While some are still are attempting to get on hard water, the fishing is very “if-if” on Chautauqua Lake. The lake has frozen over and broken up a couple times lately. Anglers continue to have difficulties finding safe ice on the Lake.
LAKE ERIE AND TRIBS
The Lake Erie watershed has a good amount of snowpack this year, and tributary streams are seeing a bump in flow with each warmer day. Ice is deteriorating and creeks are opening back up. A blowout is very possible with warmer temps and rain in the weekend’s forecast.
Fishing has been tough in the streams this past week. Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott reports that a few more people have made it to places like 18 Mile Creek and Burt Dam, but water is high and stained from rain and snow melt from last weekend. The other smaller tributaries are high and dirty where they are open. Use bright colored baits and add some scent to them.
The highlight this week is the fishing action in the lower Niagara River this past weekend. In the Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest, hosted by the Niagara River Anglers Association last Saturday, Matt Cipolletti of Lewiston won first place with an 11.62-pound fish he reeled in on a pink egg sac. He was fishing with Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Orchard Park. Second place went to Jason Ballard of Lindley, New York with an 11.16-pound steelie and Capt. Paul Schirmer of Cambria came in third place with a 11.08-pound steelhead on an egg sac, all caught in the lower Niagara River. The big brown trout was weighed in by Jim Leiby, checking in at 10.64 pounds. He was fishing on the Niagara Bar with Capt. Richard Brant of Tonawanda. Fish were caught from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar during the contest. You just have to figure out what the fish want on any given day. One day the fish want sacs, the next day they want beads and minnows. The next day it is plugs, like MagLips and Kwikfish. Browns and lake trout are on the bar if the winds cooperate. Capt. Joe Czyrny of Cambria, fishing with Capt. Paul Schirmer, had a really good bite going, catching more than 20 fish and losing a couple more. Schirmer ended up catching the big one of the day around 10:30 a.m. All of their fish came on egg sacs. With more winds in the forecast midweek, it is a roll of the dice if boats will be able to get out. Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston agreed with changing baits each day. When he does run plugs, he coats the outside with Pautzke Fire Jell and that seems to make a difference. From shore, jigs and spinners continue to work for Mike Ziehm and Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls. Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports that jigs with plastic shads are working, as well as sacs and beads for the shore casters. Water conditions were good Tuesday, but there was some ice in the river. Water clarity could be affected with the wind we are seeing this week so far, but Wednesday morning it was still good. It could bring some more ice down river, but we will not know the effects right away. Remember that walleye season closes on March 15.
In the upper Niagara River, some trout and walleye are being caught and ice fishing action continues in Buffalo Harbor. How long that will stick around depends on the weather.
The main ice sheet is around a foot thick. In deeper areas of 20-34 feet of water, roving yellow perch schools provide good action at times, but it is tough to locate many perch over 8 inches. Hole hopping helps increase catch count of keeper-sized perch. Jigging in the south end shallows produces a modest mix of yellow perch and sunfish, and tip-ups with shiners catch the occasional pike.