What a difference a warm week makes.

After solid ice starts and some nice catch reports, last week’s thawing and some brisk winds put hard water headings iffy if not completely called off for a while.

Water-covered ice greets walkers and light machine runners from Lake Simcoe to Oneida Lake. At Simcoe, a few operators have huts on the ice and access to shoreline shallows are good from Jackson Point north to well past Port Bolster.

The bad news is not so much the slushy surface water but the sizes of perch caught since ice first formed before Christmas. Before New Year’s some area anglers returned with limits or near limits of perch over the 10-inch mark.

Last week the ratio was 10 fish caught to one kept over the 8-inch mark, with some shoreline anglers suffering shutouts. Fall perch and lake trout numbers were good at Simcoe. Regulars are holding off for good ice to form out deeper. The plan is to scout around for the bigger yellow perch while working jig and bait rigs for whitefish and lakers.

For now, ice anglers hunt and peck shoreline shallows for a few smaller ringbacks and hope for better catches out deeper.

Ice sites and desired depths have not been a concern at Oneida Lake this winter. Good ice formed on Big Bay weeks ago and everywhere walkers could get on Oneida the fish have cooperated.

“This is the best ice season I’ve seen on Oneida in 20 years,” said James Dasher at Mickey’s Bait & Tackle in North Syracuse. That bait shop has sold bait for both walleye and perch anglers. Dasher noted that his customers have brought in fish from every access on the lake.

First ice forms early on Big Bay on the western end of the lake, but good perch numbers have shown from One Tree Island to Lewis Point. Walleye jiggers have pulled mostly legal-sized fish that rarely pass the 18-inch mark. Walleye minimum length limit is the statewide 15-inch requirement, but the daily creel limit is three fish.

Word (totally unconfirmed) has it that an angler at Oneida was cited by an enforcement official for possession of more than 20 walleyes taken from that lake. True or not, many a perch searcher with a limit of ’eyes has had to pick through incidentals to pick off a few more ringbacks.

Contestants in the Capt. Bob’s Ice Fishing Derby have mentioned catching many Oneida walleye but not the bruisers that win contests.

Irondequoit Bay went on hold after the latest round of runoff. Rick Reagan at Jay-Vee Fishing Tackle had some nice perch reports from the south end of the bay.

Now, melting and feeder currents have sponge-covered ice less than iffy until the next hard freeze.

Western Finger Lakes did not get the ice-insulating snow cover and cool nights kept ice surfaces solid on the three lakes discussed on the Sunday Outdoors Page.

The south end of Silver Lake has patches of 7-inch ice. Machine runners have made it from the south to the north end and back. Catches are spotty. One guy sitting on a shutout might be next to another angler with half a pail of ’gills and a couple crappie thrown in to confuse folks.

Conesus Lake had a good ice coating at the north end, with some open spots out in the middle between Long Point and Camp Stella Maris. A few bigger ’gills have shown at the north end off Vitale Park, but northern pike have been more impressive around the Conesus shallows.

Honeoye Lake continues its hit-or-miss swings at fish catching. The bluegill bite has shown lakewide and so have largemouth bass schools. The lake has an abundance of bass in a year class that puts them just over the legal 12-inch length. Panfish jiggers have hooked into these bucket mouths at all hours of the day.

Ice contest

Capt. Bob’s Ice Fishing Derby is in its second week and goes to March 10. Steve “Hawk” Hawkins at the counter has weighed in and measured some impressive entries, mainly panfish catches.

The crappie leader holds from last week but the bluegill entry is a plug. Denziel Malcolm of Perry traveled to Cuba Lake and hooked into a 12-inch ’gill that tipped the scale at 1.55 pounds.

Shannon Frost of Alden leads the pike division with a 33-inch northern that weighed in at 7.8 pounds, which came from Small Boat Harbor waters.

Alden angler Rod Froebel Jr. brought in a Silver Lake pike measuring 32.5 inches with a weight of 7.35 pounds.

With all the rudd being caught during the warm-weather season, Hawkins has yet to see one entry.

Contestants can enter the Capt. Bob’s contest by phone at 407-3021 or by stopping at 10295 Main St. in Clarence.