Western New York
Fishing was very good in the river until the winds and rain hit Lake Erie, causing stained water to slow things down. Shore casters in the lower river had it tough last week and Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls reported about two feet of visibility or less. Boaters have also struggled but a few fish were being caught by fishing MagLips off three-way rigs or egg sacs in bright colors like pink or chartreuse. As far as the Lake Ontario tributaries, fishing has been a mixed bag of browns and steelhead, according to Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters. “Conditions are actually very good on most creeks and this is a great time of year to get out and fish changing water conditions,” Feltrinelli said late last month. Stonefly hatches are also occurring on many creeks so remember to “match the hatch.”
Orleans County: Fishing pressure on The Oak was light. Hookups were coming for anglers who hit it for at least a few hours on a mixed bag of fresh or darker and semi-spawned fish. Post-spawn browns and Atlantics are still being caught, too. Ron Bierstine of Oak Orchard Tackle and Lodge is looking forward to the next good blowout and says “we’ll probably need another round of snow or a good rain to make that happen. Upstream headwater supplies look to me to be good for maintenance but not enough right now for a good old-fashioned late winter/early spring freshening.” All the other smaller tributaries are mostly open for drifting chances. So much up and down weather makes it hard to predict when and where concentrations of fish may be.
Central New York
Information for the hotline is obtained by talking to employees at bait shops, searching fishing web pages, or directly from anglers. Ice thickness information is obtained the same way. Remember that ice thickness can vary greatly, even on the same water, so use extreme caution and your own good judgment if deciding to venture out. Some safety measures to follow are: use a spud and check ice thickness as you venture out, fish with a buddy, and bring a rope and ice picks.
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.
Oneida Lake: Anglers have been getting out around the lake with ice thickness varying from 8 to 11 or more inches in places. Walleye fishing continued to be good but this time of year always be aware of changing conditions and varying degrees of ice thickness.
Oswego River: There are steelhead and brown trout being taken on beads, jigs, and egg sacs, either fished under a float or bottom bouncing.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: Many anglers were taking advantage of any warm spell that came along, although we have also had some normal temps and on those days slush ice can be a factor. Most of 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.
Sodus Bay: Anglers have been out on the bay and ice thickness reports vary from 8 inches to more in places. And less in some places, and this is the time of year when conditions can change quickly so use caution if you venture out. Perch action has been very good this year but it’s not worth risking your life.
Sandy Pond: Anglers have been out and are getting some yellow perch with 7 or more inches of ice being reported.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
A reminder that from Nov. 1 to 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 with ice thickness reports of about 5 inches or more. But conditions can change quickly this time of year.
Skaneateles Lake: The DEC launch has been closed for the season. Some shore fishing has been productive for the few anglers targeting rainbows and lakers.
Cayuga Lake: Some lake trout are being taken in shallow water near shore by anglers casting stickbaits and blade baits.
Whitney Point Reservoir: Anglers were getting out late last month, with 8 inches of ice being reported in some spots. But we’re not sure if the ice has held up.
Seneca Lake: A few anglers were getting out and picking up a mixed bag of lake trout, perch and landlocked salmon.
Chenango, Chemung, Tioughnioga and Susquehanna rivers: Not hearing much now, since ice wasn’t an option and very few anglers were out. On the Susquehanna, a trip out of Hickories Park in Owego might be worth it for a few walleye.
No new information to report at this time.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The region’s popular ice fishing waters, like Lake Champlain, Schroon Lake, Indian Lake and others, typically hold their ice well into March. But this hasn’t been a typical year, so use caution if you head out. Most of the message board chatter has focused on ice conditions and not the quality of the fishing, so it’s been tough to get a read on angling success. We do know some hard-water diehards have scored well on northern pike in the southern sections of Lake Champlain, and Schroon Lake has yielded a few lake trout and Atlantic salmon.
