New York Outdoor News Fishing & Hunting Report – March 22, 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
As far as the fishing in the lower Niagara River, action can be good but when conditions permit. Paul Schirmer of Cambria was fishing with Capt. Jim Rores of Grand Island with minnows (out of Schirmer’s boat) when they hit a 12-pound steelhead to take the top prize in the Niagara River Anglers Association’s Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest. Second place went to Richard Brant of Buffalo with a 10.26-pound steelie, fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown. That fish was caught on an egg sac in 14 feet of water. Third place went to Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island with a 9.75-pound steelhead. Cinelli also took the special prize for the largest brown trout caught for the contest, checking in at 6.74 pounds. A total of 51 anglers fished in the competition. A vote was taken at the awards ceremony and the date for the 2020 tournament will be Saturday, Feb. 22.
Shore fishermen can toss jigs, spinners or egg sacs to take trout. Remember that walleye season closed on March 15.
March 15 was also the final day for northern pike and pickerel, as well as the statewide tiger muskie season. Speaking of muskies, the Niagara Musky Association was honored last month, celebrating 25 years as a club. The association’s annual banquet will be held on April 6 in Buffalo at the Pearl Street Grill.
Lake Erie and tributaries: Cattaraugus Creek was running slightly high at last check, but was fishable. Anglers were catching some steelhead around Gowanda and up at the dam. Most creeks are likely open now. Anglers have been catching some fresh steelhead over the past couple weeks, and more will surely show as we transition to spring.
Niagara River: After the floating ice cleared out of the lower river, the bite picked back up where it left off. Boaters have caught a nice mix of steelhead, brown trout and walleye. Fish were available from Devils Hole down to the mouth. 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 predominantly steelhead. Be aware that shoreline ice build-up is limiting angling in some spots and is generally a hazard to be wary of. Walleye season closed on March 15.
Lake Ontario and tributaries, harbors and piers: Tribs were opening up well at last check. Flows at Eighteenmile and The Oak were low and clear, and the steelhead fishing has been slow. But keep in mind flows change quickly this time of year.
Chautauqua Lake: The lake had varying ice thickness of 7 to 12 inches, but the warming trend may hit the shore ice hard and make things unfishable. And with walleye season now closed there may not be much happening.
Orleans County: Steelhead migrations are probably in a sort of stall mode. Residents either dropped back or are holed up at the dam and few deeper holes. Look for a quick perk in the action on the next warming trend with a return to better flows that don’t blow out anyway.
Central New York
There are several fishing hotline/reports available for the region. A few of the web sites are: Wayne County Tourism, Visit Oswego County, and Oneida Lake Fishing Report.
Oneida Lake: Anglers were getting out pretty much all around the lake, with 12 or more inches of ice being reported, but things may have changed by now, especially with the March 15 warmup. Fishing pressure will dropped off when walleye season closed March 15.
Oswego River: Anglers were getting some brown trout, steelhead and an occasional walleye, although walleye season is now closed.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: Conditions have been challenging with the snow and cold, but anglers braving the elements were getting some steelhead. The mid-to-upper river seemed to be producing the most action.
Oneida Lake: Anglers were getting out pretty much all around the lake, with 12 or more inches of ice being reported, but things may have changed by now, especially with the March 15 warmup. Fishing pressure will drop off with the March 15 close of the walleye season, but yellow perch fishing remained good.
Sandy Pond: Anglers were getting out on the pond and are getting some yellow perch and northern pike. Pike season is now closed, and ice conditions typically change in a hurry this time of year.
Sodus Bay: Yellow perch fishing continues to be good and a few pike were also being taken; pike season closed March 15, however. Ice fishing is an iffy proposition now.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
DEC planned to stock many of the region’s trout waters ahead of the April 1 opener, including Cayuta Creek, the Cohocton River, the east and west branches as well as the main branch of Owego Creek, Salmon Creek, Fall Creek and Chenango Lake. And don’t forget the rainbow trout runs offered in Catharine Creek and other Finger Lakes tributaries.
Seneca Lake: The Sampson State Park boat launch remained closed for repairs.
Otisco Lake: Ice fishing is winding down now.
Cayuga Lake: The cold and windy conditions have made getting a boat out difficult, but anglers fishing from shore around Taughannock were getting lake trout.
Whitney Point Reservoir: With walleye season now closed and ice conditions iffy at best, we’re not hearing much now and it will likely remain that way until open water arrives.
Chenango, Chemung Tioughnioga and Susquehanna rivers: Not much happening now, especially with walleye off limits until May.
Ice fishing is winding down, although some waters may offer shoreline access onto the ice if weather cooperates.
The weather this report period kept the codfish boats at the dock about half the time due to rough seas. When the boats did get out, the fishing was pretty typical for late winter. Most boats reported a mixed bag of cod to 10 pounds, pollock averaging about 8 pounds, haddock about 8 pounds off Montauk Point and ling mainly on the boats east of Moriches Inlet. The pool fish were typically codfish close to 20 pounds on the inshore grounds and close to 25 pounds on the offshore wrecks.
The ocean surface temperatures rose a bit and hovered just below 40d egrees. When the temps are steadily in the mid-40s, the codfish tend to go on the feed before their run to the deeper water wrecks, those in 180 feet of water and deeper.
During this report period, the number of ling caught increased. Hake were common east of Shinnecock Inlet. Fresh skimmer clams and Viking-style jigs with teasers all produced fish, depending on the bait present and the strength of the current. A few boats made the long trip to The Canyons and were rewarded with golden tilefish, typically between 8 and 12 pounds.
The trout fishing has improved, with a mix of brown or rainbow trout depending on where you fished. Flyrodders did well when they fished low and slow with small streamers as the fish are not aggressively feeding. Trout worms also produced. The usual spots, including the Carlls River, Belmont Lake and in the Connetquot River yielded trout. There were no perch, bluegill or largemouth bass reports as of late.
The winter flounder season opens on April 1. The dark-bottom areas in the back of the South Shore bays in 5 to 10 feet of water are a good starting spot. I would expect that a few small pre-season stripers are caught by anglers fishing bloodworms for flounder. The season for striped bass in the marine waters below the George Washing Bridge opens on April 15.
The spring blackfish season begins on April 1 and closes on April 30 in both the ocean waters and in the Long Island Sound. Don’t forget to register with the NYS Recreation Marine Fishing Registry with the DEC before fishing in saltwater. The registration is free.
Ice anglers are taking their last shots on waters like Lake George, but by the time of our next issue (April 5) we expect that attention will have turned to open-water possibilities, notably trout. DEC will ramp up its stocking efforts when water temps and levels permit, but typically some waters like Kayaderosseras Creek receive a stocking of trout ahead of the April 1 trout kickoff.
Southeastern New York
A reminder that until May 1, all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet must wear a PFD while in motion.
Several of the region’s trout waters will likely be stocked by the DEC prior to the April 1 opener.
The long-awaited April 1 trout opener is rapidly approaching, which means anglers will be out in force taking at least a few ceremonial casts on the Beaverkill, Willowemoc and the Delaware. Things will only get better as the waters warm and insect activity picks up, with the first major hatch (Hendricksons) just around the corner.
St. Lawrence River: Probably one of the last places in the state to offer safe ice, chances are good the shoreline is still allowing some access to the popular bays. That said, use caution.
Black Lake: We’re headed into that in-between season, with ice fishing winding down and open-water fishing a waiting game until the ice goes out.