Still too early for safe ice fishing

On behalf of all of us who are tired of shoveling, moving and dealing with snow, we surrender. I, for one, am ready for spring to be upon us.

On the bright side, with all this cold weather and snowfall, Lake Erie should be more likely to freeze over. I spoke with my contacts at the Dunkirk-based Department of Environmental Conservation Fisheries station and I was informed that the Lake Erie water temperature is close to freezing, which is very unusual for this time of year. History has shown that when Lake Erie freezes over, and we have a long, cold spring, the walleye usually have a banner year spawning.

It is a little early for safe ice fishing, but a few anglers have been trying their luck. Skip Bianco, from Hogans Hut, informs us that there has been a lot of water on top of the ice in some areas and the ice in many areas is not thick enough to be considered safe.

Mike Sperry, from Reel Outfitters in Lakewood, reports a few anglers have been trying their luck at Burtis Bay, connecting with a few bluegills. Sperry reports one angler told him there was 5 inches of ice in that area.

There have been a few reports of anglers trying their luck in the Buffalo small-boat harbor, but the anglers have been few and they are sticking close to the shore. A word of warning, the weather forecast reports a warming trend in the near future, so waiting for a good cold snap and firmer ice may be in order.

Much of the Dunkirk harbor is frozen over, but that can change in a matter of hours if the NRG plant increases their warm water output. Last year, several adventurous anglers set up ice huts in the harbor. The ice eroded within hours the following day, so again, use caution. If the NRG plant does start pumping more hot water, look for the Probst Platform to become a trout hotspot.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton volunteers will be busy this weekend putting together and distributing food baskets and Christmas baskets for the needy in the community. Carol Smith is a coordinator for this year’s event and informed me that volunteers will meet on Friday afternoon/evening in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton gymnasium and will start sorting out the food gifts and on Saturday they will go shopping at Big Lots for non-food items. Sunday will have the baskets packaged with the more perishable items and delivery will then take place. Smith informed us that about 150 people will benefit from this program. If you would like to help, or donate, call Smith at 410-0504. The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club has been collecting non-perishable food items for this effort during the hunting season for close to 20 years now.

Calendar:

The Monday night Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Fly Tyers will be taking off the next three weeks for the holidays. The tyers will resume on Monday, Jan. 5, at 6 p.m.

Have you got a turkey hunter on your Christmas list? The Lakeshore Longbeards, our local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, will have tickets available for their fundraiser/membership banquet that will be held on Saturday, Jan. 25, at St. Hedwigs Hall Dunkirk. Call Bob & Judi Turk at 934-4538.

Chautauqua County Snowmobile Trails officially opened on Dec. 18, pending proper conditions. For more information, email crhead@mainstream.net.

The Southtowns Walleye Association will host their next meeting today at their club located at 5895 Southwestern Boulevard, Hamburg. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. The club will also host a Used Fishing and Hunting equipment sale (no guns or ammo) on Jan. 18, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tables are limited and will cost $20. There will be free parking and entry.

The Erie County Trappers Association will host a Fur Handling Seminar on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Collins Conservation Club located at 2633 Conger Road Collins. The show will feature techniques for better pelt preparation, teach about pelting, fleshing and stretching, drying and sizing. This event is FREE. There will be kids games, prizes, raffles and the kitchen will be open. Trap supplies and fur hats from Hoot’s Furs will be on sale. For more information call Patti at 337-2556 or Hoot at 532-2457.

Raw fur pickup schedule: North American Fur Auctions (NAFA) location is Lucky Lanes bowling alley on Route 60, in Fredonia. Time is 4:30 p.m., on Jan. 4, March 9 and April 28. The agent is Ernest Mosher and he can be reached by calling his cell phone 315-868-6275. Note: The fur must be put up and dried. No green pelts will be accepted. First auction dates are Feb. 17-23.

Fur Harvesters Auction pick-ups will be at the old Tops Market parking lot off I -90. Take exit 59. Time of the pickup is 6-6:30 a.m. Pick-up dates will be Dec. 15, Jan. 19 and March 23. The agent is Toby Edwards. He can be contacted by calling his cellphone at 518-848-0217. Only dried pelts will be accepted. The first auction date is Jan. 7, while the second dates are March 13 and 14.

There will also be a raw fur auction on Jan. 18 at the Hinsdale Fire Hall, in Hinsdale. No furs will be checked before 7:30 a.m. There will be fox, raccoon, muskrat, mink, beaver, as well as deer hides up for auction. The auction starts at 10 a.m., and will go until all furs sold. For more information, call Andy Smith at 492-0432 or Dale at 763-3416.

If your club is hosting a shooting event, or training course (turkey shoot, etc.), drop a line and I will be glad to place an announcement in the calendar.

The Federation of Sportsmen from Sullivan County are hosting a three-day Coyote hunt from Feb. 7-9. They offer a $2,000 grand prize for the heaviest coyote weighed-in for the three-day hunt, a $200 daily prize for the heaviest coyote in each of the three days of the hunt, a $100 prize for the heaviest coyote taken by a youth (12-15 years old) and a $100 prize for the heaviest coyote taken by a female hunter during the three-day event. $100 will be awarded for all other coyotes weighed in during the three-day event. Early registration, post marked by Jan. 27, will be $30 per hunter, which will include the three-day hunt, a weigh-in dinner held at the White Sulphur Springs Fire House, located on Route 52 (exit 100 off Route 17). After Jan. 27, the entry fee is $40 with the deadline of 7 p.m. sharp on Feb. 3. For details, visit the website at www.sullivancountysportsmensfederationny.com.

The New York State Ice Pro Am is scheduled for Chautauqua Lake on Jan. 18 and 19, 2014 with weather permitting. For more information go to www.NYSiceproam.com.

Gene Pauszek is an OBSERVER outdoors columnist. Send comments to sports@observertoday.com.