New York Outdoor News Fishing & Hunting Report – March 8, 2019
(The ice fishing season is winding down now, so be aware of constantly changing conditions across the state. Heavy snowfall can make for sketchy, or at least sloppy ice conditions, and one quick warmup between the time we go to press and the time NYON gets into your hands can also change things quickly. Always, and we mean always, use caution when you head out.)
Western New York
Fishing has been good in the lower Niagara River. Capt. John Oravec, the Troutman, has been catching a mix of steelhead, brown trout and walleye – not necessarily in that order – using emerald shiners and egg sacs off three-way rigs. One of the most noteworthy catches was a 12.5-pound walleye caught and released by Lynda Curiale of Long Island. Capt. John Delorenzo of Niagara Falls caught 20 steelhead and 10 brown trout – all catch and release – using pink egg sacs on the steelies and minnows on the browns. When you can slide out on the Niagara Bar, lake trout can be added to the mix as well.
Some of the Lake Ontario tributaries have opened up again. Ice fishing in Wilson Harbor was producing a few nice northern pike up to 40 inches long, as well as perch and a few trout. Keep an eye on changing conditions, however.
Lake Erie and tributaries: Tributaries were opening back up and some of the Erie County streams were wide open. Ice jams at the mouths of some creeks may prohibit influx of fresh fish. Small bumps in water temperature have been known to really turn on the steelhead fishing in late winter. Productive wintertime steelhead offerings include egg sacs, egg flies, trout beads and small jigs tipped with a grub (fished under a float). Drift baits and flies slow and low.
Niagara River: Lower river water conditions were good at last look. Boaters continued to see good catches of steelhead, brown trout and walleye, from Devil’s Hole and downriver through the lower drifts. Controlled drifting with three-way rigs with emerald shiners, golden shiners and egg sacs has been productive. Shore anglers at the state parks are catching primarily steelhead. Be aware that shoreline ice build-up is limiting angling in some spots and is generally a hazard to be wary of. Lake trout season opened on the lower river on Jan. 1. Also on Jan. 1, the daily limit for walleye dropped from three to one. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) Fishing Platform is closed for the winter.
Lake Ontario and tributaries, harbors and piers: Anglers fishing below the dams at Oak Orchard and Eighteenmile creeks reported a mix of dark and silvery steelhead. The Oak was running slightly high with about two feet of visibility, while Eighteenmile Creek had moderate flow. The upper sections on the small to medium sized creeks were open and ranged from moderate to slightly high and stained flow. All creeks will likely be running high and stained/muddy during periods of snowmelt.
Chautauqua Lake: Ice conditions varied and can change quickly this time of year. There are some dangerous thin ice and open spots off creek inlets. Anglers reported a decent to good walleye bite around the north basin at depths of 10-40 feet of water. During low-light periods, walleye can be tight up to the weeds, while the deeper end of the depth range is a better bet during the day. Jigging Rapalas and vertical jigging spoons tipped with a minnow are good walleye offerings. Anglers were catching yellow perch throughout the lake, with shallower areas seemingly better for perch of keeper size. Depths of 6-10 feet of water off Mayville have been productive for a mix of bluegill and yellow perch, along with the occasional crappie.
Buffalo Boat Harbor: The inner harbor had good ice at last check. As usual, anglers are catching mostly smaller sunfish and yellow perch, with the occasional keeper.
Silver Lake: Still safe ice at last check, but remember things can change quickly this time of year. Yellow perch were readily available at depths of 25-35 feet, but the bite can be hit or miss. Anglers were catching decent numbers of 8-inch perch, with a few pushing 10 inches. The south end is a popular spot to set tip-ups for northern pike, but some pike catches have come from deeper waters of 20-25 feet, as well.
Central New York
There are several fishing hotline/reports available for the region. A few of the websites are: Wayne County Tourism, Visit Oswego County, and Oneida Lake Fishing Report.
Oswego River: Some brown trout and steelhead were being taken by a few hardy anglers.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: Anglers braving the elements were getting some steelhead, with egg sacs with blue or pink mesh working well.
There is a new water level flow page provided by Brookfield Renewable Energy for the Salmon River that can be found online at safewaters.com/facility/42
Oneida Lake: Use caution when moving around on the lake as there are some big pressure cracks out there, and any warm weather moving in can change conditions quickly. Anglers were getting out pretty much all around the lake, with 12 or more inches of ice being reported at last look. Walleye fishing has slowed but yellow perch fishing remained good. Panfish and pickerel were being taken in Big Bay.
The new parking regulations at the Lewis Point Ice Fishing Access Site are apparently creating angler conflicts. The changes were made to stop the free-for-all parking that has existed in the past. If the lot is full when you arrive, please accept that fact and go to an alternate access spot such as Verona Beach State Park or the DEC South Shore Boat Launch. The Lewis Point site is through a Cooperative Agreement with the landowner. If parking issues continue the agreement may not continue and that access will be lost.
Sandy Pond: Anglers are getting out on the pond and icing some yellow perch and northern pike. No reports on current walking condition, but with any warm weather in the forecast things will likely be getting slushy.
Sodus Bay: Like everywhere else, use caution if heading out. Yellow perch fishing was good, and a few pike were also being taken at last look.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
Lake Ontario: Any burst of warm weather should held open up sections of the tributaries for fishing.
Seneca Lake: The Sampson State Park boat launch is closed for work over the winter. Not hearing much from the open-water perch crowd.
Otisco Lake: Use caution if venturing out as shore ice may be deteriorating. Anglers are getting out on both the north end and also in front of the County Park.
