Ice-out good time for fishing in Irondequoit

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    ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Ice-out along the Lake Ontario shoreline is not like the more northern parts of North America where it is celebrated with lotteries, fireworks and dancing in the streets.

    But ice-out in the bays and tributaries of the New York lake is no less important to area anglers.

    It is the beginning of some of the hottest fishing of the year.

    In Monroe County's Irondequoit Bay it means the opportunity to catch salmon and steelhead as they move from out in the lake to the warmer bait-filled waters of the bay.

    Or in the case of steelhead, to the headwaters of Irondequoit Creek, described by the Department of Environmental Conservation as one of the best steelhead streams in the state.

    'Fleeting' opportunity

    The fishing in both the creek and the bay is fleeting.

    It will last only as long as the water temperatures are warmer than the lake or until stream flow slows as spring rains diminish.

    It is the "warm water" discharge from the bay that attracts the trout and salmon into Irondequoit Bay, and it is the urge to spawn that attracts the steelhead into the bay on their way to the headwaters of the creek.

    The steelhead fishery is supported by an annual stocking of more than 27,000 5-inch rainbows/steelhead each year.

    There is also a significant population of brown trout stocked in the stream each year, including several thousand that range in size from 9 to 14½ inches.

    Those fish, however, do not make up the population of football-sized browns that come into the bay in hopes of locking into bait and eggs from spawning rainbows.

    Within the 4-mile-long bay there is a central bowl of 2½ miles by just over a 1?2-mile wide that is an ideal small-boat fishery.

    It averages about 30 feet in depth with a maximum depth of 46 feet and with the spring runoff and ample sunshine, it warms rapidly sending out the warm-water plume through the channel at Sea Breeze and into Lake Ontario.

    The bay side state boat launch at the end of Culver Road provides the best access to the bay in the area. It can handle most anything up to a small yacht.

    Fish high early

    Downriggers are the ideal trolling tool for the ice-out fishery.

    Of course you can also use leadcore or even diving plains for the relatively shallow depths that you will be fishing.

    In the early season, surface lines with stickbaits such as the Bomber Long A or a vibrating lure such as the Luhr Jensen Fire Plug or even a FlatFish or Kwikfish will take trout and salmon.

    In those early days, a surface temperature gauge will help you find the hot spots in the shallows and the temperature breaks or thermo bars that attract fish.

    A thermo bar is like the temperature stratification of deep water, called a thermocline, but it is turned on it side.

    It is the sharp change in water temperature that separates the warmer shore-side waters from the colder offshore waters.

    The bar attracts algae, thus small baitfish and finally the trout and salmon that are the top of this food chain.

    You can also identify the bar as it collects a scum line of leaves, twigs and other flotsam that does not easily pass through the bar.

    The savvy angler will troll along and through the bar in long 'S' curves to find the most fish.

    Colors and speed

    I like "hot" colored lures at this time of year — fire reds, chartreuse and chrome blues.

    While my stickbaits such as a J-11 Rapala in orange-and-gold might be pretty large, the majority of my offerings will be relatively small to mimic the general size of the bait at this time of year.

    Spoons are also essential. North King Lures is a Rochester-based firm, and you would be hard pressed to beat the NK-28.

    This is a versatile trolling spoon that will accept a variety of speeds and still catches fish.

    Silver and purple, black and purple or watermelon are hot colors any time of the year.

    The Alpina Diamond spoon in red is a sure-fire steelhead lure.

    Troll from 2 to 2½ mph for best results. Any of the trout or salmon can easily chase down a lure at these speeds.

    My leads or long lines will be in the range of at least 100 feet and side planers will also be used to get my offerings away from the noise of the boat.

    Weather and bonus fish

    Because of the high elevations of the shorelines along the west and east side, the bay seldom has any weather a small boat can't handle.

    As such, it makes an excellent early-spring alternative destination to Lake Ontario.

    In addition to the salmonids, you may fill your creel with perch and panfish and perhaps a walleye or two.

    DEC stocks the water with 36,000 walleye fry each year.

    Services, etc.

    Irondequoit Bay is adjacent to the City of Rochester so there is no lack of services.

    The bay area is hardly wilderness.

    The development along the shoreline is extensive, but you will also find numerous private marinas and restaurants with docking facilities.

    Fishing guide Capt. Joe Kyle operates Onacona Charters (585-586-2948) from the bay, so he is intimately familiar with the waters and the fishery.

    Getting there is quick and easy. From the Thruway I-90, take Exit 45 and I-490 to I-590 and get off at Culver Road and turn east.

    You can also cross the bay from the east on Route 104 and get on I-590 north.

    Approaching from the east, the Lake Road is only open until April 15; after that the bridge is removed until Oct. 15 for boat passage.

    Material from Fishing & Hunting News
    published 24 times a year.

    Visit them at www.fishingandhuntingnews.com.