Ice anglers should have no difficulty finding walk-worthy hard water on most bays, ponds and inland lakes this weekend.
Deep-freeze nights and below-freezing days have given walkers access on area lakes such as Chautauqua, Silver and Honeoye. Surfaces had yet to reach 5-inch depths as of Tuesday morning, but walkers wended ways across many a Lake Ontario pond, inland bays and some smaller inland lakes.
Lake Simcoe is nearly frozen over. Walkers headed out of Cooks Bay at the south end. Outfitters either side of the Pefferlaw River are planning to set up this weekend.
If cold winds and uneasy feelings about newly formed thin ice are a turnoff this weekend, a trip to the Greater Niagara Fishing & Outdoor Expo in the Conference & Event Center in Niagara Falls might be warming. From an electronics clinic for fisherman at 2 p.m. on Friday to a battery of seminars at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, informative talks will be presented all three days. For a listing of the exhibitors, the speakers and all other aspects of the expo, visit niagarafishingexpo.com.
Creeks are frozen; Lake Erie isn’t. Best option is to head to the lower Niagara River for open water or inland to ice fish selected areas of Chautauqua Lake or the western Finger Lakes.
Boaters are still working the Niagara Bar for a good mix of trout and the odd salmon. Big minnows have drawn the best drift-boat bite, but high winds limit bar activity.
Farther east, Wilson Harbor froze over nicely for ice anglers. Shore anglers have the outflows of Burt Dam on Eighteen Mile Creek and Waterport Dam on Oak Orchard Creek. Water clarity is high and terminal tackle is tiny. The same jigs an ice angler might use for panfish will work well on steelies and browns in any open trout waters along Ontario. For now, the two biggest feeders show the most access for anglers.
Ice anglers may have to wait a while before headed to deeper waters in Irondequoit Bay, according to Walter at S&S Bait & Tackle. But ponds close to the bay have enough ice for angler access. Perch have been the main draw on Ontario Ponds. Cranberry and Long pond have produced some fair ringback catches. Braddock Bay’s perch population is good, and it has produced the best northern pike bite so far this early-ice season.
Chautauqua ice is nice in the south basin and so-so at its north end. High winds and snowfall have kept the deeper waters of the north basin from freezing solidly.
South basin bays have solid surfaces, walkers have been on and off, off and on, with Burtis Bay getting the most play. Shoreline jiggers do well with grubs or waxworms for perch and bluegills, but the better bite has been with minnows for the moving schools of crappie/calico bass.
Weather dominates the deep-water fishery at Chautauqua. Check with area folk before trying the deep holes north of Long Point and Prendergast Point.
Western Finger Lakes
The shallower lakes have some good ice, but most of the action has been in the south embayments of the smaller lakes west of Penn Yan. Canandaigua showed some ice at its north end, but much depends on wind and wave action before the weekend.
Honeoye Lake walkers have been heading out of the launch site at the southeast corner early this week on very thin ice. Bite reports are mixed. Fair bluegill numbers have shown. Odd crappie schools have appeared. Walleye guys have set a few tip-ups for ‘eyes, but the bass bite has yet to show despite an exceptional largemouth presence last fall.
Silver Lake, typical among western lakes with public access, froze first, melted fast and re-froze in good form for walkers at the south end. Some open water still showed on Tuesday afternoon, but walkers can get onto ice at the north and south ends. Numbers of walkers showed at the southeast side of the lake off Mack’s, but small-perch had been the only take.
Lower Niagara River
Boaters and shore casters alike await the return of water clear enough to send baits drifting down current. Ice floes began showing in the upper river and slush annoyed shore casters poking around for perch, but the clarity cycle could turn with more ice forming on Erie.
For now, anglers are gearing up for the Niagara River Anglers Association’s annual Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Tournament set for Feb. 6 out of Lewiston Landing.
This year, the format will be a 100 percent payback for the top three steelhead trout caught and a bonus Brown Trout option. Anglers can sign up ahead of the contest, but most show at the NRAA trailer at sunrise for the start of competition. For more details, call 889-8910.