier is getting few reports about stream conditions and catches; most regulars await the solid freezes that make winter steelie fishing hot.
Lake trout season opens Sunday for popular areas along the Lake Ontario and lower Niagara River shoreline.
Shore casters have been trying to cast around lakers, an impossible task, this fall and early winter. The popular still-water eddies along the Artpark shoreline has been breeding sites for mature lakers all fall.
Add a super abundance of bait schools, rainbow smelt and emerald shiners, and the bite should be slight. Not a mite.
Shore casters see a good mix of steelies and browns along with lakers. Boaters see more steelies in river currents than out on the Niagara Bar. Lake trout and brown trout dominate the bar drifts.
Egg sacks and minnows catch just about everything swimming in lower river waters right now.
Stained waters at Wilson and Olcott slowed the feeder-stream steelie run, but waters clear a bit farther east. Casters at and near Oak Orchard Creek have seen slightly less staining and a fair run of steelies. Some browns linger, but steelhead trout dominate stream waters.
Smallest tackle (ice-fishing type rigs) work in either stained or clear waters. Grubs, bugs, small jigs, waxworms, or a single-egg offering prevails.
Trout Beads, a commercial product that can be strung and locked with a toothpick an inch or two above the hook, has gotten much mention and play this season.
Look for a nice perch run on Irondequoit Bay ice this season. Boaters still head out to deeper drops (30- to 40-foot depths) for a solid run of ringbacks.