The vernal equinox, Daylight Savings Time and extended hours of sunlight have kicked in, but ice-fishing reports outnumber open-water info gleaned from area anglers right now.
Huts and permanent shelters have been removed from ice surfaces since March 15, but the late-season ice bite, particularly incoming crappie (calico) bass, can be stunning.
With the depth of ice cover formed this cold winter, many a lake, bay and pond still has good ice and reasonably safe access. As always, check on ice thickness and composition before marching out to ice fish anywhere this last week of March.
Lake Erie — “Everywhere,” is the response Lee Weber at Weber’s Bait & Tackle in Evans replies when asked where ice anglers are getting perch off Sturgeon Point.
Early in the ice season, it took some searching to find perch out deep, but schools of big ringbacks began showing at mid-50s depths more than a month ago and good catches have come into Sturgeon Point from all directions. In recent weeks, some nice numbers have come from depths just over 40 feet and less than two miles from shore, with an occasional walleye and whitefish thrown into the mix.
Solid ice surfaces and fairly smooth driving lanes remain intact, but warm air and high winds could quickly change things out there. Also, machine runners are reminded to know passenger capacities for their RVs, use solid (not rope) connectors for towed sleds and have vehicle credentials in possession while an ice machine is in use.
Chautauqua Lake — “The calico bite is picking up,” said Skip Bianco at Hogan’s Hut Bait & Tackle. The lake is coated with at least a foot of ice with some areas still in the high teens for solid ice.
Bianco sees the Lakewood Bar shallows as the most active crappie area afternoons and the Mayville shoreline at and after dark. The bluegill bite is odd. ‘Gill schools move through and hit hard for a while, and then they are gone. Bluegill/sunfish have shown in good sizes this ice season.
A few ice addicts have found bigger perch in both shallow and deeper waters, but most have to pick their way through a run of runts to get a few filleting-sized guys.
Western Finger Lakes — Shoreline ice surfaces vary. Sunlight and feeder streams have many ice edges either thin or just open water.
Silver Lake ice can be honeycombed in spots but good ice access has been available early this week. Bluegill and crappie schools keep moving around weed edges at depths of less than 10 feet, but the bite can be hard to find. When connected, jiggers go with plastics and grubs at mid depths for nice, quick runs of ‘gills and crappie.
Both Conesus Lake and Honeoye Lake have questionable ice edges. The ‘gill catch has improved in size at Conesus. The bigger ones have come on plastics rather than wax worms. The crappie run has been mostly at the north end. Few but bigger crappies have been the norm for afternoon and evening runs.
Honeoye’s ‘gills have scattered; most anglers poke around to find crappie. First schools of shoreline crappie usually show at the northeast shoreline, but odd schools have been seen and nice catches have come from shallows all around the lake this season.
In those few areas where boaters can get onto New York State waters, a recent state regulation requires that all occupants wear a PFD (personal flotation device or life preserver) from Nov. 1 to May 1 while aboard all but commercial vessels.
Lower Niagara River waters are open and clear but northerly breezes have made it difficult to drift the river and to get out onto the Niagara Bar. Capt. Chris Cinelli has been going mainly with a meat program (egg sacks and minnows) with an occasional good outing with Kwikfish.
Casters working the Dunkirk Pier continue to connect with trout. “Sometimes there are more browns than rainbows,” Gerri Begier at Bill’s Hooks said Tuesday afternoon.
Feeder streams along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario show good water flow and inland streams are in good shape for Department of Environmental Conservation hatchery-stocked trout. Look for a detailed column on Randolph Hatchery stocking progress on the Sunday Outdoors Page.
The inland trout season will open on Tuesday, and for the 53rd time the Naples Creek Rainbow Trout Derby will be held out of the Naples Fire Hall on Vine Street in the village.
Trophies and merchandise prizes go to the biggest trout in age and various other divisions. All registered anglers who enter a rainbow receive a bottle of Hazlitt Wine or grape juice (depending on age) and a merchandise prize.
For more details, check with derby coordinator Joyce Doran at (585) 374-2782.