Long term cold weather has arrived, getting ice fishermen esager and stream anglers looking for any place with open water. The beginning of the New Year means some regulations changes as well as the start of a couple important fishing contests. Get ready to reel in 2018.
Lake Erie tributaries
Fishing is slow in many of the streams both off Lake Erie and inland due to the cold and excessive snows according to Nick Sagnibene of Adventure Bound on the Fly in Ellicottville. Just prior to the extreme cold hit Western New York, Sagnibene hit some Southern Tier waters with Drew Nisbet of Orvis Buffalo and they enjoyed some success using white conehead zonkers and olive and orange dragontail streamers. Sagnibene also recommends a hot head pheasant tail nymph with some orange and red in it. If you can find some open water, use nymphs or small egg sacs and fish them slow. Slush and ice will be a problem in most waters. Chris Finitz with Hold the Line Fly Fishing Guides of Niagara Falls enjoyed some success in the Lake Erie streams, too, just prior to the winter storms. He found a fair number of steelhead attempting to do some spawning so he steered clear and hit the deeper pools and holes with white zonkers and small egg flies.
Just when things were getting good again for trout in the lower river section, the winds of change blew in some winter storms and muddied the water up again. It may take a day or two for the water to start clearing. When it does, there is plenty of fish in the system from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar. MagLips have been working for Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown. Egg sacs will also produce some steelhead and browns. Lake trout are also available and Jan. 1 they will become fair game in New York waters of the lower section and into the lake. Shore fishermen are still picking up some fish, too. Rich Pisa of Kenmore hit some walleyes this week using jigs in the gorge area. As of Jan. 1, a new walleye regulation will be back on the books. Only one fish may be kept per person and the minimum size is 18 inches in length. Above Niagara Falls, some of the marinas and access points were producing yellow perch in decent numbers. Seek out clear waters and you can be successful. You may start to see some icing taking place. Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga managed to find a few walleye casting from shore around Christmas. No safe ice in Buffalo Harbor yet but it won’t be long. Be safe out there!
Lake Ontario and tributaries
Don’t be surprised if there is safe ice in Wilson and Olcott harbors by the weekend according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott. If we see a northwest wind, however, all bets are off. That wind direction could break up the ice again. Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek has been 57 cfs with about 2 feet of visibility earlier in the week. Water has been open at the dam but with the cold temperatures and limited water flow, it could be frozen to the trestle by the weekend. Steelhead and browns continue to dominate but there are still some kings and cohos around. Egg sacs, jigs tipped with a wax worm and egg sacs or egg imitations will catch fish. Over at the Oak Orchard River, similar reports of trout and salmon are still coming in. However, water flows seem to be a bit better with supplemental water from the Erie Canal. The cold weather will limit open water availability.
Ice is still forming but with the extreme cold for the next week, we should see some safe ice soon. Winds have kept the lake free of snow which should help with ice formation.
NYS Winter Classic
Like the New Year’s ball drop, anglers are counting down to the start of the 2018 version of the New York State Winter Classic contest. It runs Jan. 1-Feb. 28. Sign up prior to Jan. 1 to be eligible for some great draw prizes. There are seven species categories including pike, trout, pickerel, walleye, perch, crappie and panfish. Whether you fish open water or hard water, it’s all fair game for this fishing tournament. Weigh stations are spread out across the state. Register online or most weigh stations. Check out www.nyswinterclassic.com for details.
Capt. Bob’s Winter Derby
It’s time once again for Capt. Bob’s Outdoors (10295 Main St., Clarence) Winter Fishing Derby slated for Jan. 2 through March 15. There are eight divisions: walleye, northern pike, perch, steelhead, lake trout, crappie, bluegill/sunfish and rudd. Like the Winter Classic, fish may be caught in the open water or through the ice. Capt. Bob’s is also a weigh station for the Winter Classic so you can knock off two fish with one cast.
Some sketchy hard water reports have been coming in from some inland lakes, as well as Lake Ontario bays and harbors. Make sure you have at least 4 inches of ice to be safe. Some places that people have ventured out include Quaker Lake, Silver Lake, Cranberry Pond and Honeoye Lake but it may be premature. Check out the DEC website on ice fishing safety at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7733.html. Don’t take any chances out there.