With bass and musky season closed and lake trout not reopening until Jan. 1, trout streams, perch and the lower Niagara River are the major draws. No site in the area formed enough ice to support walking anglers.
Ice not nice
That blast of cold across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin has put ice anglers on lakes and ponds for more than two weeks. Rescue agencies may break records for responding to calls to assist anglers who have broken through ice on ponds and smaller lakes.
Chautauqua Lake saw an ice surface on the Southern Basin, from the Route 86 bridge to Jamestown, for about three days. Just patches of shore ice remain now.
North Basin waters were open throughout the last blast of cold and snow; a few walleye drifters got out from Long Point this past weekend. Chautauqua ice prospects might arrive with Santa or after he drives his sleigh.
Lake Simcoe, on the same latitude with the Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes, has yet to see anything more than skim ice along shore. The Pefferlaw River, which usually firms up well before the lake, showed open water during the last freeze-over.
For now, sharpen the ice auger, check lines and knots, sort flies, jigs, spinners and spoons for easy access once hard-water season finally arrives.
Thin skins of ice had formed on some Great Lakes feeder streams, but the steelie run in general has been better this year along Lake Erie and an early and abundant run of browns with steelies and king salmon into many Lake Ontario feeders has shore anglers active on bigger and smaller streams.
One week, Cattaraugus Creek draws anglers from its mouth well up to Springville; the next week smaller feeders get most of the attention. Timing is critical. Smaller streams are difficult to read.
“There are fish in Silver (Creek) and other smaller streams, but not many fishermen,” said Rick Miller at Miller’s Bait & Tackle in Irving. Miller gets good reports of catches along the Catt, but most of the nearby smaller streams have had minimal fishing pressure.
Both Canadaway Creek and Chautauqua Creek saw a surge of steelies two weeks ago. Now, water levels remain high enough to draw trout, but waders have had to work harder and walk farther to get to feeding and lure-hitting fish.
“They have used a lot of egg sacks,” said Gerri Begier at Bill’s Hooks west of Dunkirk Harbor. Begier noted casters around Dunkirk Harbor have picked up a trout here and there, but the solid winter run has not yet begun.
Bigger Lake Ontario feeders have shown better than the small, easily-covered streams. Eighteen Mile Creek at Olcott Harbor has a good mix of browns and steelies.
Wes Walker at Slippery Sinker Bait & Tackle gets good reports for both egg sacks and skein for trout in the creek from the piers up to Burt Dam. Walker notes that Slippery Sinker will be closed until the day after Christmas.
Oak Orchard Creek still harbors a few lingering king salmon, but the browns and steelies steal the show anywhere from the piers to Waterport Dam.
Heavier hardware has been hot close to the Oak’s mouth. Little Cleos and assorted spinners all get some attention. Closer to the dam, smaller egg sacks, skein chunks and flies are a better draw.
The last boaters on Lake Erie found perch at depths of less than 40 feet, but pinpointing perch now would be pure speculation.
Boaters around Irondequoit Bay continually locate the ringback run on both the Webster and Irondequoit sides of that big bay.
“They’re mainly working around the buoys,” said George at S&R Bait & Tackle in Rochester. Earlier this fall, perch schools were moving into shoreline shallows and hanging around drop-offs at depths of 15 to 25 feet. Now, the better bite has been out and around the marker buoys set at 40-foot depths.
Earlier speculation had the ice start somewhere close to shore, but schools of the bigger perch might start out deeper.
Minnow movement has been the yardstick for good perch fishing at Wilson Harbor and Olcott Harbor. Trout movement, unlike the rush of big kings, does not effect perch presence. On good days, shore casters can reach ringbacks in most bays, creek mouths and along shoreline ponds.
Lower river runs
Drifters enjoy a nice mix of steelies and browns among lake trout that feed in lower Niagara River currents from Devil’s Hole down to Fort Niagara. Egg sacks, skein and metallic-finished Kwikfish all did well during recent days of mild winds and decent water clarity.
Boaters can cruise out onto the Niagara Bar, but solid schools of trout hold not only up in Devil’s Hole but also along the Artpark drift, said Capt. Frank Campbell during another successful run Tuesday morning.