New York Outdoor News Fishing Report — Jan. 27, 2017
DEC officials are reminding ice anglers to use caution and common sense during the ice fishing season.
Four inches or more of solid ice is considered to be safe for anglers accessing ice on foot. Ice anglers should note that ice thickness can vary on every body of water and even on the same body of water.
Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be considered as evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can be done easily with an auger or ice spud at various spots.
Feb. 18 and 19 have been designated as a free fishing weekend. The requirement for a fishing license is waived during that weekend. The free fishing weekend is a great opportunity to try ice fishing for the first time and for experienced anglers to introduce their friends to the sport. Beginning ice anglers are encouraged to download the Ice Fishing Chapter of DEC’s new I FISH NY Beginners’ Guide to Freshwater Fishing for information on how to get started ice fishing. Additional information, including a list of waters open to ice fishing, can found on the DEC’s ice fishing web page and the public lakes and ponds map.
Western New York
Lake Ontario and tributaries: The recent weather roller coaster has been tough on fishermen. Many areas received rain and saw warm temperatures, creating higher flows in the streams like Eighteen Mile Creek below Burt Dam and into the harbor at Olcott. If the water is stained, use brightly-colored jigs fished under a float, salted minnows, live emerald shiners or nightcrawlers to try and entice a trout to hit. Steelhead, brown trout and the occasional coho salmon were still showing up. The harbor was wide open at last check. Both pike and perch should be available if you want to try for them. Off the piers, casting spoons or spinners are options, but only if the wind is not blowing out of the north. The ice over in Wilson was shot. You also have an opportunity to do some pier fishing there if the winds cooperate. Some of the smaller streams like Keg or Four Mile should be open if the flow has increased enough, but we’ve not had any reports yet on those tribs.
Lake Erie and tributaries: Rain and snowmelt blew out the Lake Erie tributaries again. All creeks were high and muddy at last report. The smallest streams are your best bet. Steelhead fishing has generally been slow, with some bright spots here and there. Anglers who were covering more ground were catching more fish. Productive wintertime steelhead baits include egg sacs, egg flies, trout beads and small jigs tipped with a wax worm (fished under a float).
Upper Niagara River: Ice was still coming down the river and the water was stained – two strikes against anglers from both boat and shore. Not sure if anglers are back on the water yet. Steelhead and lake trout top the list of targets right now, but you have an outside chance at catching a brown trout or a walleye as well. Shorecasters, when they’re fishing, are using spoons and spinners in bright colors; boaters were drifting plugs like MagLips and Kwikfish lures; egg sacks or egg imitations, as well as minnows. Use those baits from three-way rigs from boats once conditions permit. If the winds cooperate, take a drift or two out on the Niagara Bar to see if there are any active trout around.
Lower Niagara River: Tough fishing conditions on the lower river at last check due to floating chunk ice and murky conditions. The amount of floating ice should dissipate with each passing day. Boaters in the upper drifts had been catching a mix of steelhead and lake trout, along with the occasional walleye or smallmouth bass. Controlled drifting with a three-way rig and egg sac or flatfish style lure is the top technique. Shore anglers can target trout along Artpark, Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool state parks. Egg sacs, egg pattern flies, shiners and jigs with plastics fished under a float, or casting medium-sized spoons and Vibrax spinners are good trout offerings. The New York Power Authority fishing platform closed for the winter on Dec. 8.
A reminder: Lake trout season opened on the lower river Jan. 1. Also, starting on Jan. 1 the daily walleye limit decreased to one fish with a minimum length of 18 inches.
Buffalo Small Boat Harbor: Ice has deteriorated and is no longer safe.
Chautauqua Lake: There had been plenty of fishing activity around Long Point, however ice is now unsafe. North basin ice is shot. The south basin previously had the thickest ice, but due to no fishing activity, current ice thickness is unknown.
Orleans County: Rain and mild temperatures should again give good flows to all of the tributaries within Orleans County. Water clarity may diminish with the increased run-off, but all in all conditions should be good to very good for some great fishing opportunities, unless you’re an ice fisherman. Conditions should be good for some great brown trout and steelhead fishing, so don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Ice fishermen just can’t seem to catch a weather break so far this year, but February is coming and who knows what that will bring.
Central New York
Tip of the week: After purchasing new ice flies or jigs, make sure the eye is clear of paint or epoxy before putting it in your jig box. It will save you some frustration when trying to tie the lure on when you’re on the ice. They make special tools for this called jig eye cleaners, and some line clippers also have a tool. An old pair of fingernail clippers also works well, as does a simple hook point. With the clippers, just score the paint at the bottom of the eye and then scrape it off with your fingernails.
A reminder to open water anglers that until May 1, all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet in length must wear a PFD while underway.
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.
Lake Ontario: There were brown trout and steelhead being taken in some of the tributaries, and most streams had a decent flow of water after the rain and snowmelt. Egg sacs or egg-imitating plastics are usually good bait choices.
Oswego River: High water conditions made shore fishing difficult. Anglers fishing from drift boats were hooking into some brown trout and steelhead.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: Egg sacs have been working for the steelhead either bottom-bounced or fished under a float when conditions permitted. Beads, nymphs and pink trout worms were also working at times.
Oneida Lake: Ice conditions deteriorated badly recently. Prior to that, anglers were getting out on Big Bay. Not hearing much now with the warmup.
