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The Fishing Beat

Ice fishing appears to be fine all around Western New York, but caution is still advised. The Niagara River had some decent trout opportunities available from boat and shore. Caution is advised there, too. If you really want to see some angling excitement, though, make sure you stop down to the 5th Annual Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo Jan. 19-21 at the Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls. You will be given the holy grail of angling information that will allow you to catch more fish … if you put it to good use. Check out

Chautauqua Lake

Since we didn’t get this lake in last week’s Beat, it’s important to give everyone an update on this popular hardwater destination. Rich Davenport of Tonawanda reports that most of the lake has been cleaned up with the warm weather surprise last week, melting snow and slush and solidifying the lake – especially along the shoreline where it was iffy on Saturday. He found that the further out he went, the thicker the ice was. He found 8 inches of ice over 25 feet of water at Maple Springs. It was 9 to 10 inches over 43 feet of water. Fishing with his girlfriend, they caught some big white perch before they realized that walleye were in the area, too. A Marmooska and mousie combo did the trick to take one small ‘eye. Water was muddy from the run-off but it should be improving with each passing day. There were quite a few anglers off Long Point. According to Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors, 30 feet of water was the magic depth for consistent walleye action. No. 7 and No. 9 Jiggin’ Raps worked best. Hogan’s Hut was reporting good walleye fishing at Warners Bar, Wells Bay and Long Point. There were reports of crappie fishing in some of the deeper holes.

Niagara River

The warm weather that arrived last week surprised both boat and shore fishermen alike as quite a few trout were caught throughout the system. Shore casters were using jigs to take walleye, steelhead and lake trout in the Devil’s Hole area. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls used a green jig he hand-tied to take two steelhead and six lake trout one day, and the next day added walleye to the mix. Cameron Huntley of Buffalo was using a white marabou jig with a pink head he hand-tied. Boaters were doing decent when the water was clear, but the rain and run-off shut things down with muddy water. As of Tuesday, the water was clear again but no one was fishing. Shore fishing can be treacherous right now with the shelf ice extending out into the river. Wear ice creepers and don’t take any chances. Boaters should be able to catch trout and walleye using plugs or minnows. Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island found a pocket of ‘eyes just before the water muddied up last week, using minnows to catch a dozen fish up to 7 pounds. Just a reminder that the winter limit on walleye in the lower river is one fish per person.

Upper river action for open water was on lake trout near the head of the river from the Canadian side around Thompson’s Hole according to Denis Kreze of Fort Erie. There was safe ice in some of the marinas like Blue Water for anglers looking for perch.

Lake Erie

Keith Pease with Safe Harbor Marina was reporting 9 to 10 inches of ice on Tuesday with a fair amount of action – both fishermen and fish. The size of the fish was another story. You have to weed through small ones to get bigger perch or keep moving around until you find them. More fishermen have been hitting the big lake but caution is advised. A helicopter rescue was needed over the weekend for six fishermen who became stranded when a large section of ice broke away.

Lake Ontario

One popular Lake Ontario tributary with open water is the Oak Orchard River, according to Drew Nisbet at Orvis Buffalo. There was medium to high flow with about 24 inches of visibility as of Tuesday. Fishing has been tough with only a few trout to report. Over at Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek, some open water does exist around the dam but flows are still high and stained. That said, flow has been coming back down quickly according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott. The added flow pulled more trout and Coho salmon into the system, but it also knocked out the ice fishing in the harbor. Over in Wilson, the ice was 4-5 inches thick. Water conditions have been muddy under the ice and when it clears the fishing should improve. To the east, some very good perch fishing was being reported. Cranberry Pond, Long Pond, Braddocks Bay and Irondequoit Bay were all producing some nice fish. Perch fishing continues to be excellent in the Sodus Bay area but caution is advised because not all ice is uniform on the lake. In eastern Lake Ontario, Aaron LaFlair was ice fishing Chaumont Bay this past week and managed to take over the lead in the Walleye Division of the NYS Winter Classic (see Catches of the Week online). He hauled in a 14.05-pound walleye.

Lake Simcoe

Ron Crane of Attica headed north to Lake Simcoe over the weekend and hit some nice perch out of Port Bolster. He found 14 inches of ice with very little snow on top. Tipping teardrops or Swedish pimples with a minnow was very effective. He also caught fish on Jiggin’ Raps. Another report saw good perch action in 28 feet of water between the two islands. Gold was a good color. If you are catching smaller fish, move until you find the bigger ones.

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