New York Outdoor News Fishing Report – Dec. 15, 2017
Western New York
Lake Ontario tributaries, harbors and piers: Most Lake Ontario tributaries are in good fishing shape but cold weather may create ice conditions. Eighteenmile Creek had moderate and murky flow. Burt anglers reported modest catches of steelhead with the occasional brown trout and what is likely the last of the season’s coho salmon. Oak Orchard Creek had moderate flow with a light stain and upward of two feet of visibility. Oak Orchard anglers were catching a decent mix of steelhead and brown trout. Johnson, Sandy and Marsh creeks had moderate flows and are also good trout options. Egg sacs, single eggs, trout beads and egg pattern flies are good trout offerings.
Lower Niagara River: Muskellunge season has closed on most waters in New York state, and the open season runs through Dec. 15 on the lower Niagara. Lower river waters were at last check stained from another bout of windy weather. Fishing will pick back up for shore anglers first, as nearshore waters tend to be a little less turbid. Boaters and shore anglers have been catching mostly lake trout and steelhead, with the occasional brown trout or walleye mixed in. Keep in mind that lake trout season is closed until Jan. 1, so all incidentally caught lakers should be quickly released. Boaters do well with a three-way bottom bouncing rigs with Kwikfish lures, egg sacs or live shiners. The Devils Hole, Artpark and Coast Guard drifts tend to be most productive. Shore anglers see the best bite along Whirlpool, Devils Hole and Artpark state parks. Egg sacs, egg pattern flies, shiners, jigs with plastics, spoons and spinners work well from shore.
The Devils Hole stair repair project has been completed early and stairs are back open for use. The NYPA platform is now closed.
The Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derbies are offering a Christmas deal right now. Check out www.loc.org. And make sure you mark Jan. 19-21, 2018 on your calendar for the 5th Annual Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo at the Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls. It’s going to be a good one. Check out www.niagarafishingexpo.com.
Lake Erie tributaries: Tributary anglers enjoyed very good steelhead fishing throughout November, arguably the best in 10 years. Good steelhead action should extend well into December as long as water conditions remain favorable. With colder water temperatures it’s best to keep drifted offerings slow and low for steelhead that are more lethargic and hugging the bottom. Tributary steelhead commonly take flies such as egg imitations, nymphs, streamers and Woolly Buggers. Drift anglers do well with egg sacs, beads and jigs with grubs fished under a float.
There are new resources available for anglers looking for stream conditions. There are now water-stage recorders on Chautauqua, Canadaway, Silver, Walnut, Big Sister and Eighteenmile creeks. At present, these recorders only measure gauge height, which is height of the water in the stream above a reference point. There will be a bit of a learning curve here, to figure out how gauge height translates to actual stream flow or condition. See the USGS Water Data for New York web page for that information.
Upper Niagara River: The river was quite murky following a few windy days. Harbor areas had clearer conditions and are a good option for yellow perch and sunfish. Anglers have been catching decent numbers of perch in various harbors and marinas, but expect many throwbacks for every keeper. Small minnows work well for perch.
Chautauqua Lake: There has been very little angler effort and available information lately. There were some vague reports of walleye catches in 40 feet of water. Deeper may be better now, as walleye have been known to congregate around the deeper holes in late fall. Vertical jigging is a good bet.
Orleans County: Winter weather has slowed fishing activity, but decent catches of both brown trout and steelhead/rainbow trout were being reported in the tribs, notably Oak Orchard Creek, along with an occasional late-run salmon thrown into the mix. Fly patterns remained with stoneflies in black, brown or green, Woolly Buggers, egg-sucking leeches and egg pattern flies. Live baits being mentioned are wax worms, spikes and good old night crawlers. Things seemed to be quiet on the lower stretches of the “The Oak,” but on Lake Alice catches of most of the species present were being reported.
The Erie Canal was still partially watered while crews work on some areas that could be a problem if not attended to.
Central New York
Oswego and Wayne counties have weekly fishing hotlines on their web sites and would be a good option for fishing reports; Oswego County (visitoswegocounty.com); and Wayne County (waynecountytourism.com). Though Onondaga County doesn’t have a weekly fishing report, their web site is another good source of fishing information in the region (fishonondagacounty.com).
Also, be aware that all of the dock structures at the DEC boat launches have been removed.
Oswego River: Anglers getting out in drift boats were catching mainly steelhead, with only a few brown trout in the mix.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: Steelhead fishing continued to be good, with fish being taken on egg-imitating flies, plastics or real egg sacs with blue, chartreuse or pink mesh. Fish were being taken throughout the river, with the upper river seeing the most pressure. Anglers covering water are having the best luck. The Upper Fly Area is now closed and won’t reopen until April 1.
Oneida Lake: Windy conditions have made fishing difficult at times, but some walleye were still being taken by anglers casting stickbaits from shore just before and after dark. Fishing stickbaits in 10 to 15 feet of water during the day was also producing walleye. Anglers still fishing for bass (catch and release now) were getting smallmouths in 10 to 20 feet of water.
