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Fishing Line for Dec. 31

For anglers, a wet Christmas and an often windy holiday week put what few boaters on shore for the holidays, with the lower Niagara River one stunning exception.

Great Lakes feeder stream fishers have good water levels from Barcelona eastward to Oak Orchard Point. Lake trout season opens Thursday for anglers working Lake Ontario and Niagara River waters. Ice options

Ice fishing gear that Santa delivered will remain at the ready for a while longer around Western New York. A thin skin of so-so ice showed around Lake Simcoe and reports of walkers out of Port Bolster have been posted, but open current waters were visible at the mouth of the Pefferlaw River Tuesday morning and Simcoe might need another week of calm, cold nights before safely getting onto the ice and prospecting for perch over shoreline shallows.

Ice cams at Silver, Conesus and Honeoye lakes all showed a slim, shoreline skin of ice, but nothing that could be close to fishable this coming week. Promising forecasts of cold days and nights might change things for the larger western Finger Lakes and especially smaller bodies of water such as Loon and Canadice lakes and Lake Alice in northern Orleans County.

Capt. Bob’s Outdoors Ice Derby is set to start on Friday. For details on this derby, call 407-3021.

If the yips are just too tempting, hardcore hard-water harriers might consider a run to northern Minnesota or Wisconsin. For example, at Red Lake ice anglers have marked access sites and roadways for all vehicular traffic on 17- to 19-inch ice. Lake Erie

Boaters enjoyed possibly the last hurrah for open-water perch fishing last week, as 40-degree Erie waters remained open to navigation. A few trailers had been parked at Cattaraugus Creek and Sturgeon Point just before Christmas, but no nice catch reports came in on those outings.

Better catch numbers, and a few nice sizes, for feeder-stream trout outings have been posted from Buffalo to Barcelona, with the Catt looking good for the remainder of the week. A heavier stain was settling out Tuesday, and casters from Irving up to well above Gowanda have been seeing good steelie action on egg sacks, nightcrawlers and small spinners. Erie species reports

Ohio Division of Wildlife trawl surveys echoed what anglers saw in New York waters of Lake Erie this past year for walleye and perch. Several good walleye hatching years (2001, 2007 and 2010) had many good-sized fish in the mix. Bottom trawls had the highest ’eye count since 2007 in Ohio waters; the 2014 hatch appears to be near average.

The perch hatch looks successful in both Ohio and Ontario province waters, with 2014 a second year of good perch production. The ODW notes, “Two back-to-back good yellow perch hatches should help the perch population in the western basin….”

The Pennsylvania research vessel Perca did not run in 2014 due to budget restraints. New York walleye and yellow perch survey reports will be issued early in 2015.

Erie’s smallmouth bass feeding forays were the subject of a Derek Crane SUNY-ESF study. Crane revealed an increase in smallmouth body weight due to burgeoning populations of round gobies.

Among other sources, Crane used data from DEC Lake Erie Unit yearly reports. His findings indicate, “Up to 75 percent of the smallmouth bass diet is now round goby,” a drastic shift from their dependence on crayfish and emerald shiners. Niagara/Lake Ontario

Lower river water quality improved quickly early this week and the program switched from banana baits (Kwikfish and Mag Lips) to meat offerings in the current and out on the Niagara Bar for boaters. Shore casters have gone with all kinds of terminal tackle, most of which improved with a bead by itself or above a bait.

Drifters have gone with egg sacks; white mesh has been more attractive lately.

Both shore casters and boaters have done better in Devils Hole than along the Artpark shoreline this past week, said Capt. Steve Drabczyk at Creek Road Bait & Tackle. Along with eggs and minnows, a silver Vibrax spinner has been a good hit-getter for shore guys.

Out on the bar, a minnow program has been working for lake trout and an increasing number of brown trout. Lakers become legal on Thursday; so much depends on winds – direction and intensity – for a good day on the Niagara Bar.

All major feeder streams in Niagara and Orleans counties have good waters. Smaller egg patterns, egg sacks and nightcrawlers all have done well at Oak Orchard, Eighteen Mile Creek and Wilson for steelhead trout and some browns.

Reports are in of steelies showing in area waters with whirling-like symptoms seen earlier in trout in and around the Salmon River. Instances are few and DEC officials have told area anglers the fish can be consumed; studies continue on this disorder attributed to alewife consumption.