Sandy Pond: Anglers were getting out on the pond, but conditions were beginning to deteriorate.
Sodus and Irondequoit bays: Before the rain and snow melt anglers were starting to get out on Sodus, but no reports of how well this ice held up to the thaw.
Honeoye Lake: There are some anglers fishing the extreme south end the lake, but that was before the warmup. Catches were mostly bluegill and yellow perch with some largemouth bass and chain pickerel mixed in. Bass fishing on Honeoye Lake is open through March 15, and anglers are permitted a daily limit of 5, with a 12-inch minimum length.
Silver Lake: Ice conditions are likely sketchy right now. Anglers had been catching decent numbers of northern pike on tip-ups with large shiners. Jigging had produced lots of small perch and some smaller bluegills.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
Cayuga Lake: No safe ice to report. A reminder that most Finger Lakes tributary fishing ended on Dec. 31, with the exception of a section of Fall Creek. Shore anglers were getting some Atlantic salmon.
Skaneateles Lake: The launch is closed for the season. No safe ice to report. Some rainbow trout were being taken by shore anglers fishing the marshmallow and worm rig.
Otisco Lake: No safe ice at last check.
Owasco Lake: No safe ice to report at this time.
Chenango, Tioughnioga and Susquehanna Rivers: Recent rain and snowmelt events have the rivers running high and turbid. No new fishing information to report for these waters.
Whitney Point Reservoir: There was 8-9 inches of ice at mid-month, and organizers of the New York State Crappie Derby were hopeful the event would be held this year on Feb. 18. Check for updates at the website www.crappiederby.com.
Baitfish regs reminder: The use of baitfish is popular when ice fishing, and baitfish may be used in most, but not all, waters open to ice fishing. Visit the DEC website for a list of special regulation by county to find out where bait fish can and cannot be used, and for other regulations that apply to baitfish at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/71546.html.
Anglers are reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:
• Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species (see: Special Regulations by County on the DEC website).
• Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store, or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught.
• Do not re-use baitfish in another waterbody if the water where the baitfish were purchased has not been replaced.
• Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.
Schroon Lake: The Narrows seemed to be offering the best ice conditions. Drill early for landlocked salmon and lakers. Perch are always an option if you locate them.
Lake Champlain: Anglers have had decent fishing for yellow perch and white perch in the south end of the lake (Crown Point/Ticonderoga area).
Many waters in the heart of the Adirondacks had ice conditions that have held up fairly well. As always, use caution, but Limekiln Lake, Tupper Lake, Lake Eaton, Blue Mountain Lake and others are decent options.
The relatively mild weather during this report period has allowed anglers to hit the docks and creeks for herring and white perch. Jerry at Bernie’s Bait and Tackle reported that the herring fishing has been good off Canarsie, 69th Street and Magnolia piers. Sabiki rigs fished in the late afternoon produced the best action. The mackerel fishing has been good from New York Bight to Jones Inlet, with the best fishing reported south of Jones Beach, reported Jerry.
Mike at Saltwaters Bait and Tackle reported that white perch were caught at the pool at Argyle Lake, in the Carlls River, in the Carmen’s River and in Santapogue Creek. The best bait was grass shrimp, with nightcrawlers a good second option. Grass shrimp are available freeze dried at many tackle shops or can be caught live be caught by scooping a fine-meshed net along the docks. Mike also reported that herring were being caught on the North Shore docks and piers.
The codfish fishing has remained good on the offshore wrecks. Most of the cod are around 5 pounds, with a few in the teens caught each trip. Pool winners were typically around the 20-pound mark. Mixed in with the cod are pollock to 15 pounds, as well as ling. When schools of sand eels were found, the cod responded well to Viking style and diamond jigs.
The creeks and ponds have remained ice-free and anglers took advantage of the winter trout fishing season, with Mike at Saltwaters Bait and Tackle reporting good trout fishing at the Connetquot River.
Great Sacandaga Lake: Safe ice, but use caution and be aware of pressure cracks. The recent warmup may have hit the ice hard. But northern pike and a few walleye had been reported.
Lake George: Hard-water anglers are playing an impatient waiting game.
Saratoga Lake: Ice was best at the north end, but be aware of changing conditions.
Southeastern New York
The ice was battered and eroded lately by a warming trend. It may be a while before the region’s waters again offer safe ice. If it does happen, here are some potential hard-water options:
Ulster County: Chodikee Lake, Onteora Lake, Louisa Pond.
Sullivan County: Morningside Lake, Mongaup Pond, Lake Superior, Loch Sheldrake.
Orange County: Round Lake and some Herriman State Park lakes.
Dutchess County: Morgan Pond, Stissing Pond.
Putnam County: White Pond, Canopus Lake, coves of East Branch Reservoir.
Westchester County: Coves of Muscoot Reservoir
Not a lot happening right now on the rivers that are open to fishing; many are off limits anyway.
St. Lawrence River: Anglers have been targeting pike and perch in most of the bays, such as Eel, Goose and Chippewa. Lake of the Isles was also seeing some fishing pressure.
Black Lake: Most of the ice fishing focus has been on Rollaway Bay, with a mix of crappie, perch and pike. Use caution, especially given the changing weather conditions.
Chaumont Bay: Ice was hanging tough at last check. Perch action has been pretty good, walleye hit and miss.