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Santa delivered a welcome present for ice anglers days earlier with the arrival of that December thaw.

That hefty snowfall a week earlier did little to form good ice depths on many bays, ponds and inland lakes.

A few sites provided some 2- to 3-inch surfaces around Western New York. Simcoe Lake walkers at Cooks Bay and around the Pefferlaw River saw ice depths of up to five inches in some places.

But snow depth insulated many of the bigger inland water bodies and popular first-ice sites such as Chautauqua, Silver, Conesus and Honeoye Lakes formed just enough hard water to hold snow depths that hindered ice formation.

This prolonged thaw melted most of the snow, water temperatures are generally below that 38-degree thermal inversion point and promised cold fronts should warm things for anglers anxious to test out those tackle toys Santa brought this morning.

Bays and ponds along the Lake Ontario shoreline had offered ice-angler access before the thaw; few walkers had gotten out onto thin ice at the north ends of Conesus and Honeoye Lakes earlier.

Now, the hope is that winds remain calm and cold air can freeze some nice ice in time to enjoy a few holiday outings before the arrival of the New Year.

Fishing license sales end Thursday so the Department of Environmental Conservation can install a new computer program for sporting license issuance. That process continues until after the start of the New Year.

Anglers planning trips can still purchase a license today on line with the right sign-on savvy.

A printed version of a valid license can be made today; however, state residents must have a current New York State driver’s license to apply.

Mailed licenses will not arrive until about 14 business days after applying.

For the DEC “Buy a Sporting License” site, go to dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.

Lake Erie

A blog sent from Ohio reported what was probably the last walleye boat-fishing trip on Lake Erie waters for 2013.

Two guys from Ohio pushed ice floes out of the way at a Cleveland launch ramp and trolled hard baits at an after dark on Friday the 13th for a limit catch of ‘eyes east of the launch.

Their sonar screen was filthy with fish feeding on bait close to bottom in 34.5- degree water. For baits they ran Huskys, Rogues and Rapalas 5 to 15 feet back on in-line planer boards. They did mention seeing another boater out fishing that day; it wasn’t anyone from Western New York.

Niagara River

Water conditions can change between the west and east river. Capt. Chris Cinelli pointed out that clear water in the west river can reach the falls while stained east river waters mainly flow into power plant turbines and enter the river below the whirlpool access and Devils Hole.

Shore casters have the advantage over boaters for the start of the holiday weekend and week. Lake trout season opens Jan. 1 and both brown trout and steelhead trout mix with lakes along the shoreline above and below the power plants.

Lake Ontario

High, stained waters and even floating debris greeted anglers wading Ontario streams this past week, but settling conditions are making spirits bright at major feeders such as Oak Orchard Creek and Eighteen Mile Creek.

“The steelies are in and in good numbers,” said Sharon Narburgh at Narby’s Superette in Kent as waters of the Oak begin settling. Meat offerings such as egg sacks and skein work well. Narburgh also sees many trouters going with smaller jigs tipped with waxworms.

Ontario’s ponds and bay areas saw a major melt, but light breezes and colder nights could restart the perch run and improve access to walleye and northern pike catches along the shallow, weeded flats that were iffy during the first freeze.

Inland Ice

Ted Decker at Ted’s Tackle in Lakeville will now have bait and tackle items available seven days a week, opening from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Decker saw a few holes dug over extremely shallow waters at the north end of Conesus Lake during the first freeze. The upper end of Conesus remained slush-covered ice and could be good for shoreline access within a week.

Decker’s new store location is in the same building that veteran anglers knew as Bob’s Bait & Tackle on Route 20A at the Conesus outlet. For updates on western Finger Lakes ice and water conditions, check with him at (585) 429-0587.

Chautauqua Lake and the Southern Tier string of ice-fishable hot spots, at least over shallower areas, could be good before or after singing Auld Lang Syne.

Lake Simcoe ice held at the northeast corner. Hut operators are just setting up off the Pefferlaw River mouth on ice depths either side of five inches as of Tuesday morning.

email: odrswill@gmail.com