What a difference a melt makes.

Last week, area ice surfaces were starting to look good for crossings as well as shoreline hole-poking on most of the smaller inland lakes and ponds.

Weekend walkers had fun on Silver Lake, Conesus Lake, Honeoye Lake and on sections of Chautauqua Lake. Venturesome prospectors crossed Silver Lake Sunday afternoon in search of the deep-water perch bite and staging schools of crappie about to make their shoreline charge.

By this weekend, the meltdown and high winds might have the center section of Silver and other lakes as open as they had been throughout all of last winter’s ice season.

Ice contest

The bite was mixed during the North East Ice Fishing Circuit Pro Series competition held Sunday out of Mack’s Boat Livery on the southeast corner of Silver Lake. Kids had fun on ice measuring 7 to 8 inches during a casual competition on Saturday that saw some youths bring in panfish entrants in the adult event would have liked to see in their weigh-in bucket.

Results of the weekend competitions and outings will be expanded in an Outdoors Page column on Sunday.

Lake Ontario

Despite the heavy snowfall last week, stream waders had been doing well on streams east of Olcott. Rain and melting runoff may give streams a rise and stain, but the steelhead and brown trout presence has been impressive either side of Point Breeze, around Irondequoit Bay and farther west in the Sodus Bay area.

Niagara River

Despite the rain and stain, lower river trout runs have been sprint sessions. Shore casters continue to connect on all three species: lake trout, steelies and browns. The most popular artificial has been a white jig, but egg sacks and minnows can be productive as well.

The lake trout bite has been exceptional this cold-weather season and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and volunteers successfully tagged 72 lakers with plastic T-tags.

The tags are inserted through the dorsal (top) fin and show a 3-digit number. Anglers who happen to catch one or more of these fish are asked to take the tag to a drop box with a note indicating the catch site (Artpark, Devils Hole, Fort Niagara, etc.) at the cleaning station at Lewiston Landing.

If the catch was a distance from Lewiston, USF&WS officials ask that anglers document the tag number and call (585) 948-5445 (ext. 2229) to report location and the fish number.

Lake Erie

Streams with even slight ice openings were looking good prior to the thaw. “With the way the streams are opening and the runoff, it won’t be long before the streams are good again,” said Rick Miller at Miller’s Bait & Tackle in Irving.

Far from traditional was the prospect of ice fishing on Dunkirk Harbor ice surfaces. This past weekend walkers saw about as much ice depth as was formed on the inner harbor of the Small Boat Harbor.

Ice prospects

Stories still abound of walkers going through ice at Simcoe Lake near creek and river flowage areas. However, good ice holds inside Thorah and Georgina Islands. Smaller perch and increased numbers of ciscos (lake herring) have been the mainstay, but Randy Carleton has huts over 28- to 30-foot depths about a mile and a half off Port Bolster and his clients are starting to see bigger (over 10-inch) ringback and jumbo.