Sodus and Irondequoit bays: Yellow perch fishing has been good for anglers fishing in the bays with small minnows.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
Cayuga Lake: Atlantic salmon and brown trout fishing has been good in the tributaries. Finger Lakes tributary fishing is open from sunrise to sunset this time of year and is prohibited between sunset and sunrise. Lake trout were being taken by the few anglers still getting out on the lake, and were being caught at a wide range of depths, from as shallow as 40 feet out to 175 feet.
Skaneateles Lake: The docks have been removed. Anglers fishing in 15 to 25 feet of water were getting a mixed bag of lake trout, rainbows and yellow perch.
Susquehanna, Chenango, Tioughnioga and Unadilla rivers: Walleye anglers have been hitting the Susquehanna, notably in the Owego area. When they’re out there in seriously cold weather it’s a pretty good bet they’re catching fish. Sucker minnows are typically the ticket.
Winter weather has taken hold, which means we won’t hear anything on the fishing front until safe ice arrives. Keep an eye on the popular hard water website iceshanty.com for updates on conditions.
The striped bass and bluefish reports have indicated that the fishing is becoming spottier and that the largest concentrations of fish are moving through New York Bight and along the Jersey Shore. This is expected as the water temperatures were between 50 degrees in the Long Island Sound and 55 degrees in the ocean, which is on the lower end of the comfort zone for stripers and blues. There were more stripers than blues in the overall catch.
That said, the weather was, in general, very cooperative during fishing this report period and the fishing was still very good for anglers who put their time in and found the large schools of bunker that were still holding stripers and blues in 20 to 30 feet of water along the South Shore. Herring have moved into the area, with anglers catching a few on teasers and small jigs off the beach, and there were a good number of gannets working the offshore schools, a typical indicator of herring.
Trolling bunker spoons or large plugs on wire line or trolling mojo rigs, with or without the addition of a bunker spoon, were the top producers, and many of the stripers were reported caught between the schools of bunker, which is typical of stripers that are on the move. When the stripers were actively feeding on the bunker, live-lining bunker accounted for some of the largest stripers, typically between 20 and 30 pounds. Anglers fishing diamond jigs reported good fishing when the schools of stripers were marked off the bottom, with most of these fish weighing in between 8 and 12 pounds. The dogfish remained a nuisance for anglers fishing bunker chunks off the bottom.
Anglers along both shores reported doing well with stripers casting rubber shads into schools of breaking fish. When the winds were quiet, fly-rodders did well casting large sand eel/spearing patterns. Most of the stripers were in the low teens, with a good number approaching 20 pounds. Anglers fishing the beaches and jetties reported similar fishing when casting shads or diamond jigs. Large poppers worked well when the schools of bunker were tight against the beach. Anglers fishing the North Shore beaches reported that there were a good number of stripers 18 inches and smaller. These smaller stripers hang around longer than their larger cousins.
The ground fishing for sea bass and blackfish is very good to excellent. Off Montauk and Orient points, in Block Island Sound and off Fishers Island, anglers reported limits of both on trips, with the blackfish averaging 5 to 6 pounds and sea bass up to 5 pounds. Green crabs were the top bait for the blackfish, with fresh clams the preferred bait for sea bass. The number of codfish in the catch has been increasing as the water temperature continues to drop. The cod were caught on both clams and jigs. Most of the codfish were between 5 and 10 pounds, with pool winners approaching 20 pounds. The super moon during the second weekend of this report period created swift tides in some areas, making the groundfish fishing more challenging.
Anglers fishing the offshore wrecks off the South Shore reported similar action as the Montauk boats, with more sea bass than blackfish and porgies to 3 pounds in the mix, as well as a few large bluefish.
Along the North Shore, anglers reported catching herring off the Mount Sinai pier. As these herring arrive in larger numbers, expect them to be caught at all the inlet jetties as well as the piers, such as Canarsie and Jones Beach piers, over the next few weeks.
Most freshwater anglers were concentrating on trout. The trout fishing remained very good at Southards Pond for anglers casting small plastic baits, worms and streamers.
Not a lot happening on the fishing front, and with deer seasons (late muzzleloader and archery) winding down, your best outdoor option may be small-game or predator hunting until we see safe ice.
Southeastern New York
Even though there is still plenty of good fishing left, many anglers have pulled their boats for the season and have turned to hunting. Reports will be harder to come by as a result.
Beaverkill/Willowemoc: Very low at last check. Nymphing with smaller mayflies and stonefly nymphs has been productive as well as streamers.
Upper East Branch of the Delaware River: Low and clear, and closed above Corbett Bridge.
Lower East Branch of the Delaware River: Was running low and cold. Stonefly nymphs, small mayflies and streamers may draw a fish or two.
West Branch of the Delaware River: Low and clear. Stonefly nymphs, small mayflies and streamers.
Main Stem of the Delaware River: The Main stem tends to produce the best in the fall but it’s getting late now. Often, olives can produce rising fish in the afternoon, while small mayflies and stoneflies are worth a try as well.
St. Lawrence River: Not hearing a lot now, and it will likely stay that way until some of the typical early-ice spots lock up.
Black Lake: Awaiting safe ice.