Ice anglers will have to hold off on testing gear gifts Santa brought Tuesday.

Most southern Ontario lakes are accessible by boat rather than snow sleds right now.

Steam anglers have enjoyed a virtually ice-free fall season and have seen a fair to good run of trout throughout area feeders and along shoreline shallows where trout move about.

For panfish pursuits, the yellow perch has been most colorful, with good numbers showing in the depths of Lake Erie and along mid-depths and some shallows of inland lakes.

Fall wrap-up

That summer drought slowed stream flow everywhere, but Great Lakes feeders saw some impressive numbers. Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters monitored stream levels and fish movements, logging improved numbers over recently poor years for the rainbow/steelhead fall trout run. That fishery continues throughout the winter season in New York State waters but ends Monday in Seneca Nation of Indians’ sections of the creek.

Lake Ontario feeders showed an early, fairly steady run of rainbows and browns as the salmon spawning season kicked in this past fall. Winter stream outings could be good all along the Ontario shoreline.

For warm-water fish species, many an Ontario bay and creek mouth saw not only a nice perch run but and exceptional harvest of nice-sized northern pike. Wilson Harbor and Olcott Harbor anglers enjoyed peak pike prospects, which could hold through the ice season.

Irondequoit Bay ice was poor at the start of 2012, but the boat bite was just right. Boaters could find schools of perch virtually everywhere, but, like the Erie deep-water fishery, hefty packs of younger year classes often dominated, and many an anchor pull took place before anglers settled over a feeding swarm of sizeable ringbacks.

The lower river king run was fast and curious; shoreline casters often did as well or better than boaters able to cover long stretches from up current in Devils Hole to the edge drop-offs along Fort Niagara and Fort George at the mouth.

Lake Erie’s triumvirate (bass, walleye and perch) continued strong. Bass numbers held well; walleye schools tightened early; the deep-water perch bite was possible during spring, summer and fall outings in 2012.

An early arrival of warm weather had boaters on ice-free Erie waters well before the special bass season opener on the first Saturday in May. Bass bit everywhere, but signs showed of steady pressure, especially around structures close to Buffalo Harbor.

Walleye – resident and Ohio migrants – schooled close to shore early and heavily. Like the perch populations, Erie’s ’eye schools registered a good number of younger attendees along with a solid stock of mature marble eyes well worthy of filleting.

Perch populations continue to thrive in Erie’s deeper water.

Ice outing prospects

If patterns prevail of first-ice forays of years past, shallow bays and embayment areas of the larger lakes will be hot at the start.

Among inland lakes, Silver Lake has traditionally been the first public-access inland lake to form ice thick and safe enough for augers and spuds to poke productive holes into shoreline shallows. Last ice season, Silver Lake formed its normal early skin of ice and retained accessible ice throughout the winter season; however, longtime area ice anglers could not recall a previous season during which that lake did not entirely freeze over with enough ice thickness to support an angler afoot.

Tourney planners and machine runners had difficulties coordinating and limited time to get to deeper waters, but the fishery provided some good to great outings on ice safe enough to access.

Product pick

Ice-gear makers provide a bevy of baits and tons of new tackle items to make things easy of hardwater anglers each year. The Frabill Company produced a new line of bait containers useful in warm or cold fishing conditions along with ice shelters, clothing and a simple utility tool.

But a simple bite detecting device that can be affixed to a rod tip might turn out to be the biggest little nice device for anglers on ice. Frabill’s Titanium Spring Bobber easily snaps on the tip guide/eye and adjusts to indicate those slight, slow-suck hang bites and then slips back out of the way and remains straight when not in use.

Now all we need is some ice on which to test this and other fishing gear.

Happy New Year!