Conesus Lake: The ice sheet on the northern end was about 8 inches thick at last check. Shore ice at Vitale Park was in good shape. Depths of 6-10 feet of water are a good bet for bluegill and a few perch. Some spots seem to be void of fish, so if not catching fish in a particular spot, start running and gunning. North end anglers were running plenty of tip-ups, but seeing relatively few flags. However, a few good sets have produced some hefty pike.
Cayuga Lake: Anglers fishing from shore around Taughannock were getting a few lake trout.
Skaneateles Lake: The DEC launch is closed for the season.
Whitney Point Reservoir: Anglers are getting out on the reservoir, but keep an eye out for deteriorating shoreline ice.
Lamoka Lake: Anglers were still out, but be aware of springs where ice conditions can get iffy. A few perch and pickerel were being taken.
Chenango, Tioughnioga, Chemung and Susquehanna rivers: Nothing to report.
Lake Champlain: Still offering safe ice in many spots, although water was cloudy in some areas where tributary streams ran high following rains. Perch action was hit and miss, with a lot of smallish ringbacks reported. Pike were being taken, notably up north.
The North Country waters typically offer some March, and even late March, hard-water opportunities. Some spots to check include Lake Colby, Lake Eaton, Indian Lake, Lake Pleasant, Blue Mountain Lake, Piseco Lake and Meacham Lake.
The winter ground fish season is in its typical winter pattern, with the codfish, pollock, ling, haddock and hake settled into their winter wrecks and hard spots. The open-bottom fishing depends largely on the location of the schools of sand eels, but the ground fish are not moving far from the wrecks searching for them. With the open boats fishing every day that the weather permits, they have the pattern and locations of the ground fish down pat.
What has generally been the difference between a successful trip and slow outing has been the currents. While the captains have been able to factor in the predictable currents during the full and new moon cycles, there are days where the currents are running too strong for anglers to fish effectively, thereby leading to a slower day with multiple drops necessary to make up a decent catch. Captains have noted that during fast-current days, the baitfish, and therefore the ground fish, concentrate tight to the structure, limiting the areas to fish as well as making open bottom fishing very challenging.
Overall, anglers are coming home with a few mixed fish each trip. On the East End the catches are typically a keeper or two of cod, with a pollock or haddock included. Most of the codfish and pollock are between 8 and 12 pounds, with the haddock running closer to 6 to 8 pounds. Toward New York Bight, there were few haddock in the mix, but there was a larger amount of ling and a few mackerel. But the mackerel fishing is not consistent enough to run dedicated mackerel trips. Pool winners are typically a codfish approaching 20 pounds.
As we enter March and April, the ground fish will begin to move off the wrecks and onto open bottom, where fishing under the schools of sand eels will improve. Expect an influx of cod to move inshore to as shallow as 40 feet of water if the sand eels are present. These fish are fattening up before moving deeper offshore in May and June and provide a unique fishery for smaller offshore-capable boats.
Anglers fishing the wrecks and hard spots are typically using fresh skimmer clams with success. At times, whole squid or cut herring baits have saved the day. On open bottom when the boats are drifting, diamond and Viking jigs were the top producers, especially when fished below a white or pink curly-tail or worm teaser.
There were no reports of herring or white perch. The inshore waters are very cold; especially the brackish waters which are receiving ice melt from the creeks and streams. This cold water has slowed these fisheries, but once the water warms during March expect both fish to become more active.
Anglers willing to brave the cold surf reported catching a few stripers, all under 5 pounds and most about a foot long, on 1- and 2-ounce diamond jigs at Sunken Meadow around the mouth of the Nissaquogue River. These anglers are putting in a lot of time for a striper or two and most days are fishless. A 1/0 Deceiver fly or similar teaser fished in front of the diamond jig reportedly caught about half of the stripers. I gave the area a try at the beginning of the report period with my fly rod but found the cold water made my cold-water fly line just too stiff to be cast effectively. But I did notice some baitfish, likely bay anchovies, less than an inch long at the water’s edge.
Much of the castable freshwater from the shore of the lakes and ponds had a thin skim of ice on it extending several yards from the shore, pretty much shutting down most waters to anglers. The creeks and streams leading to the lakes were ice-free, giving trout anglers a shot at winter trout. But there have been no reports of late and during my usual weekend round of freshwater site visits I did not see a single angler fishing.
If you haven’t done so yet, now is the time to drop off your gear for its cleaning, repair and line re-spooling before the water warms and the shops get busy.
A reminder that until May 1, all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet must wear a PFD while in motion.
Lake George: Anglers were still out in the popular spots, with lakers and perch offering some good action if you time it right.
Great Sacandaga Lake continued to offer some ice, with some solid northern pike taken by anglers fishing big suckers – not sucker minnows, but actual suckers.
Southeastern New York
Not a lot happening on the NYC reservoir systems, with sketchy ice conditions and most of the talk focusing on where it was possible to “get on” instead of who is catching what where. The hard-water season, or what there was of it in this region this year, is clearly winding down.
That said, the April 1 trout opener looms, and it’s possible that several waters will receive pre-season stockings of trout, depending on water levels and temperatures.
Most of the focus is now on the approaching April 1 trout season kickoff. Catskill Flies is closed until March 16 following the passing of its founder, noted guide and fly-tyer Dennis Skarka.
St. Lawrence River: Ice fishing opportunities typically extend well into March in many bays, and that will likely be the case again this year. That said, we’re not hearing a lot from anglers.
Black Lake: The folks at Chapman’s Sport Shop in Hammond reported shore ice got a little sketchy during a brief warmup, but things have returned toward normal and anglers never really were locked out of getting on the hard water.