The winter groundfish season is progressing as expected with codfish, haddock, pollock and ling (aka red hake) the primarily targeted species. Boats fishing out of Montauk Point have been running to the local rock ledges and to Block Island Sound. The catch is predominantly codfish between 5 and 8 pounds, with pool fish approaching 15 pounds. Mixed in with the cod are haddock, which have become more prevalent over the past few seasons, and pollock, both fish similar sized to the cod.
Working to the west, there are fewer haddock and pollock in the catch west of Shinnecock Inlet, but the amount of ling for the boats fishing out of Sheepshead Bay as the are targeting them in the Mud Hole and neighboring areas. Most ling are around a pound and a half, with a few three-pounders reported.
In all areas the typical bait was fresh clams, fished a foot above a bank sinker. Anglers reported improved action with pink, white or red 8-inch Jelly Worms or 5- to 6-inch twister-style plastic baits rigged on a 6-inch leader tied 18 inches above the hook. When the fish were feeding on schools of sand eels diamond and Viking-style jigs bounced off the bottom produced well. There have been no reports of winter mackerel.
There are several open boats making extended trips, typically between 24 and 36 hours, targeting larger cod, haddock and pollock. These boats run as far as the Gulf of Maine and to the wrecks in 240 feet of water and deeper along the South Shore. These trips are strictly reservation only as the boats limit the number of passengers to make the trips more conformable during these overnighters. Pool fish are typically cod in the 20-pound class. A few boats running out of the South Shore inlets have posted their tilefish schedule which target these deep-water fish along the continental shelf and canyons; if interested reserve your spot early.
The freshwater fishing has been very quiet. A few anglers have been targeting winter trout and white perch but there have been no reports as of late.
DEC is looking for participants to join the department’s Striped Bass Cooperative Angler Programs to help biologists understand and maintain a healthy striped bass population. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) requires New York state to provide catch information from its recreational fishery to manage this species. Volunteer anglers play a crucial role in helping DEC satisfy this requirement, and all anglers who fish for striped bass are invited to participate.
DEC provides volunteer anglers with logbooks and instructions to record catch information such as fishing location, gear used, and number of fish caught. Anglers may participate whether fishing by boat or from the shore. Volunteers return their logbooks at the end of the season. Biologists analyze the recreational fishery data and send it to anglers in a newsletter, providing an inside look into the striped bass fishing season. Participants also receive the latest news and information about regulations and annual fish population surveys.
This year, anglers may choose to use DEC’s new online logbook and record catch information on their smartphone or computer.
Anglers who fish for striped bass north of the George Washington Bridge in the tidal Hudson River, should visit DEC’s Hudson River Striped Bass website to learn more about the Hudson River Cooperative Angler Program.
Anglers who fish for striped bass in New York’s marine waters south of the George Washington Bridge, should contact the Diadromous Fish Unit at email@example.com or visit DEC’s Striped Bass Cooperative Angler website.
Lake George and Great Sacandaga Lake reportedly continued to offer some ice fishing options, but always use caution at this stage of the game. On Lake George, Vets Park in Bolton Landing was the most popular spot although ice conditions weren’t as good as in past years. Anglers were scoring on some yellow perch and some nice lake trout (remember there’s a 23-inch size minimum on Lake George lakers). Sacandaga was yielding walleye on either side of the legal limit.
Southeastern New York
Under a new law known as Brianna’s Law, all motorboat operators will need a boating safety certificate. How soon this 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 go to the Boating Education link on the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website.
Not much happening now with small game hunting seasons closed and ice fishing options seriously limited. But the mild winter has fly fishers excited for the April 1 statewide trout kickoff, and a few hardy anglers are even venturing out onto rivers open to fishing right now. That said, there’s not enough activity to get a handle on what’s happening since most anglers are at the tying vise instead of making a few ceremonial casts.
St. Lawrence River: Still safe ice in the traditional bays that see plenty of fishing; not sure how much the region’s recent snows have impacted travel.
Black Lake: Ice was hanging in there, but use caution if you head out. Travel may be tough due to snow cover on the ice.