Few anglers would be dreaming of a wet Christmas, but predictions are solid for more open water than hardwater fishing prospects during the coming holidays.
Colder conditions in the mid and far west have some ice augers seeing use on the hard stuff, but for Western New York fisher folk, minimal snow and nothing like ice along shorelines has put more boats than usual on open waters and more boots than usual along shoreline shallows in search of everything from perch to steelhead trout.
For avid ice anglers, Dave Genz, one of the biggest names in ice-fishing circles, will be featured at the Greater Niagara Fishing & Outdoor Expo in Niagara Falls Jan. 22 to 24. Genz has designed ice gear, caught fish on lakes when local experts have difficulty buying a bite and willingly shares his expertise with hardwater anglers at all levels of interest and skill. Look for a detailed focus on ice angling and Genz input in a Jan. 3 Outdoors Page column.
Rain may dampen waterways but not holiday spirits. Launching and shoreline casting access is exceptional for late-December fishing forays. Streams, especially along the Southern Tier, have gotten and will continue to get ample rainfall to keep fish, trout in particular, moving up stream in good numbers.
Santa’s ice-fishing presents may have to be stored for a while, but many a mini jig, fly and egg-like item designed mainly for dropping through a hole in the ice might be just the terminal tackle ticket for trout and possibly perch along shoreline shallows.
If rainfall is the gauge, Lake Erie feeders should be well fed this week. Temperatures hold well above normal, allowing for all kinds of fish passage at stream mouths and up creeks that have seen low waters most of the fall season.
Open-water water temperatures are well above normal. Last Wednesday afternoon proved just that when we went on a perch search the first day the ice boom installation began. We cruised waters around Sturgeon Point out to 65-foot depths and saw 48-degree temperature readings everywhere we ran the sonar.
Stream and inshore readings vary; shore waters were 46 degrees and streams vary 5 to 10 degrees, depending on sunlight and night temperatures. Current open-water readings as of Tuesday averaged 44 degrees.
Stream waders may have to wait for a while for waters settle out, but water levels are up in all of the smaller creeks that typically draw trout. Before the deluge, heavier items and live bait had worked well at teasing trout. But as waters clear and temperatures drop, the smaller streamers, single-egg and mini grub/bug baits should draw the better bite.
Lake Ontario feeders did not get the rain and runoff seen farther south of the lake. “Burt Dam waters are running nearly clear,” said Wes Walker at Slipper Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott.
Smaller Ontario feeders have seen better water levels, but not the rush seen along Lake Erie and the lower Finger Lakes areas.
Eighteen Mile Creek still draws some Chinook salmon, but steelies are the main attraction, brown trout are a distant second and the odd coho and Atlantic salmon has shown at both Olcott and Oak Orchard Creek.
Upstream, smaller baits prevail. In deeper waters along breakwaters and near-mouth piers the bigger baits take over. Live minnows and casting spoons get major mention.
For perch, Wilson Harbor to the west and Irondequoit Bay to the east have been the most active for ringbacks. At Wilson, shore casters can reach perch on both sides of the bay. Irondequoit Bay has a perch population that hugs bottom and moves up and down eastern shoreline at depths of 15 to 30 feet.
Bill Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle rarely uses the word “killing” but Tuesday he said, “They’re killing walleye and trout at Ferry Street.” Anglers still have to park at the Peace Bridge and take the mile walk to the Ferry Street extension, but casters are doing well there. Van Camp suggests a 2-ounce sinker and a minnow on a leadered hook. Casters send out this rig as far as possible for both ’eyes and rainbows.
Lower river numbers are picking up for shore casters. Many spoons and spinners work well, but Van Camp had a customer share rig info that has been solid on lower river trout.
The gold Vibrax No. 4 spinner works even better with one side of the blade painted black. The black-bladed Vibrax is no longer available, but just that touch of black has up the bite and catch odds for lower river casters.
Look for an assessment of the Lake Erie perch and walleye as well as Lake Ontario trout and salmon fishing this past year in an Outdoors Page column this Sunday.