New York Outdoor News Fishing Report – March 23, 2018

Western New York

We are slowly starting to turn the corner on a variety of fronts. On Lake Ontario, the first trollers have started pounding the surf with in-line planers and stickbaits like Bay Rats and Live Target plugs. At least, that’s what was working for Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane recently when he ran a shakedown cruise out of Olcott. While most of the fish were brown trout, he did catch his first salmon of the year – a shaker, but still a salmon. It should be a good year for kings after a record-breaking performance last year in the lake. In 2017, the catch rate for salmon was the best ever in the 32-year history of the open lake creel census.

The tributaries off Lake Ontario have been low and clear for the most part. There are trout available, but you may have to use a stealthy approach with the clear conditions. Egg sacs, jigs tipped with wax worms and some different fly patterns will catch you fish. Mostly steelhead are being caught but there are a few browns around, too. Remember that pike season closed March 15 if you are fishing in the harbors of Wilson or Olcott. If you want to help out with the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association’s pen rearing project for salmon and trout, they will be organizing the pens and getting them in the water on April 7 at the town of Newfane Marina in Olcott starting at 9:30 a.m.

In the Niagara River, action has been fair to good. The water was clear at last look. Shore action can be difficult with the clear conditions, but fishermen like Anthony Henley of Buffalo was still willing to drift a jig under a float and tip it with a worm and take his chances. He stopped after work for an hour or two and managed to catch a few steelhead in the Devil’s Hole area of the river. Boaters were playing the winds when they head out. If the winds are out of the south, they throw on a Kwikfish or a MagLip plug. Any other time it’s a minnow or an egg sac. Steelhead dominate the daily catch, but brown trout, lake trout and even an occasional walleye will also show up. Remember that walleye season closed March 15.

Lake Erie tributaries and harbors: Cattaraugus Creek was still a little high, but all other streams were in great fishing shape at last look. Anglers were catching plenty of steelhead on all streams. Things seem to be progressing rather quickly, with some steelhead actively spawning and suckers moving into the streams. Anglers reported good success on egg sacs, trout beads and jigs tipped with a grub (fished under a float).

Steelhead action was very good for the many anglers at the Dunkirk Harbor pier. The bite has tapered off a bit, but there were still decent numbers of steelhead around. Barcelona Harbor anglers were catching some trout as well. Egg sacs, minnows, jigs and spoons have all been productive.

Niagara River: The upper river had nice color and clarity. At this time of year anglers typically catch the occasional rainbow trout at Broderick Park and along Bird Island Pier. Target trout by casting spoons and spinners or drifting egg sacs or minnows.

Recent steelhead action has been good in the upper drifts for boaters and shore anglers. Controlled drifting with a three-way rig and egg sacs, shiners or flatfish lures works well for boaters. Walleye season is now closed.

Lake Ontario and tributaries: Boaters have been working the Lake Ontario shoreline and were reporting good catches of brown trout. Target brown trout in 8-20 feet of water and key on areas near stream/harbor mouths, in murky waters or in areas with a slightly higher water temperature. Trolling with small to medium-sized stickbaits or spoons run behind planer boards is the top tactic. Lures run directly behind the boat get less trout attention.

Fresh steelhead have been on the move. Medium-sized streams like Johnson and Sandy creeks were in good shape and are great options. Catches have also been reported in small streams such as Fourmile, Twelvemile, East Branch Twelvemile and Keg creeks. Smaller streams had moderate flows and ranged from slightly stained to clear. Eighteenmile Creek was in good fishing shape at last check.

Chautauqua Lake: The majority of the lake was still covered with unsafe ice. There were some open-water areas along the shore and some of the canals are ice free. Look for bullhead near creek mouths.

Orleans County: Oak Orchard Creek was still slightly high and stained, but that may have changed by now. The steelhead bite was decent despite those iffy conditions.

Central New York

Remember that from Nov. 1 to May 1, all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet must wear a PFD while in motion.

Lake Ontario: Brown trout along the shoreline may now be a very good option.

