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Will Elliott’s Fishing Line

Hard-water anglers have a glimmer of hope with a thin skin of ice seen on inland lakes this week.

Chautauqua Lake had a solid skin of ice lake-wide Tuesday morning and Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle looks for cold nights to hold some or all of the ice during the weekend meltdown.

Southern Tier lakes are mainly solid. Western Finger Lakes, with deeper water areas, need a bit more cooling. Most of Silver Lake had a frozen surface by Tuesday morning, but the only walkers on that lake were hundreds of Canada geese when bright morning sunlight hit the surface.

Conesus Lake and Finger Lakes eastward showed some solid surfaces in bays and narrow embayments at the north and south ends of the lakes.

Feeder streams along both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario have seen considerable rain and runoff in recent days. With ice far from nice and a mix of snow and rain in the forecast, the lower Niagara River and Niagara Bar are the main draw for fish finding.

Lower Niagara River

Lake trout season reopened Friday and the steelie sizes increase with each passing week. “But we’re going to have to wait for clearer water,” said charter captain Jim Rores of Big Greek Charters.

Rores has had successes in sizes and numbers of steelies on lower-river runs. “I go mainly with either egg sacks (with pink beads) or live minnows. Clients like to feel the bites with live (flesh) baits rather than hard baits,” he said.

“Emeralds in Devils Hole are crushing them,” said Steve Drabczyk at Creek Road Bait & Tackle in Lewiston about the effectiveness of emerald shiners for the trout run on boats or from shore at Devils Hole. Waters in the hole above the power plant outlets often remains slightly clearer than the outflow waters and runoff below the power plants.

Drabczyk recommends golden shiners or swim baits on a three-way rig when drifting for lake trout on the Niagara Bar. A 3.5-inch Berkley Power Bait with either a smelt or emerald shiner finish works as a good swim bait both on bar or from shore when waters are clear, he noted.

“Fishing has been outstanding when the water is clear or green, but when it gets muddy a green Grinch finish on Kwikfish is good, especially for lake trout in the river and on the bar,” he added.

Along with the mix of lakers and steelies, some brown trout are starting to show. Boaters and shore casters have seen some browns and most are bigger sizes.

Winter contests

• Captain Bob’s Outdoors Winter Fishing Derby began Saturday and anglers brought in two impressive entries caught in less than comfy weekend weather.

The first entry was a rudd Jay Brudz of Lancaster caught on Saturday, which measured 16 inches and weighed 2.44 pounds. Brudz used a Trout Magnet jig in the upper Niagara River. Scott Parks of Clarence caught, measured and released a 27.75-inch steelhead trout on a VooDoo jig Sunday while fishing Eighteen Mile Creek in Newfane.

The winter derby goes to March 20 (first day of spring) and includes fish caught in open water or through the ice. For divisions and entry information, visit the store at 10295 Main St. in Clarence or call Steve Hawkins at 407-3021.

• Ted’s Tackle Frostbite Derby, Conesus Lake, Feb. 20-21, five divisions. For complete details, call Ted Decker at 429-0587.

• New York State Winter Classic ice competition has switched from ice-only to an ice, open-water and all NYS waterways format for the Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 competition.

The tourney awards the top three entries in seven categories (trout, northern pike, walleye, pickerel, yellow perch, crappie and panfish) at five sites for amateur- and pro-division team contests. Area locations include Honeoye Lake, Chautauqua Lake and Sodus Bay.

Captain Bob’s Outdoors and Ted’s Tackle are weigh stations for this contest. For more details, visit nyswinterclassic.com.

Dawg meeting

Lake Erie walleye outings might be a few months away, but area anglers interested in upcoming competition can sit in on the action during a Rob Ray’s Third Annual Big Dawg Walleye Tournament meeting starting at noon in the Southtowns Walleye Association’s Clubhouse at 5895 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg.

Big Dawg is held on the second weekend of July, a slot that follows a format similar to the New York Walleye Association’s Amara-Can contest previously held that weekend out of Chadwick Bay Marina in Dunkirk Harbor.

Discussion items include big-fish and Calcutta options, docking, lodging, details for a captain’s meeting and the registration form. After the meeting, tables will be set up for what promoters call “euchre fun”.

For more information about this meeting, check with Mark Mohr at 998-9871 or email: markmohr37@gmail.com.