Western New York
In the lower section, from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar, it’s was a mixed bag throughout. While the water was stained, consistent trout and walleye action was being reported. Lake trout, steelhead, brown trout and walleye were all being caught with consistency. Pink egg sacs, MagLips, minnows/shiners – all were producing fish. Even a couple of nice kings were caught on the Niagara Bar, too! Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston reports that the shore guys in the gorge were doing well on trout using marabou jigs tipped with artificial minnows and fished under a float. No. 4 spinners are also working, according to Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls who went 4-for-4 on steelies two days in a row. In the upper river, some walleye and lake trout are being reeled in up near the head of the river north of the Peace Bridge. The Niagara River Anglers will have its steelhead contest on Feb. 22. Sign up at Creek Road Bait and Tackle or at the Lewiston launch ramp the day of the event.
At least one boat we know of hit the big lake off Olcott to score on some browns in 10-15 feet of water trolling stickbaits. In the streams, some of the larger creeks were dropping and clearing at last check, according to Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters. Trout are around in all the creeks right now. Eighteen Mile Creek was showing good numbers of fish, but don’t be afraid to look around as some of the smaller creeks like Twelve Mile or Four Mile. Keg Creek was still locked out, with gravel at the mouth serving as a barrier.
Congratulations to Charles Waldorf of North Tonawanda. He was selected at the Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo to attend this year’s 50th Anniversary 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk March 6-8 at Lake Guntersville in Alabama – all expenses paid! What a prize, courtesy of this year’s Fishing Expo!
Orleans County: Flows in the Oak were hanging in at slightly high and slightly stained. There were good drifting chances up and down the river and plenty of water for fresh fish migrations. In the fast-water drifts downstream of the dam, anglers will need to get the drift, or swing, down and slow and there should be the chance for a few grabs.
The winter weather thus far has been up and down, so if anglers are looking for steelhead action, it probably means getting out to make some high-water drifts.
Other area smaller tributaries were maintaining at something like medium to slightly high and slightly stained, with a mix of open water and some icy drifts. At this point in the winter I’d look for more water slowly breaking open than icing back up, unless there is a prolonged cold snap.
Ice fishing: There finally was some ice fishing activity in western New York on ice that is around the recommended minimum of four inches of clear ice. However, all of those waters also had sections that were thinner and potentially dangerous. Keep an eye on changing conditions, as always. Anglers have been ice fishing at Case and Harwood lakes in Cattaraugus County, the south end of Silver Lake; south end of Honeoye Lake; Cranberry and Long ponds in Monroe County and the south end of Sodus Bay. If there is any warm-up or rain in the short term, all bets are off.
Chautauqua Lake: Ice anglers were fishing in some parts of the lake, but we can’t in good conscience direct you to the lake unless ice conditions improve.
DEC’s Region 9 fisheries office will again be running an angler diary program on the Genesee River in Allegany and Wyoming counties from March 1 through Oct. 31. The program will cover the river from the Pennsylvania line downstream through Letchworth State Park and participating anglers will record data for both trout and bass fishing trips. If you fish the Genesee River (even once) and would like to keep a diary for DEC call the Region 9 fisheries office at (716) 379-6379 or e-mail email@example.com. The diary program will be used to evaluate the quality of the fishery and determine future management actions
Central New York
There are also other fishing hotline/reports available for the region. A few of the websites are: Wayne County Tourism, Visit Oswego County, and Oneida Lake Fishing Report.
Lake Ontario: Steelhead and brown trout were still being found in most of the tributaries. With the colder weather you may be dealing with skim and/or slush ice at times. Egg sacs, beads and egg-imitating flies have been working, either bottom bounced or fished under a float.
Oswego River: There were steelhead and brown trout being taken on beads, jigs, and egg sacs either fished under a float or bottom bouncing. Heavy snowfall may make river access challenging.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: A lot of anglers took advantage of the above-average temperatures, but things have changed now and we’re back into winter. Most of the fishing pressure continues to be on the upper sections of river in the deeper holes. Egg sacs (blue or pink mesh), beads, pink worms, egg-imitating flies and nymphs are all working at times. Both float fishing and bottom bouncing have been working; if not having action with one method try the other as it does seem to make a difference depending on the day and location. Heavy snows may make for tough access to the river.
Sodus Bay: Anglers were out and ice thickness reports varied from five inches or more. The heavy snow may make travel on the ice difficult, create slushy areas, and will cover any holes or cracks in the ice, so use extreme caution and your own good judgment if venturing out. That said, some good perch action can be had if conditions allow. Use caution, as always.
Sandy Pond: Anglers have been out and are getting some yellow perch, with five or more inches of ice being reported. Similar ice conditions as Sodus Bay.
Oneida Lake: Anglers have been getting out around the lake, with ice thickness reports varying from 5-8 inches. Snow has made traveling on the ice more difficult and created slushy areas, and in some areas there are pressure cracks – big ones. Use caution. When things are safe enough to drill holes some decent walleye fishing was being reported.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
A reminder that until May 1, all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet must wear a PFD while in motion.
Otisco Lake: Some anglers have been out on the north end, but no ice thickness to report and keep in mind conditions can change quickly. Expect snow on the ice, as well as slushy areas.
