Bill Hilts Jr.
Finding a place to go fishing after the storm of a generation may not be as difficult as you might think. Some ice fishing was brewing, but with warmer temps and rain on the way, it’s going to be a disaster. Read on as we prepare to start the new year and stay safe.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Not much happens in Lake Erie or tributaries. You may be able to find some current action further south, closer to the Pennsylvania border. There were some reports of ice fishing on Case Lake, according to Shub Stevens with Catt. Creek Bait and Tackle in Irving. Gold sparkles were the ticket. With the crazy weather we’re having, it’s not a bad idea to work on that fishing gear that needs attention for next spring, recommended Capt. Jim Hanley of Northeast Outdoors. I would start by removing the old line from last year and re-rolling with some new stuff. It is not necessary to fill the spools with all new line. Figure out how much line you’re using for a particular situation and just replace it. If you use braid, it’s always a good idea to use a monofilament backing to save yourself a lot of money because braid is expensive. Learn how to tie an Albright knot, as it’s best for connecting braids and monofilaments, Hanley says.
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One thing Hanley does during the winter is tie on all the new hot rigs for his walleye files. Will put them on “mess tamer” cards so they are ready for next summer when I need them. You can see his worm harness videos and more on YouTube. His channel is Jim Hanley’s TV show and Fishing Charters. One video is on how to properly tie a knot, great for worm harnesses. Captain Bob’s Outdoors on Main Street, Clarence has everything you need to make your own harnesses. Another great idea is to change the hooks of your favorite pole and crank baits. BKK Hooks has a new treble hook called the Spear-21 UVO. It is painted with an orange ultraviolet paint that makes your bait highly visible to fish in deep water. Sharp hooks make all the difference in putting fish in the livewell. If you go to Capt. Bob’s, sign up for the Winter Fishing Derby starting January 2nd.
One last tip to stay sane while the weather tries to drive you crazy is to tune back into YouTube and look for videos on your depth finder and GPS units, Hanley said. Most major manufacturers have excellent videos on how to get into the deepest settings of your drive. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn about simple settings like sensitivity and how to identify those crazy images that pop up on your screens in deep water.
Captains Connor and Chris Cinelli of Grand Island hit the water with Capt. Ned Librock of Catching Dreams Charters Thursday before the storm and began fishing for brown trout in Fort Niagara on emerald. One thing they noticed was that the fish seemed to prefer a shorter leader from the 3-way rigs, as short as 3-4 feet. The best action was in 16-20 feet of water. After catching browns, they headed upstream for some walleyes, but were only able to catch bass and perch. Yellow perch have been hooked near the sand docks in Lewiston. When the water clears again, the fish will be hungry.
Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls was also out Thursday. The bite was decent and landed two rainbows in an hour in 4 feet plus visibility depending on where you were on the river. It varied from place to place. He landed both fish early in the morning on No. 4 pink spinners. Once it got close to noon or just before, the bite dropped no matter what lure he was using and no matter where he was going in the river. He returned to the river at 8am on Friday, but by then the river had already started to turn and was high and dirty. The big wind and snow shift came in and the visibility quickly changed from 2 feet to zero. It was pure mud with zero visibility over the weekend and into this week. He feels that if he gets a foot of visibility, he can catch trout from shore. It may be the new year before they fish again.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that he managed a few nice fish during the start of the terrible weather. Changes in barometric pressure, changes in light and changes in water conditions are major contributors to success in the stream. The bite has been aggressive recently with the bigger fish of late. However, the total number of fish is still very low, which makes the fishermen walk and work while looking for scattered “singles”. Many streams are frozen but should reopen with the warmer temperatures and rain expected. Ron Bierstine of Oak Orchard Tackle in Point Breeze reports limited fishing opportunities. Currents will be high and colorless with warming.
At Olcott and 18 Mile Creek at Burt Dam, Matt Vogt of Newfane reports that he has been picking up a few trout this past week at Fisherman’s Park. Fishing has been good and Burt Dam has been producing feathered trout. Ice was also starting to settle in Olcott, but it’s not certain. Wilson looked promising, but will most likely melt after this warm front and rain. Vogt’s advice is to wait until January to let the ice fully set in for hard water anglers.
One hard water angler who has had some success on local farm ponds has been Phil Ptak of Lockport. He used small rigs with plastics to catch panfish through 4-6 inches of ice. Scott Brauer of Gasport reminds ice anglers to stay safe out there. His top three tips for early ice are: spud, spud, spud; never go alone in case you need the help of others; and with the way the ice is building this year, it’s very hard to read, with a lot of wind and current pushing it, so it might be better to give it a few weeks. It will be cold again and we will have a lot of ice.
There is about 6 inches of ice in the south basin, but there is still open water around the bridge, according to Capt. Mike Sperry, with Chautauqua Reel Outdoors. Some anglers were on the ice in Mayville, but caution is advised. The first ice is always unpredictable. A customer at the store said he landed a 26-incher through the ice Monday on the top end, where there was 5 inches of ice.
Cayuga Lake is still producing lake trout and brown trout near shore, reports Capt. John Gaulke, with the Finger Lakes Fishing Area. Expect some landlocked salmon and the occasional brown trout in Seneca Lake. Pike fishing should be good as is perch fishing throughout the region. Scott Brauer of Gasport reports that Loon Lake was fishable, there were some guys on Honeoye Lake. Oneida Lake is sparsely populated, but most everything will be unsafe with the warm temperatures and rain.
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