Niagara Gazette

December 20, 2013

Bill Hilts' Fish Forecast: Need a license? Act before Christmas.

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that a new vendor has been hired to handle sporting license transactions in the state and a blackout period for selling licenses will be put into place starting Dec. 26 across the state. 

In other words, if you are looking to fish or hunt from Dec. 26 into early January 2014, you’d better purchase a license in advance because no other option will exist. So, charter captains looking to service customers visiting from out of state will need to be thinking ahead and then hope that the weather stays decent. 

If you have relatives coming home for the holidays and they want to wet a line or chase some waterfowl, you’d better have them make arrangements before Dec. 26. And just because licenses aren’t available, it doesn’t mean that the conservation laws won’t be enforced – they will be, according to the DEC press office in Albany.

1. Lake Ontario and tributaries

Good news and bad news for ice fishermen. Wilson Harbor was reporting decent ice in the back bay of the harbor with five to seven inches of ice holding up hard water anglers. According to Greg Stanley of All in the Same Boat Tackle Shop in Newfane, ice fishermen have been pulling a mix of panfish, perch and some small trout through the holes in Wilson. The new shop (which also carries ice fishing gear and baits) can be contacted for updates at 435-5012 on stream action and ice fishing. 

In the tributaries, Stanley reported good success on Wednesday for brown trout at Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek using charteuse jigs tipped with meal worms. Some steelhead are also available. Water was low and slightly stained in the creek and the power plant was generating power at the dam. 

The bad news is that the forecast is calling for one to two inches of rain, which will probably mess up the streams and maybe even the ice. Once that rain turns back to snow, though, the cold weather could set the ice back up for more manageable conditions. For example, to the east at Irondequoit Bay, more than a foot of snow sits on the ice. The rain could melt that snow and another cold freeze would be perfect for moving around on the hard stuff.

2. Lower Niagara River

Fishing was slowly getting back on track for lower river drifters and casters as water conditions improved. However, warmer temperatures, rain and wind could have an impact on fishing going into the weekend. On Wednesday, charter guys were doing well on steelhead in the river with minnows being the most consistent bait. Kwikfish lures were also working, all fished off three-way rigs. A few walleye have also been caught. 

Shore fishermen can also pick fish up along Artpark and Devil’s Hole but caution is advised. Remember that the stairs at Artpark off the main lot and the NYPA access road stairs are both closed for the winter. Also remember that lake trout season opens on Jan. 1, 2014.

3. Upper Niagara River

Shore anglers can still catch perch or trout around Broderick Park. Emerald shiners can work for just about anything, but egg sacs and spoons will allow you to target trout specifically.

4. Lake Erie and tributaries

Buffalo Boat Harbor was reporting some ice fishing action but conditions were marginal. Wait until things get safe before venturing out. In the tributaries, with some of the areas south of Buffalo getting as much as three feet of snow, look for fishing to be tough in the tribs – especially with a warm up and added rain. It will be a mess. When it does clear, look for some free fish to be in all of the streams.

5. Chautauqua Lake

While there is some ice cover on the lake, there were also reports of some open water so stay away until it’s safe.

6. Finger Lakes-Inland Waters

While we’re close for ice fishing action, we’re still not there yet for the most part. Honeoye, Silver and Conesus lakes are covered (or portions are) and almost ready to go … but we’ll have to see what Mother Nature brings us this weekend first. Hold off for the time being. If you are really itching to get on the hard water, your best bet is to head north to Lake Simcoe where up to five inches was being reported around Cooks Bay and Pefferlaw River.

Bill Hilts Jr. is an outdoor writer with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at