Open waters for anglers remain virtually closed this ice-fishing season.
Ice and open-water anglers have until Sunday to bring home northern pike, walleye, tiger muskies and bass from selected western Finger Lakes waters.
Thereafter, perch and assorted panfish remain on the sonar and fillet board for table fare.
Ice anglers have to peck and prospect to find feeding fish right now. A thaw or two has leveled some rough surfaces and snowpack on inland lakes, but ongoing cautions prevail. Runoff sites refreeze and look safer than they might be; pressure-ridge cracks sometimes open with the changes in wind directions on the bigger lakes.
Most Great Lakes feeder streams that are now open to legal fishing have been frozen over except for a few openings below dams and in along long oxbows. Take a ride along the shore of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario to check creek and stream conditions, but take along a good pair of ice creepers and expect to see more ice than moving water. A good thaw might lift and stain waters for a while, but the late-fall steelie run in both Great Lakes showed promise for good late-winter/early-spring prospects.
Trout season opened on the Seneca Nations of Indians section of Cattaraugus Creek on March 1. Anglers do not need a New York State fishing license to fish Seneca Nations waters, just an SNI license will do.
Several fish species have closed seasons from March 15 to April 30 in SNI waters. To check on season openings and all SNI fishing regulations, visit senecaconservation.com.
Lower river waters see more ice-chocked days than waters open enough to drop a lure or live bait. Charter captains and bait-shop keepers all believe the reduced fishing pressure will make the trout bite and take even better, once ice floes and crusted shoreline cover eases.
During and shortly after the Niagara River Anglers Association’s Steelhead Tourney on Feb. 7, both boaters and shore casters saw spectacular catch numbers and a few stunning sizes of both steelies and brown trout. Boaters viewed sonar screens speckled with bait schools – some perhaps early rainbow smelt runs – and feeding trout moving about.
When ice floes part, smaller baits and lighter lines draw more strikes. Steelies dominate drifts from Devils Hole to the Johnson Drift, with less activity down current and around Fort Niagara. That could change with the next round of warming air and water.
Shore casters had even better access to trout moving upstream in eddy currents too tight to shore for drifting boaters to tag. It’s the walking up-and-down access and along ice-coated rocks and gravel that make things challenging for shore walkers.
With the scattering of Lake Erie perch schools, Lake Simcoe ranks as the most-improved perch prospect as the late ice-season grinds through thick ice.
Along with yellow perch, the whitefish bite continues in areas of less than 35-foot depths along the Jackson Point to Port Bolster shoreline. Hut operators have to remove huts by Sunday at midnight, so bookings will have to be made until Saturday for runs to heated huts. Anglers afoot and with their own machines have to carefully select parking areas and access lanes.
Typically, at this time of year, vehicles parked along shoreline banks could be stuck or sunken through thinning ice along Simcoe’s shallows.
New York State regulations also require owners to remove their shanties after Sunday. Ice depths may allow angler access to fishing, but the Department of Environmental Conservation cautions that a shanty left unattended after March 15 will result in its owner ticketed and “would face a maximum possible fine of $100.”
The Second Annual Fire House Tavern Ice Fishing Tournament is set for Saturday at Wilson Harbor. Anglers can sign up anytime at The Firehouse Tavern, 283 Young St. in Wilson. A 6:30 a.m. pre-tourney meeting will be held at the Wilson Brew Company at 315 Catherine St. in Wilson. Weigh-ins begin at 3 p.m. at The Fire House Tavern.
At 4 p.m. Wednesday host Bill Hilts Jr. interviews WNY Bassmasters president Jim Lamb of Williamsville on Time Warner’s LCTV, Ch. 22. This and previous chats with many other area experts can be downloaded and viewed by visiting lctv.net. Click on “Watch Video On Demand” and then select the Outdoor Beat frame.
A “2 Outdoors Environmental Form-Invasive Species in WNY” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the UB Center for Tomorrow, Flint and Maple Roads in Amherst.
Featured speakers are Andrea Locke with WNY Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, Ken Parker of Seneca Nation of Indians, and Mark Whitmore of Cornell University. For more details, email Terry Belke at: email@example.com.