Weather dictates whether ice anglers and stream strollers will weather well this weekend.
A major thaw later this week could curtail anything on ice except up north; stream anglers might benefit from the melt and runoff this weekend.
Steelhead trout continue to dominate the streams and lower Niagara River fishery; panfish prevail on most ice sites — those that remain firm enough for access.
“Soupy” is the report for most ice surfaces from the south end of Chautauqua Lake to the eastern end of the western Finger Lakes chain. Lake Simcoe north of Toronto offers the most ice-covered areas with a thickness of five inches or more.
As for catches, the bucket count has been so-so from the start of safe-enough-to-cross ice. Best numbers for panfish have come from Silver Lake; best sizes for bluegills have been taken at the south end of Honeoye Lake.
Every pond and sheltered bay area from Wilson Harbor to Sodus Bay has provided at least one small area with good ice access. Sodus Bay shallows turned on a bit better than Irondequoit Bay, but the Irondequoit perch pack remains deeper than walkers can get to right now.
Rick Reagan at Jay-Ve Fishing Tackle in Rochester said the perch bite was slight — present but not hefty — from Braddock Bay to Irondequoit. Best bite for bigger fish has been the pike presence at Braddock, Reagan said.
Silver Lake’s southeast ice over the shallows off Mack’s Boat Livery were getting slushy Tuesday evening, but walkers have been heading out from each corner, including the state launch at the southwest side, of the south end.
Some crappie made a showing, but better-sized bluegills give the bigger thrills. Both ‘gills and respectable-sized sunfish have been schooling over depths of less than 10 feet, with a few nice perch packs passing through the weedy shallows.
Perch prospectors cannot get to the 30-foot depths north of Silver’s lower swamp, but the perch bite has been fair just off the shoreline shallows.
Conesus Lake, like Silver, formed an ice skin early; no reports have come from any quarter at Conesus. The state launch at the east shore has yet to freeze and the promised thaw could put that lake on hold until next week’s renewed freeze.
Honeoye Lake continues to produce bigger but not numerous good-sized ‘gills. The ice is not sturdy enough to get to the mid-lake depths, even at the south end. Those few that set out tip-ups for walleye hooked into a few bass, but few came in with any yellow fish with a white tip on its tail (i.e. walleye).
Lake Simcoe’s whitefish and lake trout season opened Jan. 1 and some whities have been seen swimming by holes drilled for plucking perch.
Jerry Kucharchuk of Peninsula Resort at Pefferlaw now has huts set up nearly a mile from the Pefferlaw River over depths to 25 feet.
“They are starting to get nice fish,” Kucharchuk said of the perch run.
Walkers and machine runners have had to move around to get over schools of bigger ringbacks, but the bite has been good and the keeper-to-runt ratio favors the bigger fish for now.
Continued night freezes are predicted for the northeast corner of Simcoe, and Kucharchuk plans to keep hut on the ice until at least the weekend. For an update on conditions and catches, check with him at (800) 565-5253.
At all good ice sites, small, jigs and flies, tipped with grubs and waxworms or minnows have connected. For jiggers, the smallest Jack or J-Hook (small, bent spinner blades with a tip hook) works well on both the lift and drop.
The lower Niagara River and the Niagara Bar (when waves permit) both prove productive.
Water staining has eased and drifters do well at Devil’s Hole.
“One day it’s lake trout and the next day it’s steelies,” said Capt. Frank Campbell of charter outings anywhere on the lower river.
Shore action mirrors the boat bite. Fish — both steelies and lakers — hug the edges and can be reached with either live bait or artificials. Live bait has been the better bite during the mud run.