Report from the Dock
Like deer season, ice fishing is one of those outdoor activities you wait all year for and then it seems to end so quickly. Unlike deer season, it is the elements that decide when the it begins and ends. A quick look at the adjacent sunrise/sunset tables should start to paint a picture of the beginning of the end of the hard-water season. In just a two-week period, we’re gaining over 30 minutes of daylight, especially in the morning. Still, as we wrap up February, there remains some good ice out there and when it starts to go will have a lot to do with weather conditions. Either way, get out there while and where you can.
1000 Islands Region
Michael Bell, of Chapman’s Sport Shop, said the fishing’s been a little slow during the mid-season swing, but a few northerns are being caught rigging golden shiners on tip-ups about 1- to 2-feet off the bottom. These northerns are holding on hard bottom areas with some remaining vertical vegetation in the area. The crappie and bluegill bite remains steady in Rollaway and Mile Arm bays. Anglers are targeting deeper water areas presenting small tungsten jigs tipped with micro plastics or using spikes and minnows.
Brad Paradis, of Gajo Baits, reports that ice fishing has been very good on the St. Lawrence River in most bays. Perch are hitting small spoons and jigs all day long, with the bigger perch preferring larger minnows. The key depth seems to be 10- to 12-foot in most bays with some anglers catching them deeper in Wheathouse Bay. Northern pike are most active in the early morning and again just before dusk with anglers scoring well using Rapala Jigging wraps and minnows on tip ups. The walleye bite has slowed a bit. With the recent warming trend recommend you bring a shovel, many of the bays were covered with over a foot of snow with slush ice underneath, so movement on foot takes a bit longer than usual.
Frank Kohlbach, of Pond Skipper Fishing Adventures, said recent weeks across the Eastern Basin has been nothing short of epic ice fishing, with big breeder walleyes stagging prior to hitting their spawning grounds. Anglers are experiencing nice multi-species bags consisting of walleyes, northern pike, perch, and a few channel catfish mixed in for good measure. Caty Jigs, Slab Spoons and large minnows on tip-ups continue producing well. Ben Liszewski, of Sandy Pond, recently caught a very nice catfish (see photo) in the 30-pound range. AJ Berry, of AJ’s Angling Edge Guide Service, iced a memorable 31.5-inch walleye by targeting the 25- to 30-foot zone in Chaumont Bay.
Captain Burnie Haney, New York Fishing Adventures, burniehaney.com
Adirondacks, Capital District/Upper Hudson Valley
If winter sticks around anywhere in the North Country it is the Adirondacks, where ice anglers have been enjoying some good conditions, and catches. The big lakes are still producing predator fish, like northern pike and lake trout. Check out the Almanac on Page 34 for dates of a few late-season ice fishing tournaments around northern Lake George and on Scrhoon Lake.
If the recent warming trend this month continues, stream anglers may actually have a chance to get back out there and enjoy the catch-and-release season. While caution should always be used on the ice, anglers should be continuously aware of any deteriorating ice conditions in the region.
Central New York
Anglers are getting out around the lake. Walleye and perch fishing continues to be good.
Winter fishing has really started to pick up. Anglers are seeing fair numbers of fish in the river. Most anglers are fishing jigs, beads and egg sacs under floats to generate bites. This lower flow also makes the high wall very fishable..
As the water flow on the Salmon River is lowered to normal winter flows the fishing has typically led to good fishing this winter. Concentrating your efforts on the bigger deeper pools and anywhere are you find slow water. Fish the inside edges and the belly of the pool. The best color combinations are typically white with a pink or purple collar. Black stoneflies with chart, blue, or copper back are also all working for bottom bouncers.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
DEC reports this area got hit hard with snow earlier this month and that moving around on the ice could be challenging in places between the snow and slush.
Anglers are catching yellow perch and chain pickerel.
Anglers are getting out around the lake, with most of the activity on the north end.
Anglers are getting yellow perch and northern pike.
Whitney Point Reservoir
Anglers are getting some walleyes, rock bass and yellow perch.
The slushy surface has made dragging your sled a little on the difficult side. The Sodus Bay perch have been near Third Creek (Shaker Road) in at 30 feet. You’ll need to drill a few holes if you are catching smaller fish. They will usually school by size. They are also catching fish straight out from the old malt house. Known by local anglers it’s dubbed “The Trestle.” Perch are hitting glow-jigs tipped with spikes. On the east side of Sodus Bay straight out from Oak Park has seen some perch action.
The Port Bay perch are also on the bite off the points and near the northeast side of the 500-acre bay. When you finish drilling the holes you’ll be on your knees. That’s how thick the ice was on the bay at press time. On the Erie Canal, there were a few shanties on the Widewaters section of the canal where you can catch perch, crappies, and blue gills. Use tiny glow perch-colored jigs for blue gills, and jig very slowly.
