What a difference a re-freeze makes.

Area ice-surface thickness can fluctuate. Some lakes opened to water, shore to shore. Some lakes and bays retained surfaces that re-froze earlier this week but remain marginal for food traffic. Lake Simcoe in Ontario retained the most shoreline access for walkers and light vehicles along its northeastern corner.

At Silver Lake, walkers were seen close to shore on ice that measured at and just under 2 inches early this week. The Department of Environmental Conservation website posts an Ice Thickness Table for permissible loads. The guide is based on ice that is “clear, blue, hard ice on non-running waters.”

As every savvy ice angler knows, most ice surfaces are mixed, rarely clear-blue and the better shoreline bite often occurs around feeder streams that supply running waters that carry not only bait forage but also oxygenated waters.

A 3-inch surface is suggested for a group in single file and the chart then jumps to 7.5 inches for passage of an average/light car.

Some charts peg a 5-inch surface as minimum thickness for a snowmobile. For anglers of any weight and size, this 5-inch standard is more acceptable; surface conditions vary. Ice that had a covering of drifted snow could be much thinner than surrounding “black” ice.

At a 10-inch thickness, guides recommend loads from 3.5 to 7 tons. Above a foot in ice depth and anglers have assured safe crossing with most road and recreational vehicles on ice.

County sheriff offices and other enforcement agencies do not deem ice in any patrol area as “safe” ice. Even at 20 inches with a capacity of 25 tons, ice on larger lakes such as Lake Erie can be moved to faults and pressure ridges minutes after breezes hit water and ice surfaces up wind.

Ice contest

The melt and re-freeze presents challenges for staging the North East Ice Fishing Circuit Free Kids Clinic and Contest Saturday and the Pro Series competition on Sunday at Honeoye Lake.

Unlike nearby lakes, Honeoye saw little snowfall; good ice re-formed at the north end faster than the south-end embayment of the state launch.

Coordinator Jeff Snyder continuously checks ice conditions at both ends of the lake and is confident that events will be held both days.

“It’s a tossup whether we will go out of the state launch at the south end or Trident Marina on the north end of Honeoye,” Snyder said Tuesday.

To confirm the chosen site, check with Snyder at (585) 322-0063 or go to

Lake Ontario

Ice at Irondequoit Bay’s northeast corner formed enough for walker access earlier this week. Ron Gatz at S&R Bait & Tackle in Rochester has ice anglers headed to Braddock Bay and ponds west of Irondequoit onto ice measuring 2-4 inches.

Niagara River

Lower river boaters have had hiatus in trout action for more than a week.

Charter captains noted that ice forming on Lake Erie should clear things up by the weekend. Chris Cinelli is looking at trips starting Thursday; Frank Campbell looks for the steelie run to be on again by the weekend.

The steelhead trout run has been solid before windstorms sent ice floes and stained water down the Niagara River gorge. Regulars look for good water clarity and access ease for boating and shore-bound anglers next Saturday (Feb. 16) during the Niagara River Anglers Association’s annual Roger Toby Memorial Steelhead Contest.

Entrants can fish the lower river, Lake Erie and its tributaries. Prizes go to the top three steelies by weight and a separate division is set up for the largest brown trout caught during this contest.

For entry details, drop by Slipper Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott or Creek Road Bait & Tackle in Lewiston.

Lake Erie

Walkers have gotten onto Small Boat Harbor ice soon after the re-freeze. Catch numbers are sporadic, but the harbor offers the easiest access to near-shore fishing in the Buffalo area comparable with Lake Ontario’s string of ponds and bays.

Ice cover on streams varies also. Jamming has been heavier closer to Buffalo and open flow improves farther west. Most areas of Canadaway and Chautauqua Creeks have open, steady water flows. Ice at Dunkirk harbor has been iffy and so-so since the last melt.

Check ahead anywhere before heading onto ice surfaces right now.