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Fishing Line for Jan. 28

Ice options expand, but big-bucket catches take some tasking.

Open-water opportunities narrowed with more ice buildup on feeder streams, but lower Niagara River steelhead trout are up and running the rapids.

Many an angler initiated and upgraded his or her fish finding and catching skills during the Greater Niagara Fishing & Outdoor Expo last weekend in time for current and upcoming fish outings and contests.

Capt. Bob’s Outdoors 2015 Ice Derby sees new entries each week and derbies are set to start in February on Black Lake and Conesus Lake for ice-angling contestants.

Niagara River

Ice anglers are doing well in the upper river. Boaters are doing super well in the lower river.

Bays and marina slips have been productive where walkers can get on sturdy ice around Grand Island, but the catches come in a touch-and-go fashion, according to Bill Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle on Niagara Street.

The perch bite in the Beaver Island Marina has been good all fall and since the start of nice ice, but schools move in and out of that embayment, with some exceptional catches of larger rainbow smelt this past week.

Lower river boaters have been doing well on steelies, mainly on an egg regimen. Best hits had come on pink mesh and beads in egg sacks, but last weekend drifters stuck steelies with every color available for egg sackers.

Nasty winds on Lake Ontario’s open waters have kept most boaters away from the Niagara Bar, but as Capt. Jim Rores of Big Greek Niagara River Charters put it: “With the steelie fishing we have in the hole (Devils Hole), who needs to go out on the bar?”

Hard-water happenings

Lake Erie – Small Boat Harbor (Buffalo Harbor State Park) continues to offer the safer ice while the main lake continues to form a solid, passable surface. Ice depths are substantial, but winds from varying directions have opened pressure ridges and moved things around out there. The Hamburg-Evans shore might be accessible by the weekend, but for now, the Harbor harbors all the good ice out there.

Most harbor catches have been smaller perch and the odd trout and pike, but walkers venturing onto Union Ship Canal ice have taken some sizeable ringbacks for more than a week. Catches are inconsistent, schools move around and hold at different places out there, but the odds for bigger perch improve outside the inner harbor.

Lake Simcoe – Herring catch reports come from many sites around the lake, but finding sizable perch packs can be perplexing. The Jackson Point and Virginia Beach stretch has stretched out. Cooks Bay walkers and machine runners are headed west and work at least 30-foot depths for a few decent perch. The lake trout/whitefish bite reports are lean so far.

Chautauqua Lake – Mayville shallows have provided the best panfish pickings around the North Basin, says Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors in Lakewood.

A white glow jig with either a waxworm or a spike has been good for perch, crappie and bluegills along weed edges at the north end of the lake.

Sperry has good walleye reports, better than previous years’ takes, for the morning and evening change-of-light periods.

Western Finger Lakes – Honeoye Lake’s deep waters continue as the hottest ice spot among Finger Lakes closest to Western New York. The shoreline bluegill bite remains so-so, and largemouth bass show everywhere on Honeoye, but the more consistent bite has been bigger perch along the so-called “trench” south of Log Cabin Point at depths of more than 20 feet.

Conesus continues to produce smaller ’gills and sunnies, with a good northern pike bite for tip-up tenders along weed edges on both sides of the lake. Fair numbers of sizable perch have come from deeper waters at the north end at depths of more than 16 feet but not the deep holes between Stella Maris and Long Point.

Silver Lake panfishing continues to challenge even the regulars. Crappie schools have yet to school. Few have worked the deeper waters (20-plus feet) at the south end, and the bluegill bite has been scattered. Area experts keep saying the fish (panfish) have yet to move into the shoreline weeds.

Capt. Bob’s ice catches

New divisions have seen weigh-ins top last week’s entrants in other divisions of Capt. Bob’s Outdoors Ice Contest.

Perch division entrant Jim Ensminger of Getzville continues to lead with his 1.88-pond ringback. Jeff Blakley of Clarence now leads the Northern Pike Division at 11.45-pounds, 36-inches. Jon Welka of the Town of Tonawanda stays atop the Crappie Division with his 1.36-pound fish. A new Bluegill/Sunfish Division leader, Sean Firkins of Alden, weighed in a .93-pound sunfish this past week.

The Walleye Division saw its first weigh-ins this past week with Peter Latka of Akron now leading with a 8.75-pound ’eye taken at the Bay of Quite in Ontario.