Winter officially arrives on Friday – but not anything like hardwater ice surfaces anytime before Santa rides his sleigh.
Unless you can handle a commute to northern Minnesota or Wisconsin this holiday season, ice-fishing forays will not be a means to check out new holiday gifts.
Even Lake Mead in the Utah hills showed more shoreline ice than inland lakes around Western New York this past week.
For now, shore casters can head out on trout treks, pick off a few panfish from shoreline shallows and perhaps find a nighttime niche where walleyes school close to shore after dark. Fishing pressure in these areas will be minimal at best.
Fishing license renewals come due in the Province of Ontario and Seneca Nation of Indians’ waters on Jan. 1. The Ontario non-resident Sport Fishing License is now $79.88 and the Conservation License goes for $49.39. Both licenses must be purchased with an Outdoors Card ($9.68) to be valid for fishing anywhere in the Province of Ontario. The closest Ontario license issuing site is Canadian Tire at 240 Garrison Road in Fort Erie.
Non-resident Seneca Nation of Indians’ fishing licenses cost $45 for adults, $25 for minors ages 10 to 16, $10 for anglers with a disability of 50 percent or more, and $15 for seniors aged 65 or older.
Part of the license fee is dedicated to SNI hatchery program and fish-habitat improvement projects. The new SNI walleye hatchery went into full operation in 2012 and will be the topic for future features in outdoors reports.
Water levels fluctuate, stain levels rise and fall, but the trout still keep coming into feeder streams with enough water to open at their mouths.
“I’m selling all kinds of salted minnows, nightcrawlers and egg sacks and they keep coming back,” Dave Watts said at Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Derby about stream waders working Eighteen Mile Creek and Cattaraugus Creek.
Rains change water conditions daily, sometimes hourly, but the bite is on for rainbow/steelhead trout runs. Some show darkened features of long-time stream residence and some display the bright colors of fish freshly arrived from Lake Erie waters.
For either, the bite is mixed, best bait options change continually and an artificial (spinner, fly or small body bait) might work as well as live-bait offerings.
Boaters still come through with rigs on trailers each day the wind subsides. The Sturgeon Point Marina is closed and the launch ramp now has docks blocking access to the launch ramps. Cattaraugus Creek provides the only access to open waters between Buffalo and Dunkirk Harbor.
Lower river boaters have all kinds of options, but clearing waters have pushed fish to deeper drifts along Devil’s Hole and Artpark. “Most of the boats are headed out to the bar,” Capt. Chris Cinelli said of the fishing along drifts over and around the Niagara Bar.
The steelie bite remains but has slowed in the river, so many boaters have set up at the river mouth and drift across the bar for a nice mix of lakers and brown trout.
Any bait held fairly close to bottom will do. Egg sacks, live minnows and Kwikfish with metallic finishes all do well.
The gods of water flow are sporting with stream anglers along the shoreline. Larger creeks such as Oak Orchard often see low water flow and smaller feeders such as Johnson’s Creek can be muddied up to just below watershed areas.
Steelies and browns move into streams regularly; Eighteen Mile Creek has seen the most trout movement from the mouth up to Burt Dam. Along with the trout traffic, some nice pike have taken up the shallows at Olcott and Wilson Harbor. Between all the big boys, schools of perch also find their way into shallow shoreline haunts at Olcott.
The perch bite continues at Irondequoit Bay. Last good read for schooling of good-sized fish was from 35-foot depths along the western shoreline of the bay. The public launch on the west shore remains open.
A few shore casters have had fun with ’gills and perch, but ice prospects are probably after the New Year’s. Silver Lake formed a skin of ice last week but is now ice free. The lake now, like all other inland waters, remain open to boaters most days when wind speeds drop below 10 miles per hour.