Chris Kenyon, waynecountytourism.com
Open boats and charter boats are targeting cod, haddock, and ling with varying success depending on the day. Some days are very good, while others are slow. A lot of this depends on the current and the water temperature. The top bait was fresh clams, with jigs also productive. Anglers using a Jelly Worm or twister tail teaser tied 2-feet above the sinker reported better success then those fishing without the teasers. Many boats are out of the water for the winter, so call ahead to see if your favorite boat is running.
A few open boats are running long range trips targeting cod, pollock, barrel fish, and tilefish. These trips have been very productive as they target the wrecks and ledges less fished due to their distance from shore. Since these trips have limits to the number of anglers that can be accommodated due to sleeping arrangements, they are by reservation only. So, call ahead to reserve your spot.
When the weather cooperated and open water could be found, which has been getting harder and harder to find, the freshwater fishing for largemouths, smallmouths, yellow perch, pickerel, and crappies was good. Freshwater minnows fished under a bobber was the top bait. Trout worms worked best for bluegills and sunfish.
The trout fishing in the Connetquot River remained good with most of the trout caught being rainbows, with a few brown trout in the mix. This is a fly-fishing only river and reservations are required to reserve a spot, also known as a beat. A few trout were also reported from the Carmans River, Rattlesnake Creek, and Bubbles Falls, caught on worms, grubs, and small jigs, such at Trout Magnets. There were no reports of white perch or herring as of late..
Guy Zummo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Western New York
Buffalo Boat Harbor
Anglers report steady action for yellow perch and sunfish with a fair number of keepers per outing. Northern pike catches on tip-ups with large shiners has been decent at times. Smelt are available and will hit micro-jigs tipped with a spike. Anglers should access ice from the boat launch.
Lake trout are available in deep waters. Jigging with spoons or tip-ups with large shiners are the typical tactics for lakers. After dark, anglers equipped with a lantern catch smelt just under the ice.
Walleye fishing has been challenging for most. Best catches have come around dawn and dusk. Walleyes can be found from shallower weedy areas and out to 30 feet of water. Jigging with jigging rapalas (or similar) or vertical spoons tipped with a minnow head or whole minnow is a good active technique. Tip-ups with “bass” golden shiners catch the occasional walleye as well. Yellow perch catches are very good lake-wide in 5 to 20 feet of water, but expect dozens of small perch for every keeper. Up-size baits and lures to target larger perch. A south basin angler reported decent catches of 9 to 11-inch yellow perch in 6 to 7 feet of water on tip-ups with medium shiners. Sunfish are available around standing weed beds. White perch can be found in the north basin’s deep holes, at depths over 30 feet.
The more favorable reports are of decent numbers of bluegills with the occasional yellow perch or bonus crappie mixed in. In the same area, northern pike action is typically fair on tip-ups with large shiners.
Anglers are catching decent numbers of medium sized yellow perch with the occasional jumbo. Jigs tipped with grubs or piece of minnow, and tip-ups or tip-downs with small minnows are good techniques.
Sunfish and yellow perch fishing has picked up a bit around the shallower south end. Catch numbers are better around standing vegetation. Tip-ups with shiners set in weedy areas mostly catch largemouth bass, chain pickerel and yellow perch. Yellow perch are the predominant catch at depths over 20 feet. Catch numbers are modest, but most are quality fish including some jumbos. Hole hopping and covering larger areas increases the catch count. The bonus walleye catch is possible in both shallow and deeper areas.
Shallow weedy areas typically produce fair catches of bluegills with some yellow perch mixed in. Shallower areas are also a good bet for northern pike on tip-ups with shiners. Yellow perch catch numbers are better in deeper areas of 20 to 34 feet of water, though they tend to run small. Deeper zones also produce the occasional keeper crappie and suspended northern pike.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Some open water areas and steelhead catches have been reported in the Gowanda area of Cattaraugus Creek. Clear Creek within Seneca Nation lands is open and fishing well (must have an SNI fishing license). Most other creeks and sections are still locked up. With days getting longer look for some areas to start opening up.
Lake Ontario and tributaries
DEC reports open water was confined to the base of the dams and swift runs at Eighteenmile and Oak Orchard Creek. Flows were low and clear, but rain warm weather could change that. All other streams were locked up with ice..
Shore fishing in the lower Niagara River has been a little difficult because of clearer water according to Mike Ziehm, of Niagara Falls. However, he was still hitting some nice fish. Ziehm was using a mix of orange and white jigs and No. 5 spinners in white and chartreuse colors. The water is very clear so fish are being picky with the increased visibility. Steelhead was his primary focus, but he also caught lake trout and walleyes the past week.
Capt. Ryan O’Neill, of Buffalo Wingz Waterfowl and Sportfishing, reports that he has earned some silver and gold Lake Erie is now covered in ice and the water clarity has stabilized. The bite has been steady, and he has been targeting walleyes early then grabbing a few steelies to finish the day. Or just the opposite. Southerly winds have been great for turning the boat sideways and pulling plugs for steelhead, especially on cold days. You can wear gloves and just hold on tight. Silver and green or silver and yellow 3-inch Yakima MagLips are always a favorite. .
Frank Campbell, email@example.com