Ice fishing options abound as cold fronts continue to support solid, thick surfaces on area lakes, bays and ponds.
Fishing season closes on Saturday for walleye, northern pike, chain pickerel and bass on some of the western Finger Lakes. But ice conditions are such that prospects are good for a panoply of panfish well after the game-fish season closing.
The Sunday start of Daylight Savings Time affords anglers an extra evening hour of sunlight as the length of daylight increases and spring (at least officially on the calendar) is set to arrive next Thursday.
On ice, the evening bite has been good for perch, bluegills and sunfish; walleye and northern pike have been more active at daybreak and during early morning hours.
On open water, trout and walleye (mainly in the lower Niagara River) might bite any hour of the day.
Mid-March is perhaps the poorest period for piscatorial prognostications. Ice experts fill buckets one day and return to those same holes to sit and watch the sunset a day or two later.
Boaters on the lower river have to move around in increasingly clear waters. “The fishing depends on water flow,” Capt. Chris Cinelli said of the trout and walleye fishing in the river and out on the Niagara Bar.
Cinelli has been using emerald shiners for both brown trout and ’eyes. The walleye bite has been mainly in the river; the browns have taken over the Niagara Bar. Most days the count will be browns rather than lake trout, with no early sign of a coho salmon yet.
Dunkirk Harbor offers another open-water fishery this bitter cold winter. Casters off the Dunkirk Pier are using Kastmasters, KO Wobblers and Little Cleo spoons for a nice mix of steelhead and brown trout, Jerri Begier at Bill’s Hooks said earlier this week.
Feeder streams on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario have ice jams and shoves that often measure 3-foot depths on many creeks. Some open water offers anglers access below the dams on Eighteen Mile Creek and Oak Orchard Creek, along parts of Irondequoit Creek, and below the lower falls of the Genesee River.
Many a panfish preparation (small jigs with grubs such as waxworms and spikes) also takes over as terrific terminal tackle for trout in clear, open stream waters.
The 53rd Annual Naples Creek Rainbow Trout Derby is set for the inland trout season opener April 1. For details, call (585) 274-2782.
Hut and other fixed ice-fishing gear must be removed from all ice surfaces in New York State and Ontario Province by midnight Saturday.
But ice fishing could continue for a while, and the bite is as fickle as snowflakes right now.
Long runners off Sturgeon Point have found schools of bigger perch at depths of 58 feet; most places are four or more miles from the point. But a couple nice catches came from less than two miles just west of Sturgeon.
Chautauqua Lake perch schools are mainly runt runs, but a few nice-sized ringbacks have shown along Mayville embayment drop-offs. Suspended ringback packs show over depths of more than 50 feet, but the Mayville shoreline ledge edges that drop from 8- to 20-foot depths have produced some plugs.
The bluegill/sunfish bite on inland lakes changes daily. Weed edges are essential for ’gills and most crappie schools, and depths of less than 10 feet usually produce throughout the day.
Silver Lake ’gills have run fewer in number and better in size; Conesus Lake ’gills remain mainly runts, and the crappie run has not begun. Honeoye Lake bass numbers have been greater than Conesus, bigger perch still show at midlake for a few lucky enough to be over feeding fish at depths of 25 to 30 feet, and the ’gill bite can be impressive or absent, depending on their moves and moods.
In recent years the walleye limit in much of Ontario Province was lowered from six to four fish, which, along with the rate of money exchange, has reduced numbers of U.S. fishing folk headed north each warm-water season.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has done studies on walleye populations from 1967 to 2011 and noted fishing pressure on Lake Nipissing has severely reduced the fish count on this popular resort lake to the extent that in 2013 the ministry imposed a 2-fish limit for walleye fishing.
The lake still supports good numbers of yellow perch, but events such as a recent perch derby have drawn fewer anglers than expected.
The walleye woes continue, and officials have announced plans to further reduce the daily limit to one fish measuring just over 18 inches from Nipissing waters. That change could occur as soon as the season opener in May of this year.
Scott Nelson, president of the Lake Nipissing Stakeholders Association, asked, “Who’s going to fish Lake Nipissing when you can only catch one fish?