This winter warmth has anglers thinking more of spring runs than late-ice outings.
Anglers walking the aisles at the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association Flea Market on Sunday afternoon were sharing more open-water lake reports than feeder stream successes.
Walkers on area lakes and light-vehicle runners on Canadian ice surfaces offer as many comments about open-water areas as big-fish and limit-catch counts.
Stream observers along inland feeders have seen early runs of rainbows up creeks that usually see these forays a month or so later. Catharines Creek and Naples Creek have seen an early spurt of pre-season breeders. DEC Region 8 senior aquatic biologist Web Pearce at the Avon office hopes to have a good trout presence when stream shocking crews head out to Naples on March 22 and Stonybrook on March 23.
Ice anglers still have a few good surfaces in protected bays and mainly southern embayment areas of western Finger Lakes. Stream waders along both Great Lakes see mixed responses each time on the water. Morning freezes and runoffs change water clarity and fish movement daily, and sometimes in a few short hours.
Some good ice remains, streams can be productive in places, boaters have access at many launch sites normally locked in with late-February ice.
On this Leap Day, anglers may contemplate March moving in as either a lion or a lamb, but outing selections will be more akin to the arrival of April 1 site selections and tackle tactics.
Also, today is the last day doors will be open at Penrod Bait & Tackle in South Buffalo -- an opportunity to say goodbye to Jerry Olejniczak and ask about area fishing forays.
> Lake Erie
Cattaraugus Creek has open banks and flowage from the Springville Dam down to the mouth at Irving. Trout season is open in New York State areas of this major feeder stream, and waders have been doing well with bait more than artificials of late. Ricky Miller at Miller's Bait & Tackle in Irving is getting accounts of sucker catches, which usually come in later in March.
Smaller streams (Eighteen Mile, Silver, Canadaway, Chautauqua, etc.) all can be productive at times. Waters have cleared enough for lure presentations and several "green" steelies (fish showing bright silver sides) have shown in both larger and smaller streams.
Dunkirk Harbor's run of brown trout remains colorful. Bait and lure successes vary with weather and sunlight changes. But casters often come in with nice-sized trout from both the city pier and the fishing platform.
> Niagara River
The lower river stain remains. Solid schools of steelies hold in the river, but muddied waters make things difficult for fish to see baits of any kind. Boaters and shore casters have a bit nicer water above the power plants in Devils Hole.
Drifters have used minnows for modest catches of steelies, lakers, and browns. Shore anglers have seen a slow-up, but the bite can be better at times for lines worked tight to the bank where boat drifters are not able to work lines.
> Lake Ontario
Get the boat ready for shoreline outings. Ice anglers have scrapped plans for most bays and ponds now offer open water for runs at perch and panfish.
Launch sites from the Niagara River eastward to Rochester and beyond have areas open for either a trout and salmon trolling run along shore or shots at perch and panfish in shallow bays.
Irondequoit Bay perch has been exceptional; Sodus Bay boaters have seen perch, bluegill and an occasional crappie schooling.
> Ice Sites
The perch bite at Simcoe has been great; mixed bags of panfish in western Finger Lakes and Southern Tier areas have been attractive.
Good ice holds on many bay and wind-protected areas. But shoreline ice often deteriorates as anglers fish through the day.
LAKE SIMCOE: Ice inside the islands off Pefferlaw and Port Bolster holds, hut operators often report limit catches of perch, and huts can remain in place until March 31. But the thickness of green ice has dropped from 12-15 inches to seven or eight inches over the 25- to 35-foot depths where the nice perch catches continue to be taken. Check with a hut operator before heading north for an ice outing.
SILVER LAKE: The south end has a 4-inch covering of clear "black" ice, but rain and runoff could change things. The afternoon bite, on both the east and west side, has been better evenings than mornings.
CHAUTAUQUA LAKE: Amazing as it sounds and appears, ice over some of Burtis Bay and north of Long Point holds well for a run of perch and bluegills. Stretches of open water show in the North and South Basin, but walkers can get out for fair-sized perch and good 'gills.