The combination of warmer temperatures, rain and high winds helps to destroy Lake Erie tributaries, the Niagara River and any waters that saw some ice start to form. If you want to find fishable water as soon as possible, head north to Lake Ontario. Fishing is tough though. Merry Christmas.
After a week of tough fishing conditions, things finally started to improve for boat and shore anglers in the lower Niagara River. However, when things did improve, action wasn’t as productive as one would have thought after a difficult feeding process due to stained water. For the shore casters, it seemed the best conditions were Monday with 4 to 5 feet of visibility. A white jig fished under a float was one approach, straight up jigs or egg sacs also produced some steelhead. Lake trout are still available. Remember that lake trout season in New York opens up on Jan. 1. For the lower Niagara River, this is part of a three-fish aggregate that includes all salmon and trout. No more than 2 can be lake trout. There is no minimum size for your first one and the second should be between 25 and 30 inches in length. Out in Lake Ontario, the restrictions on lake trout still apply, but they are in addition to your regular three fish salmon and trout limit. Walleye also has a special regulation on the lower river. As of Jan. 1, 2018, anglers may only keep one walleye and the minimum size is 18 inches. This regulation will remain in place until March 15. Boaters seeking out trout should adapt to the conditions. Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island was using pink egg sacs to take some trout on Monday. Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown also used egg sacs to take a mix of trout on Sunday. There was a foot and a half of visibility in the morning, improving to 3 feet by the end of the day.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
The most popular tributary has been the Oak Orchard River. Water flow has been supplemented by the de-watering of the Erie Canal. Black marabou jigs tipped with a wax worm continues to work for Shawn West of Lockport at the Oak. Anglers have struggled with egg sacs. At Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek, Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott reports that waters are low and clear. Flow at the dam was only 60 cfs. Water was also very clear, making it very difficult to fish. Downsize your presentations. Ice was forming in Wilson Harbor but that has all broken up with the wind and warm weather. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has current water gauges for Eighteen Mile, Oak Orchard and Sandy creeks that you might want to check out.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Not much to report due to snow melt and rain. If you can find clean water, you can catch steelhead or even an inland brown trout. Eggs or egg imitations like trout beads will trick fish into hitting. A variety of flies and streamers will also work for you. If you would like to learn how to tie flies, the Orvis Buffalo Shop in Williamsville will be offering free fly tying classes at its store starting on Jan. 13 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and running through the last Saturday in February. Call 276-7200 to register. Some anglers were pushing the envelope a bit by hitting the ice in Buffalo Harbor over the weekend. Make sure you have at least 4 inches of safe ice before venturing out on the hard water. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) now offers water data for New York and Lake Erie tributaries including Chautauqua, Canadaway, Walnut, Silver, Big Sister and Eighteen Mile creeks. Seek out the website and check it out. For example, a quick check of Canadaway showed that the peak flow for the creek had already been reached and flows were starting to come down already. It could be a good resource once you can compare levels with conditions. Don’t rule out the Dunkirk City Pier for some casting options into the harbor.
Cold temperatures contributed to some ice formation on the lake but hard water action has been put on hold for the time being due to unsafe conditions.
Capt. Bob’s Final Derby Results
Steve Hawkins with Capt. Bob’s Outdoors of Clarence has sent us the results of the store’s fall fishing trout and panfish derby for Steelhead, Brown Trout, Rudd and Yellow Perch. The contest ended last Saturday. In the Steelhed category, Matt Gantress of Amherst lead the way with a 31.5-inch fish. He caught it in the lower Niagara River from a boat using an egg sac. Big Brown Trout was a 30-inch bruiser reeled in by Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga from Johnson Creek, Orleans County on an egg sac. Barry Ball of Alden set the pace in the Perch Division with a 12-1/4 perch he caught from Lake Erie. Jay Brundz of Amherst caught the top rudd from the Niagara River, dethroning the reigning champ, California Joe with a 15-3/4 inch fish on a Trout magnet. The Winter Fishing Derby for Capt. Bob’s Outdoors will start up on Jan. 2.