Over the past weekend with warm temps there was some melt off. The area smaller trib flows bumped up slightly while flows in the Oak have kept humming along at about slightly high and slightly stained. Anglers out over the past weekend reported a few hook ups on some steelhead by working different spots in the river. Action has been a little more measured then say 2 – 3 weeks ago when it seemed we got a small "run" of fresh steelhead. The forecast ahead thru about the weekend is for colder weather that will drop and clear flows. Look for flows in the Oak to go from the slightly high flows we have now to med and 2 – 3 ft of visibility. For now all the waterway is open but some of the downstream frog water could ice up. The other area smaller tribs have good looking med and slightly stained flows for now and likewise should be dropping back toward mod or lower and clearer. Good chance for some icing conditions coming on there. We'll see how long any cold weather may last (there's been no prolonged cold spell yet) and whether this is the stretch of weather we might have typically seen in January. Plenty of calendar time left ahead thru February and March for late winter/spring action. Warming temps and the next spate of water could bring on some big fresh steelhead!
Here's some more good news on chinook stocking numbers. NYSDEC and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have agreed to a 10% increase in chinook salmon stocking in Lake Ontario for 2023. Alewife biomass and average weight of age 3 chinooks both show encouraging increases, so as a result NYSDEC will stock a total of 985,180 salmon. The 90,000 increase will be spread evenly over the major stocking sites, while the Salmon River stocking numbers will remain the same. Here, in the Oak Orchard that will mean 126,330 fish! The NYSDEC says "adaptively managing the number of salmon and trout stocked in Lake Ontario ensures we maintain a predator prey balance and continue to provide world-class fishing opportunities for years to come."
Flows in the Oak, and really all around, are looking pretty good by winter time steelhead standards. Read – slightly high and slightly stained with lots of good water cover for steelhead to be anywhere they want to be in the watercourses and good drifting chances. Flows in the Oak are slightly high with something now approaching 2 feet of viz. Flows in the other area smaller tribs should be around med and slightly stained. No major icing that we are aware of. Temps are forecast in the lower 30's°F for highs and dropping back into the 20's° at night with some colder temps in the upcoming forecast. Chance of mixed bag precipitation and snow thru tomorrow and early Thursday. No major accumulations beyond a few inches expected here on the WNY big Lake Ontario Plain. Look for flows all around to continue to drop and clear and we might begin to see some icing at least in the smaller waterways. Fishing pressure real light with only a handful of guys out on the Oak in the mid week period. Reports of some medium fresh steelhead and a few spirited chromers thrown in. Any given half day outing yielding something like a few hook ups.
Considering that January is usually a bit of an in-between time frame – after the fall salmon/brown trout action and before spring steelhead, the few guys out taking advantage of the weather and flows are doing pretty good. The fair action now is hopefully a good sign for action yet to come thru Feb/Mar. Let's hope the weather keeps serving up the so-far good fishing chances! Some crimson males and brighter hens are what anglers are finding nearer the dam and also in the overflow channel.
Flows in the Oak are slowly on the retreat from higher and dirtier flows. And that is part of the formula for steelhead hookups – being on the water after a spate of water. Flows are something like med to slightly high with 1 – 2 ft of visibility. Temps are on the mild side, dropping down some at night and thru today and over the next part of the week we are getting some melt off which should be good for maintenance. Chance of rain mid week and if there is a significant amount of precipitation flows in all the area tribs could be back on the rise and going off color. The other area smaller tribs have med to slightly high flows with slightly stained water color. There is some icing up in spots but there's still drifting slots to be found. If there's steelhead in the Oak then more then likely there's a few slinking up those smaller waterways too.
Flows in the Oak are high and stained with about one foot of visibility. Depending on your perspective some might call it only slightly high. Either way there's still a good head of turbine flow that's full bore or close to full bore and the water color is slowly getting better. Drifts now will definitely be more productive then a few days ago. Overflow levels are diminished. On recon today I saw only a few guys parked at the dam. No icing anywhere and the downstream slow water is wide open. Other area smaller tribs have med flows and slightly stained water color something like 1 – 2 feet of visibility. Looks like a nice fishing window right now in those smaller tribs that normally might be frozen up this time of the season. Chance of fresh steelhead on the backside of the last higher flows or at least the past fall's browns and steelhead should be redistributed. No major chill down seen in the near term forecast and there is some rain or showers going over to snow showers forecast for Thursday and Friday. Any significant precipitation could raise all the trib flows back high and dirty. Without any persistent cold or snow or ice hanging in, these precipitation events are going to keep water color on the stained side.
At a Lake Ontario Charter Boat Association (LOCBA) meeting held at the Irondequoit Fish and Game Club, Brian Weidel of USGS spoke about the results of the 2022 Spring alewife sampling. Here's a link to the report. Mild winters or short duration cold weather lasting into spring is generally considered good for alewife survival, and hopefully a so far mild winter will bode well for alewife. Trout and salmon rely on alewife in particular in the open Lake waters of Lake Ontario.
Flows in the Oak are restored thru the turbine channel. As of today flows were high consisting of something close to wide open turbine flows and a little bit of overflow water. Water color was stained with probably greater then a foot but less then 2 feet of viz. The other area smaller tribs have med or slightly high and stained flows. Johnson is probably more stained then say Sandy. So far thru today the heavier rains have been south of here and the trend looks like the Oak is on the rise while the smaller tribs are barely dropping or holding steady. Temps are cooler here then points south and more rain or showers are expected at least thru tomorrow. Any significant rainfall could raise flows up more with dirtier water color. As quickly as flows were restored in the Oak over the past weekend the fishing likewise perked up again with some steelhead hooked and a few knarly Kings clinging to a hopeful life. You could help give them their last meal! Everything is wide open to fish and its going to take a cold snap to get things iced back up again. At least flows are stronger which helps combat icing back up. No serious cold snap is seen in the near term forecast. This Jan timeframe is historically a bit of an in-between time frame so any action is a bonus after the fall "runs" and before later winter/early spring steelhead. So hopefully if it stays mild we’ll look for rain or if it goes cold we’ll look for snow so that good trib flows will prevail for steelhead action. Fishing pressure is real light I saw just one car on the Oak. Could be guys were finding easier fishing flows on the smaller waterways.