Oswego River: High water and not much fishing at last check.

Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.

Salmon River: Fishing has been challenging over the last few weeks due to high water conditions.

Finger Lakes/Southern Tier

We are in the “in-between” period with too much ice around to get the boat out, and no safe ice fish for hard water anglers. We’ll undoubtedly have more fishing information when trout season opens April 1.

Diary cooperators needed

DEC regional fisheries staff say additional participants in the angler diary programs for Owasco, Cayuga, Otisco and Skaneateles are needed. Owasco’s angler cooperator numbers are particularly low. To learn more about the diary program contact the Region 7 fisheries office at (607) 753-3095 ext.213. To participate, go to and provide your name, address and the lake(s) for which you would like to record your fishing trips.

“Because we have separate diaries for coldwater lakes and tributaries, and warmwater lakes, please specify which type or types you regularly do so that we can send the appropriate books(s),” officials said.

Cayuga Lake: A few anglers have been out and were picking up some landlocked salmon and the occasional brown trout.

Seneca Lake: Not hearing anything from the perch anglers. Catharine Creek will be the place to be on April 1 when trout season opens.

Susquehanna, Chenango, Tioughnioga and Unadilla rivers: Walleye season is closed and not much happening right now.

Whitney Point Reservoir: Not much happening now until open water allows. Walleye season closed March 15.


Most of the outdoor activity involved snow goose hunting as safe ice departs. Things will likely be slow until conditions improve on the region’s trout streams. Chances are there’s still some ice fishing happening on some waters, but at this stage of the game we don’t feel comfortable directing you to any of those spots due to safety concerns and rapidly changing conditions.

Long Island/NYC

This winds and seas were more favorable for boats to head offshore for the usual winter fair of codfish, ling, pollock, conger eels and the occasional haddock, but in general anglers found few fish. Bernie’s Bait and Tackle echoed the same, with few fish ground fish reported from New York Bight and that most customers were heading to Montauk Point for cod. There were no reports of mackerel, but Bernie’s did report that there were some herring caught from the 69th Street Pier and off the Coney Island Beach.

The better cod fishing was off Montauk Point and south of Shinnecock and Moriches inlets.  Most of the cod were just keeper sized, along with the occasional pollock and conger eel. Many boats reported catching only a handful of fish per outing. The fishing should improve when the bottom water temperatures warm a few degrees. Fresh skimmer clams caught most of the fish along with a few fish caught on diamond jigs and teasers.

Mike at Saltwaters Bait and Tackle reported that the cod fishing from the central South Shore, that is the area fished from Fire Island and Jones inlets, was slow. He noted that a few herring were caught from Magnolia Pier in Long Beach, but the action was hit and miss and was slower this report period compared to others.

Mike did report that freshwater anglers caught a few trout and some perch in both the brackish water areas as well as in the lakes there the warmer weather created a significant amount of open water. The trout and panfish responded trout worms, grubs, small spinners, as well as small streamers. Anglers targeting white perch did better using grass shrimp than worms or artificials.

Guy Zummo

Capital District

Not hearing much now. Trout anglers will almost assuredly take to the Battenkill and Mettawee rivers for the April 1 opener, as well as perhaps the Kayaderosseras.

Southeastern New York

Some of the region’s trout waters are traditionally stocked ahead of the April 1 opener, but water conditions are always the determining factor on that. Things will start popping next month when trout action picks up.


Heading into the April 1 trout kickoff, the region’s rivers were clear and free of ice. That said, there was plenty of snow around, and parking areas may or may not be plowed. It’s not fishing season but anglers are getting itchy to get on the streams. Air temps remained on the cold side. The trout opener will likely allow for at least a few ceremonial casts.

Thousand Islands

St. Lawrence River: Some safe ice remained at last check, but things are changing rapidly and the snowfalls haven’t helped conditions.

Black Lake: Things are pretty quiet now and will probably remain that way until open water arrives.

Categories: New York Fishing Reports, News