(Editor’s note: Last week’s major snow event – a blizzard in many areas – brought fishing activity to a screeching halt, so not many updates were available at press time as the April 1 trout opener approached)
Western New York
Spring Trout Stocking: DEC’s Randolph Fish Hatchery has stocked some of the Southern Tier lakes early this year since they are (or at least were) ice-free. The following lakes were stocked with yearling trout (9 inches) and are open to trout fishing all year; Quaker Lake (3,460 brown trout), Redhouse Lake (1,160 brown trout), New Albion Lake (2,310 brown trout), Case Lake (1,480 brown trout), Allen Lake (2,800 brook trout) and Harwood Lake (2,100 brook trout).
Lower Niagara River: It’s all about the weather, and the recent storm and winds spelled bad news for river and lake fishermen. In the Niagara River, the water went from perfect conditions to chocolate milk. With a wide open Lake Erie set as a backdrop to the river fishery, boaters and shoreline casters were at the mercy of what happens on the Great Lake. Lower river drifters were pulling a fair number of fish before the storm, with one boat in particular hitting 20 trout – a mix of steelhead and lake trout. Pink egg sacs fished in a three-way rig set-up was the best approach. Other colors can also work, but figuring out what the fish want on any given day is part of the fun. Shore casters were struggling a bit before the storm. Ric Davila of Wheatfield managed to catch a few small lakers casting spoons and spinners. The Niagara River Anglers Association has announced that its 12th Annual John Long, Sr. Raffle and Feast is set for April 2 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Niagara Active Hose on Lockport Road in Niagara Falls. Call 628-1460 for information.
Lake Ontario and tributaries: Before the snow brought things to a halt, steelhead and brown trout were being caught at Burt Dam, but with the stained conditions you had to work for them with egg sacs, egg imitations, Woolly Buggers, jigs tipped with a wax worm and fished under a float. A few suckers were starting to show up, too. Down in the harbor, some perch and northern pike were being caught. Remember that pike season closed March 15. There were a few reports of some bullhead being caught, but that may have changed. The run is still a ways off. Hopefully it will coincide with the Wilson Conservation Club bullhead contest set for April 7-9. Call Eric at 716-628-6078 for more info.
Fishing has been a little tough for the All in the Same Boat Annual Catch and Release Steelhead Tournament, which will be running through March 25. Boundaries are for Niagara and Orleans County tributaries only. Register at the Newfane shop and pick up rules there.
On March 25, the 28th annual Antique Fishing Tackle Show will be held at Elk’s Lodge, 6791 N. Canal Road, Lockport from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $5. Tables are available for $15 before March 18; $20 after. For more information call Dan Bedford at 713-9410.
Lake Erie tributaries: Before the blizzard, Cattaraugus Creek had generally been running high and muddy. All of the other Lake Erie tributaries were currently in good shape with moderate to slightly low flows, and range from ideal coloration to clear, but that has undoubtedly changed. Anglers were seeing more steelhead around over the past two weeks and catches had been quite good at times. The lowest sections of the creeks were good bets for aggressive fish moving in. Egg sacs, egg flies, nymph patterns, trout beads and small jigs tipped with a wax worm (fished under a float) are good offerings. Live or salted shiners are also a good bait in the lower sections.
Lake Erie and harbors: Previously, boaters were catching some yellow perch in the harbor. Dunkirk Harbor anglers were been catching a few rainbow trout from the City Pier on spoons.
Upper Niagara River: Waters were heavily stained at last check. Anglers had been catching yellow perch along city of Buffalo shore sites. Emerald shiners were top bait and were available for dipping at the foot of Sheridan Drive. Anglers at Broderick Park were catching the occasional rainbow, lake or brown trout. Target trout by drifting egg sacs and minnows, or by casting spoons and spinners.
Chautauqua Lake: Not much happening now that walleye season is closed and the recent storm hit. Bullhead were biting on warmer days. Target bullhead by fishing worms, leeches, dead minnows or chicken livers on the bottom.
Inland trout streams: During warmer periods, trout have been cooperating on some inland streams that allow for trout fishing all year. The upper Cattaraugus Creek and feeder streams had been productive before the storm. On streams that are currently open to trout fishing, fishing is by catch and release only, artificial lures only until April 1. Check the Special Regulations by County in DEC’s regs guide to see what streams are open all year.
Orleans County: Not much happening on the heels of the storm. Most tributaries within Orleans County had at least some bank ice and with colder temperatures will continue to ice over.
Assembling the pens for the pen rearing project was still scheduled for April 1 at Ernst’s Lake Breeze Marina, so come out and help with the continued success with this project.
