Frigid temperatures plagued the Niagara River and tributaries of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, but the end may be in sight. We could see temperatures into the 50s on Sunday. Spring is just around the corner.
Schirmer wins steelhead contest
Paul Schirmer of Cambria was fishing with Capt. Jim Rores of Grand Island (out of Schirmer’s boat) on Saturday morning with minnows when they caught a 12.04-pound steelhead to take the top prize in the Niagara River Anglers Association’s Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest. Second place went to Richard Brant of Buffalo, fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown, with a 10.26-pound steelie. The fish was caught on an egg sac in 14 feet of water. Third place went to Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island with a 9.75-pound steelhead. Cinelli also won the special prize for the largest brown trout caught for the contest, checking in at 6.74 pounds. A total of 51 anglers fished in the competition. A vote was taken at the awards ceremony and the date for the 2020 tournament will be Feb. 22.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Cattaraugus Creek is fishing decent in some spots despite the cold according to Danny Colville of Colville Outfitters. He reports not much is going on in the middle stretches. Fish are either up near the dam or down low. Some chrome immature spring steelhead are starting to show. There should be a mix of drop backs, springers and a few fresh spring spawners coming in. Danny Jankowiak of Buffalo reports dodging some slush but he still managed to catch a few fish using white zonkers and jigs in Lake Erie tribs. We could see some anglers venturing onto Lake Erie to check out ice fishing. The pile up of ice from the last windstorm created some problems with "under ice" off Hamburg. With more wind in the forecast, be careful. If you need to get on hard water, check out Buffalo Harbor.
Lower Niagara River action was good for the steelhead contest as fishing picked up where it left off once the ice dissipated from the system following severe winds at the end of February. Minnows, shiners, egg sacs, Kwikfish and MagLips are catching fish. Conditions dictate what works best. Shore casters are picking up some trout, too. Spinners, jigs and egg sacs are three go-to lures/baits. Be careful walking the shoreline. Remember that walleye season closes March 15 (along with pike, pickerel and statewide tiger musky).
Lake Ontario and tributaries
If you can find open water, you should be able to find trout in the tributaries. Check out the base of dams like Burt and Waterport. If you are interested in Lake Ontario, you should attend the State of Lake Ontario meeting hosted by DEC in Lockport at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. It will be held at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara, 4487 Lake Ave. (Route 78). There will be a focus on the tributaries. Ice fishing continues in many of the bays like Wilson, as well as to the east at places like Irondequoit and Sodus Bay. Fishing for perch has been good.
Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors reports that walleye fishing is on. Early morning and evening bites are best. Jigging Rapalas are still the ticket, as are 1/4-ounce and 1/2-ounce Thundermist spoons. Most fish are in the 15- to 35-foot depth. Walleye season ends March 15. The winner of Sperry's February Walleye tournament was Ken Woodfield with a 27 3/4-inch, 8.61-pound walleye. Steve Brzuskiewicz of Marilla found some good luck on the outside portion of Long Point on Chautauqua. He had a limit catch of perch last Thursday. Better than 90 percent were females. Best bait was a Thundermist sting nose that he equipped with a Swedish Pimple single-barbed hook tipped with a chunk of salted emerald shiner. They wanted meat. Later it seemed that a full minnow attracted slightly larger fish. He only kept fish in the 8- to 10-inch range. None were larger than 10 inches. He hoped for a walleye or two in 10 feet of water but was denied. They seem to be deeper.
Expert ice fisherman Wil Wegman reports that Simcoe continues to be hit and miss as February ended on the 280 square miles body of water. Perch fishing can best be described as fair. There are some outstanding jumbo catches still, but plenty of areas with small or finicky yellow bellies. Things should start to pick up next week. Lake trout continues to be slow with some decent catches coming from Kempenfelt Bay. Whitefish continue to hold their own with some remarkable catches reported by local "mobile" guides such as Steve Rowbothum. Many whitefish are being caught shallower than in previous years as they feed on round goby. This week’s frigid temperatures will add inches to the 2-plus feet of ice common throughout the lake. Permanent huts need to be off the lake by March 15, the same day lake trout, whitefish, walleye and cisco seasons closes.