Ice has begun forming on some smaller bays and ponds, but the bigger lakes need a few more cold nights.
“What they really need is a good melt to get the snow cover off the ice and let the cold form good ice,” said Rick Reagan at Jay-Ve Fishing Tackle in Rochester. Jay-Ve serves anglers headed to nearby Irondequoit Bay, where nearly a foot of snow covers ice surfaces that formed in the bay.
The perch bite had been solid throughout the fall boating sea. Ice anglers are anxious to get out and see if those schools of bigger perch continue to hold tight and bite.
As with so many other larger bays and lakes, Irondequoit has good shore ice but open water out deeper. The channel buoys remain ice free at the center of the bay.
Silver Lake was entirely ice covered as of Tuesday morning, but checkers headed out of Mack’s Boat Livery Monday afternoon found spongy shore ice and not enough thickness to chance a walk. The word is a quick melt and freeze could have the north and south shallows ready for anglers by the time Santa rides his sleigh.
Like Silver, Honeoye Lake has an entire ice covering, but walkers are just testing possible ice accesses, said Dave Washburn at his bait shop in Honeoye.
Conesus Lake shows an ice surface above Long Point, but the lower end of the lake is still open water, noted Ted Decker at Ted’s Tackle in Lakeville. Ted’s has expanded its open hours now that the ice season is showing a start. For hours and updates, check with Decker at (585) 429-0587.
Lake Ontario shoreline ponds and Braddock Bay have been iffy but accessible for more than two weeks. Braddock has shown best, but a few have done some boasting about perch on Long Pond and Cranberry Pond.
Perhaps the earliest inland-lakes report comes from Loon Lake. Ice thickness had been less than four inches when walkers headed out earlier this week. Only an odd perch or two was all that could be learned about Loon.
Pat Van Camp at Big Catch Bait & Tackle on Niagara Street had customers headed to Buffalo Small Boat Harbor. Ice covers the inner harbor areas, but it might take the Friday warm-up to smooth harbor ice and have it safe enough for holiday vacationers to enjoy.
A definite five-inch surface formed on Lake Simcoe ice on either side of the Pefferlaw River. Cooks Bay also showed ice for walkers earlier this week.
That warm front affects southern Ontario as well as Western New York waters and ice prospects; check before heading up to any Canadian lake. Also, the whitefish bite can be good in the shallows during first ice. However, whitefish season does not open until Jan. 1.
The September-October survey results of Southwick Associates’ AnglerSurvey has freshwater-only anglers a 72 percent part of the pie and saltwater-only at 17 percent nationally.
Largemouth and spotted bass dominate as the leading fish species across the country, but, surprisingly, panfish species lead all other freshwater species at 28.4 percent. Trout finished at 25.1 percent; walleye garnered 14 percent; perch received attention from 9.4 percent of respondents; musky and pike-family fishes drew 8.1 percent; salmon was a favorite of 7.8 percent of anglers surveyed this past fall season.
Part of the panfish attraction for anglers is that bluegill, sunfish and subspecies of these smaller members of the sunfish family are abundant nearly year round. Sunnies, crappie, and ‘gills crowd around docks just after ice-out and often can be caught close to shore throughout the warm-weather season. Kids, rookie anglers and just simply casual anglers can catch panfish in good numbers and fair sizes in most freshwater lakes, bays, ponds and streams.
Once ice forms, anglers place tip-ups and work jig rigs for bass (where legal), walleye, pike and salmonid species, but panfish dominate the doings on all ice surfaces.
Western Finger Lakes and Southern Tier lakes are forming ice and even the deeper lakes provide shoreline shallows that provide habitat for good panfish prospects.
With ice forming on some fishable areas, hardwater diehards could do some scouting in advance of Captain Bob’s Ice Fishing Derby set to start Jan. 1.
Five divisions offer a $250 prize for first place and a $100 gift card for second place. Anglers can bring in catches for walleye, pike, crappie, bluegill/sunfish and redfin (rudd) divisions.
Weekly drawing will be held for each week’s entries. A $10 entry fee covers all weeks of the derby to March 10.
To sign up at Captain Bob’s look for the George’s Courtyard at 10295 Main St. in Clarence next to Don George’s Sports Center. For more details, check with Steve Hawkins at 407-3021.