Central New York
A number of county web sites offer good information on fishing in the region, including bait shops, guides, etc. A few examples are: Onondaga County (fishonondagacounty.com); Oswego County (visitoswegocounty.com); and Wayne County (waynecountytourism.com). Oswego and Wayne counties also have a weekly fishing hotline on their web page as well.
Oswego River: High flows and heavy snows were making for tough fishing for the few who were venturing out. Anglers getting out in driftboats had more for steelhead before the latest storm.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: Pretty much the same conditions as the Oswego River. Steelhead fishing continued to be slow over the last few weeks but some fish were being caught before the heavy snows on egg sacs with blue mesh, either bottom-bounced or fished under a float. Beads, nymphs and pink trout worms are also working at times.
Lake Ontario: There were brown trout and steelhead being taken in some of the tributaries, but that was before the heavy snowfall. Egg sacs or egg imitating plastics are usually good bait choices. We’re not sure what kind of conditions the April 1 trout opener will bring.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
Cayuga Lake: Shore anglers continued to get some Atlantic salmon, but that was before the weather got wild. When anglers can make it out in boats they were also getting some salmon, as well as lake trout when trolling. The lake level was down, which is normal for this time of year, so use caution when launching and retrieving boats as many of the launch sites are shallow.
Skaneateles Lake: The launch is still closed for the season. Some rainbow trout were being taken by shore anglers fishing the marshmallow and worm rig when conditions allowed.
Susquehanna, Chenango, Tioughnioga and Unadilla rivers: Not anything happening, especially now with walleye season closed.
Whitney Point Reservoir: Nothing to report.
The recent heavy snow event brought fishing activity to a screeching halt, and it’s expected to be that way for a while. The April 1 trout season kickoff doesn’t mean a whole lot up north. Most anglers await better conditions or, in the case of the backcountry brook trout crowd, open water on the remote ponds. That said, the spring snow goose season remains open and, if the timing is right, can offer memorable days afield. Check the regs before you go out or hire a guide.
Most of the cod and ling fishing this time of year occurs on the weekends, as many open and charter boats have weekend-only sailing schedules. Both weekends of this report period brought frigid temperatures and high winds, resulting in limited fishing pressure. Anglers who did make it offshore continued to report catching codfish as well as a few pollock.
The best cod fishing continued to be off Montauk Point, with very good action reported by anglers fishing the South Shore wrecks west of Shinnecock Inlet. Anglers fishing the offshore wrecks added large ling to their catch. In all areas, the fishing continued to be spotty, with some days or even parts of the day fishless while others were good. Overall, the offshore bottom fishing continued to show signs of slowing.
On good days, the average catch was 4 or 5 codfish per angler with high hooks tallying 7 to 10 fish each, with most cod weighing around 5 pounds. Pool fish were typically cod between 10 and 15 pounds. The pollock were reported to be the same size as the cod and the average ling weighed around 3 pounds. Fresh skimmer clams remained the top bait.
The white perch action in the brackish waters of the Carmans and Carlls rivers and Santapogue Creek was good when the schools of perch were found. The best action was on grass shrimp or eighth- to quarter-ounce curlytail jigs that are 3 to 4 inches long. Both traditional as well as PowerBait curlytails were good producers. Many of the white perch were over 1 1/2 pounds, which are big perch. Anglers using kayaks and canoes had the advantage of being able to hunt for the schools of perch and generally out-fished shore anglers. A few small stripers were mixed in with the perch. A few schools of bunker have been reported in the back of Jones Inlet and Jamaica Bay, but here were no reports of stripers feeding on them. There were no reports of herring as of late.
The freshwater fishing was hampered by ice in most areas, so there are no reports as of late. Prior to the ice there were reports of panfish from a few lakes.
Not hearing anything now, and it remains to be seen if the region’s trout waters are stocked ahead of the April 1 opener. Weather conditions may make that difficult.
Southeastern New York
Things have been quiet on the fishing front following the recent snow event. And it’s likely to remain that way until open water exists and the area’s trout streams are stocked.
Heavy – in some cases very heavy – snows hit the region, which could impact the traditional April 1 trout season kickoff, a huge ceremonial event in places like Roscoe along the Beaverkill. We will see how conditions shape up for the opener.
A reminder that from Nov. 1 to May 1, all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet must wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) while under way.
St. Lawrence River: Heavy snow and generally thin ice at last check.
Black Lake: Nothing to report.
Chaumont Bay: Ice was thin before the heavy snows arrived, so fishing is not an option right now.