Commentary for the Week of 01/02/2023 – 01/08/2023
Here’s our latest Buffalo NY fishing report: It’s been a long time! I hope everyone was able to enjoy themselves through the holiday period. It seems like ancient history now, but on Christmas eve, our region got hammered by what meteorologists call a bomb cyclone…in other words, a blizzard. We’re still feeling the effects of that storm today. Keep reading for more details.
Episode 38 of Two Angles on Angling is live. It’s been a while since Jordan and I recorded an episode. The Christmas Blizzard of 2022, lots of rain, and other adverse weather conditions have prevented us from getting together. In this episode, we discuss how the fishery is doing post storm as well as when we think conditions will be worthwhile enough to get back on the water. We get deep about some of the tings we’ve been doing to stay sane through all the down time.
Daily Conditions Analysis
Trying to Appreciate the Magnitude of the Thing
I’m a little ashamed of my lack of writing over the past few weeks. In my defense, the Christmas Blizzard of 2022 kept me offline for about a week. Beyond that excuse – I’ve got nothing – laziness or malaise maybe? I’ve been doing a lot to keep my mind and body engaged but it’s tough to get the creative juices flowing when getting on the water has been difficult or not worth the effort.
Why haven’t I been on the water? Well, the storm ravaged the system. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I hunkered down through more than a handful of hurricanes when I lived in south Florida, so wild weather events aren’t novel to me. However, I’ve never seen a hurricane accompanied by blinding amounts of snow – that’s what we experienced.
With my ice fishing suit on, I spent many hours walking through the storm, assessing the condition of the roads, shoveling snow, etc. – trying to get a sense of how anything could survive such conditions without the benefits of modern technology. While on my walks, I never left the street – I would walk down the center of the road. At first, it was easy going. By late Christmas Eve, I was walking through snow up to my waist. I’d turn around from time to time to notice that the snowfall was so intense that it filled in my tracks, leaving little evidence that I had passed though. Although well equipped to handle the conditions, there were a couple instances I had to calm down some fears of getting trapped out there, buried until the next day(s) when the plows would find me.
Observations from the Storm
You might be thinking it was irresponsible of me to walk around outside through the blizzard…and you’d be right. Boredom and the desire to avoid the shack nasties can compel me to do behave in strange ways. However, I had gear built to deal with the conditions, I’m in good physical condition, I was well hydrated and fed, so my risk assessment was low. Aside from wanting to experience the situation first-hand instead of watching it on a screen or through a window, I was curious about how anything could survive through the carnage. Here are a few observations from my walks:
- During the height of the storm, birds were hyperactive – every bird feeder I passed was LOADED with birds. Cardinals, blue jays, juncos, sparrows, starlings, even a handful of robins that must’ve gotten stranded here, were all about, frantically feeding. An ornithologist can correct me on this, but it seemed like they were gorging themselves to have enough calories to outlast the cold.
- Maybe it’s because I was reading Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, but all the houses seemed abandoned, and it felt like I was walking though some post-apocalyptic world. In the worse cases, snow nearly buried some houses. In all cases, the coat of snow was so thick so as to blot out any sense of life inside.
- Some folks were trying to drive around town…in cars without 4-wheel drive too. Look, I’m sure everyone that decided to drive through the peak of the storm had good intentions, but a couple of minutes outside should’ve triggered them to turn around and wait it out. Driving was impossible. While on a long walk through the neighborhood, my brother Nate and I tried to help someone get unstuck to no avail. Luckily, a police officer in a large truck pulled up and helped get them to safety. Had that cop not arrived, who knows what would’ve happened. Those folks weren’t dressed for the conditions by any stretch.
- On Christmas Day, when the snow stopped, I noticed deer tracks everywhere. I imagined them huddling up together during the height of the storm, getting buried by snow. How do deer experience cold, I wondered. Were they freezing? The temperatures were in the single digits, so they had to be. How often to they perish from the cold? Anyway, enduring something like that must have a huge caloric tax. I’m guessing all that wandering around following the storm was in frantic search for food.
- As I dug out of my driveway, I noticed a lot of raptors around. Coopers hawks, sharp shinned hawks, red tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, and kestrels showed up. I’m a huge fan of raptors so I’m always on the lookout for them. They hunkered down somewhere during the storm and, like the deer, that hunkering/freezing had to be immensely taxing. Following the storm, I’ve never seen so many around, seemingly frantic. Maybe all that snow gives them an advantage in the hunt. It’s tough going for rodents, squirrels, and rabbits in the stuff – maybe that makes them an easy target. Same thing goes for the bird hunting raptors – all those juncos, sparrows, etc. perilously exposing themselves on bird feeders are easy targets.
Through all of my walks, I couldn’t help but wonder if such a storm happened a few hundred years ago, how would the native Americans or early colonists have fared? Surely it happened and surely there were survivors. How frail I must be compared to those people.
The Effect on the Fishery
By now, I’m sure everyone reading this has seen countless photos and videos about what happened. The storm made national news, so I won’t dwell on the topic for long. However, one thing that no news outlets focused on (understandably) was the effect the storm had on our fishery. Consider this – for close to a week, the storm worked its way across the entirety of Lake Erie – from Toledo, OH to Buffalo, NY, and left carnage in its wake.
70+mph winds raged across the open wind corridor of Lake Erie, generating waves over 20’. This created a massive seiche (What is a seiche? (noaa.gov)), pushing an incomprehensible amount of water from the western basin to the eastern basin where we live. Huge waves and insane amounts of water hammered the Buffalo, NY shoreline, flooding everything close by. That huge volume of water made its way down the Niagara River, causing it to flow FAR ABOVE its banks, ripping through everything in its path.
In short, the scope of the damage to the fishery is hard to process. We get hit with storms all the time and it’s usually easy to predict the damage/how long it’ll take to recover to fishable conditions – not this time. The system is STILL muddy, and I don’t know when it’ll clear. Adding salt to the wound – following the storm, it got unseasonably warm, rained a couple inches, and melted all the snow. All that nastiness added a ridiculous amount of water to an already saturated region, thereby flooding the regional tributaries and dumping more mud into the system.
As of this writing, most of the small, regional tributaries are fishable so there are options to bend a rod. However, as I mentioned above, the eastern basin of Lake Erie and the Niagara River are still heavily stained…but clearing. I’m optimistic both will be in fishable shape soon. On the other hand, Lake Ontario, although on the receiving end of all this mud, is an option if you can avoid the mud plume. Venturing east, Olcott and beyond, is the best bet.
Looking Forward to the Week of 01/09/2023 – 01/15/2023
Fishing Forecast for Next Week
I’m writing this at around 3:30PM on Sunday, 1/8/2023 – I drove the entire system today – from Lewiston, NY to the Safe Harbor Marina in Buffalo, NY. I’m happy to say that the water clarity is getting REALLY CLOSE to being fishable (see below for photos). I’m bullish on it being good by Wednesday.
Barring some non-forecasted catastrophe or cataclysm, I am going to fish the big water this upcoming week. Monday – Thursday, things look very promising. Beyond that, it gets dicey. Rain on Friday followed by big north winds and daytime highs in the 20s for the rest of the weekend. Fingers crossed that outlook gets rosier as the week progresses.
It’s been way too long since I’ve been on the water – time to change that. It’s going to be a good week. Thanks for reading and I’ll connect with you next week.
Stay healthy my friends – mentally and physically,
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