What a difference a freeze makes.
Last week it was difficult to find solid ice safe enough for walkers. This week, most trout streams are coated with ice or offer only slight openings of water worth wading for anglers – and for a few languishing Canada geese staging for flights further south.
Along the Lake Ontario, the farther east anglers ventured, the better the bite and accessible waters. Feeders around Sodus Bay and Irondequoit Bay produced good steelie numbers well into the freeze seen earlier this week.
Same reports came from Oak Orchard Creek.
Farther west, ice coatings curbed many a shore walker and wader on streams between Eighteen Mile Creek and the Niagara River mouth.
Bait dealers along the Ontario shoreline have been selling goodly numbers of waxworms and spikes of late, more to stream fishermen than ice anglers. As waters clear, the smaller grub baits seem to be effective when casting to wary trout.
The Lake Erie shoreline has seen a buffeting from high winds and so-so trout numbers in open-water patches of feeder streams. Cattaraugus Creek offered the most open water. But Rick Miller at Miller’s Bait & Tackle in Irving sees enough solid shore ice that walkers might be able to get onto the shallow slip between the island and the west shore for that early-ice run of rainbow smelt.
New this year, and possibly to all Erie anglers who have fished Dunkirk Harbor for a half century or more, the harbor might be accessible to ice fishing. Warm water entering from the power plant has retained open water in Dunkirk Harbor since the facility began power production. With no warm water entering the harbor, ice has formed; ice anglers might be looking at a trout fishery there that is similar to Wilson Harbor on Lake Ontario.
As with all new-formed ice areas, the prediction is for good ice by the weekend, but watch where you walk.
Heaviest ice-fishing pressure has been along the northeast corner of Lake Simcoe on either side of the Pefferlaw River. Walkers and machine runners have been getting out to depths beyond 20 feet for runs of slightly better perch.
Steve Barber at Steve’s Fish Huts has seen a better run of ringbacks, but the culling process is still necessary to come in with decent-sized perch. Ice still is not sturdy enough to set up huts out deep enough to work lake trout and whitefish rigs. On clear days, many a perch angler gets to see schools of ciscos (lake herring) cruising at mid depths.
Chautauqua Lake ice has reformed at mid lake. Tom Murray at Bemus Point Lodge has had lodgers head out to check ice conditions. “The ice is solid, but there’s a lot of snow cover on it right now,” Murray said Tuesday evening following a snowfall of about 8 to 10 inches earlier.
For access, Burtis Bay presents the best shoreline ice for regaining the fishery that showed two weeks ago when walkers could get over weed edges and work nice schools of bluegill.
Irondequoit Bay’s northeast corner is another of the previously productive areas where ice anglers were able to get out and score before the January thaw that resembled a heat wave.
Ron Gatz and S&R Bait & Tackle in Rochester saw open water at the center of the bay during the weekend, but walkers in the east corner closer to Lake Ontario have been walking out again and could be fishing deeper water by the weekend.
That hefty weekend wind weakened water clarity for anglers all along the Niagara River. Ice might form well enough for weekend walkers to get onto protected inlets and bays along the upper river.
But lower river boaters and shore casters have to wait out the chocolate-mile staining that well-stirred Lake Erie waves washed into the head of the river. Before the blow, a solid count of steelhead trout, lake trout and some bigger brown trout were a steady bite for both shore and boat-bound rod minders.
Jeff Snyder, coordinator of North East Fishing Circuit (NEFC) Ice Fishing Contests at Silver Lake ,will make a decision at 5 p.m. Thursday as to this weekend’s events.
Snyder has been watching and walking ice surfaces at Silver to determine if the Kids Derby on Saturday and the major competition on Sunday will be a go.
“There has to be at least five inches before we can have the contests,” Snyder said after a depth check Tuesday afternoon.
At that time the ice at the south end was just over two inches; single-digit predictions for nights in the Warsaw-Perry area should form enough ice for both events.
The free kids’ event is open to all; registration for the Sunday competition depends on the Thursday afternoon call. For a decision on holding these events, go to Northeasticefishingcircuit.com or call Snyder at (585) 322-0063.