Arrival of the New Year means changes in legal catches and the need for license renewals for fishing certain waters.

Rainbow/Steelhead trout season continues in Great Lakes feeder-stream waters throughout the winter, but that season closed Dec. 31 and reopens March 1 in Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) waters.

Lake trout season reopened in the lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario on Tuesday and remains open to Sept. 30.

Boaters and ice anglers need to renew Province of Ontario and SNI licenses effective Tuesday. First-time non-resident anglers must also acquire an official Outdoors Card along with a current 2013 Ontario Province license.

Boaters had their way, mainly on perch outings, on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario’s bays, harbors and creeks with ringback packs until this past week. Now, hardwater anglers can hardly wait to get on solid, safe ice in search of those late-fall schools of perch.

Ice Prospects

If those fish schooling patterns of the past fall prevail, Irondequoit Bay and Sodus Bay might be early destinations for ringback runs. Perch schooling in Lake Erie seems to be more a deep-water fishery, but the Lake Ontario shoreline has drawn schools of nice-sized perch, along with the usual run of runts, during spring and fall seasons, as well as ice-fishing options that often produce well later into the hardwater season.

Ice cover has begun in many nearby waters. Silver Lake has ice formed at its north and south ends. For most Western New York anglers, Silver provides the first fishable ice each season. While not officially considered one of the Finger Lakes, Silver Lakes’ finger-like shape and wide embayments at its upper and lower extremes hold broad, shallow feeding areas for fish over which ice can form early in the cold-weather season.

The center of the lake remains open water, as it had throughout last year’s mild winter. But the smooth ice surfaces that have formed at each end now measures close to three inches in places; local observers believe that with mild winds and continued cold nights the hardcore hardwater harriers will be on the ice by the weekend.

Similar ice surfaces appear around Lake Simcoe. Helen Kucharchuk, at the Peninsula Motel in the Pefferlaw River section of Simcoe, sees a three-inch skin of ice either side of the river. Winds have been mild and nights have been colder along the northeast corner of Lake Simcoe than anglers have seen and felt around Western New York. Machinists might have to wait a week or two, but walkers might be on ice by the weekend to check out shoreline shoals and ledge edges where perch schools hold and forage.

Whitefish season at Simcoe opened Tuesday. Many areas of Ontario Province allow for a 15- or 25-fish bag limit on whitefish. Simcoe regulations restrict the daily creel to two whitefish per angler; lake herring (ciscoes) have been showing up in greater numbers in recent ice-fishing seasons; however, that species remains protected. Herring must be immediately returned if and when caught.

At Lake Nipissing, ice is forming nicely, but regulations changes are in place for 2013. Seasons opened for walleye, northern pike and yellow perch on Tuesday. Pike and perch creel limits remain the same, but the walleye count has dropped from four to two fish daily on a regular license and from two to one on a conservation license.

Lake Erie efforts

Recently posted stats for Lake Erie fishing efforts and catches, for both recreational anglers and commercial trap netters, show an uptick in harvesting, especially yellow perch.

Commercials can only take perch, just two licensed netters harvested in 2012, and the commercial netters set a record at more than 17,000 pounds taken from March to October. Sport fishermen set a record for fish caught per hour and harvest numbers nearly five times greater than commercial netters.

Gas warning

Boat owners might take the ‘E’ in E-15 gas mixtures to stand for ‘eek.’ The E, of course, stands for Ethanol, which can be tricky in car engines and no treat for outboard motors – 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines.

Experts cautioned that the now-standard E-10 gas mixtures could possibly damage marine engines when running and gas lines when stored for the winter, especially units with fiberglass tanks.

Now, with E-15 mixtures showing up at gas stations, marine motor companies caution against its use. For boaters with their vessels now in storage, major marine engine manufacturers recommend they take a few simple steps: Make sure the fuel tank is at or nearly full, install an extra water-separating fuel filter before next use and pour a fuel stabilizer into the gas tank when storing the boat for more than a month.

Many fuel-stabilizer brands are now available. Experts suggest even using stabilizers with each tank fill-up, and they highly recommend using the more expensive mixture designed specifically for marine engine use.