Skaneateles Lake: The DEC launch has been closed for the season. Some anglers have been shore fishing for rainbows and lakers.
Cayuga Lake: Some lake trout were being taken in shallow water near shore by anglers casting stickbaits and blade baits. Perch anglers were doing well when conditions allowed them to get out on the open water.
Whitney Point Reservoir: Anglers have been getting out, with five inches of ice being reported in places. But always keep an eye on changing conditions. The annual crappie derby was again postponed this year due to insufficient ice to handle the large crowd of anglers.
Warm water (bass, pike, etc.) angler diary cooperators are needed for Seneca, Keuka, Canandaigua, Hemlock, and Canadice lakes. If interested contact DEC’s Region 8 fisheries office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (585) 226-5343.
Also, DEC Region 7 fisheries staff are always looking for new participants in its Angler Diary Cooperator Program for the Finger Lakes. The numbers of participating anglers have dropped in recent years, and they need new cooperators now more than ever. If you fish Cayuga Lake, Owasco Lake, Skaneateles Lake, Otisco Lake or any of their tributaries and want to learn more about the program and how to sign up, contact the Region 7 Fisheries office at (607) 753-3095, ext. 213, or ny email at email@example.com.
A snowstorm earlier this month will undoubtedly make for some tough travel on the ice for most North Country anglers. As a result we haven’t been hearing much on the hard-water front.
Indian Lake: Snow was on the ice, making for difficult travel.
Fourth Lake: Anglers were picking up plenty of smelt, as well as perch that were running on the small side. Snow made for tough travel.
Despite a few very windy days, sea conditions generally allowed anglers to venture offshore targeting cod, haddock, pollock and ling. Anglers and captains reported good to excellent fishing on the wrecks out to 160 feet of water east of Shinnecock Inlet and on the rocky reefs off Montauk and Orient points and out to Block Island Sound.
Depending on the location, the makeup of the catch varied. In New York Bight codfish and ling made up the bulk of the catch. Boats running out of Debs, Jones, Fire Island and Moriches inlets reported catching mostly codfish, along with a few jumbo porgies and a few pollock. Anglers fishing out of Shinnecock Inlet, Montauk Point and Orient Point caught a mix of codfish, pollock and a few haddock.
In all areas, most cod were approximately keeper size, with pool fish typically between 10 and 15 pounds. Both the pollock and the haddock catches yielded fish between 5 and 10 pounds. The ling caught were typically between 2 and 3 pounds. Fresh skimmer clams were the top bait. When the cod, haddock and pollock were found to be feeding on sand eels, diamond or Viking jigs were both productive, especially when paired with a plastic worm teaser in white, red or pink.
A few catch-and-release stripers between 2 and 5 pounds were reported caught along the South Shore ocean beaches. Tins dragged along the bottom were the top choice.
There were no reports of herring or white perch as of late.
Anglers targeting sea-run brown and rainbow trout reported catching a few trout to 16 inches in Bubbles Falls in Oakdale. There were no other freshwater reports.
Depending on your fishing plans for 2020, now is the time to renew your saltwater registry, freshwater license, and your highly migratory fishery permit before the season starts in full swing.
Under a new law, known as Brianna’s Law, all motorboat operators will need a boating safety certificate. How soon the certificate is required depends on your age, but by Jan. 1, 2025 all operators of motorized vessels regardless of age will need a certificate. For more information on Brianna’s Law, classes, and the age breakdown please view Boating Education on the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation site.
On Lake George, ice anglers had some options, including at Vets Park, where hard-water anglers weren’t able to run out to some of their usual haunts but were able to fish in some areas where safe ice was available. Perch were being taken in pretty good numbers, and plenty of smelt were around, which generally means plenty of lake trout aren’t far away.
Southeastern New York
The region’s ice anglers remained frustrated by a lack of hard water, and the forecast isn’t giving any cause for optimism. Most sportsmen have turned their attention to small game or predator hunting, or the increasingly popular shed hunting. It will likely remain that way unless there’s a serious cold snap or until the April 1 trout opener.
It has been a mild winter, but there’s still not enough fishing action on the region’s trout waters – those still open for fishing – to get a read on what’s happening. Most fly-fishers are at their tying vise or prepping gear for a season that is rapidly approaching.
St. Lawrence River: Chippewa Bay seems to be seeing plenty of attention from the ice anglers, and other traditional spots have been offering up safe ice, albeit not the typically great conditions. Always use caution if you head out.
Black Lake: It hasn’t been the best of years for ice anglers on the big lake, but it has been fishable, although there are some unsafe areas and caution is advised. At least check there was about 10 inches of ice in most areas and the traditional local fishing derbies were a go and were held across the lake. Anglers were doing well on Rollaway Bay at last look, and connecting on panfish above Edwardsville. Out in front of Chapman’s in Hammond hard-water anglers were scoring on pike.
Chaumont Bay: There’s been a good perch bite on the bay, with some solid fish caught, along with some walleye and big catfish. Always use caution and be aware of rapidly changing conditions on this big water. Keep an eye on Chaumont Hardware’s Facebook page for updates.