Report from the Dock
While trout fishing remains in the forefront as we progress from April to May, there is a strong fraternity of pike and walleye anglers anticipating the May 2 reopening of these seasons, which have been closed since mid-March. With them will come the openers for pickerel and tiger muskellunge as well. As for trout, the staff at New York’s fish hatcheries have been working diligently to get trout waters stocked across the state. And in many localities, county fish hatcheries are doing the same. Most of the stocking should be completed by early May, with some left over, and typically older trout, slated for the final stocking runs. On the hunting side, May 1 is a holiday of sorts as it is the opening day of the spring gobbler season. With social distancing interrupting the mentoring process for the youth turkey hunt, turkey hunters will be more than ready for the opener.
Trout fishing should pick up in early May as waters warm and more stocking takes place. State boat launches and some marinas are now open with anglers required to follow strict social distancing guidelines.
Ice-out took some time but finally occurred on lakes across the region and as waters continue to warm, more trout stocking will take place. Temperatures in April remained on the cool side but some hearty anglers made the best of things hitting the trout ponds.
Rivers were running high and fast in mid-April, but recent dry weather should slow things down and the water should warm. Still, the period around Mother’s Day is often considered prime-time trout fishing.
Anglers targeting striped bass were getting their first taste of success on the Hudson River near and south of Albany. They should soon be having some action near the Troy Dam as the water warms and baitfish arrive.
Like elsewhere in New York, trout stocking has commenced throughout Region 4. Anglers, especially fly-fishers, should be descending on classic trout streams such as the Beaverkill, Esopus, Neversink and Batavia Kill Rivers.
Central New York
Steelhead, and some brown trout, were being taken on beads, jigs, and egg sacs either fished under a float or bottom bouncing. The bridge to Leto Island remains closed.
The river level was up in mid-April. Anglers were spread out through the river but most of the activity was in the midsection. Steelhead were being taken on egg sacs, beads, pink worms, jigs, or egg imitating flies either bottom bounced or under a float.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
The Cleveland Dock fishing access site is closed until further notice due to site improvement construction.
Warm water species angler diary cooperators are needed for Seneca, Keuka, Canandaigua, Hemlock, and Canadice lakes. If interested, contact Region 8 Fisheries at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 585-226-5343.
The striped bass season in marine waters opened with reports of short stripers being caught on the ocean beaches, mainly west of Fire Island Inlet, with the better action reported around Breezy Point. Vinny Radziul Jr. reported catching several stripers off Long Beach on clams, with most fish in the single digits. The number of stripers has continued to increase as were reports of fish caught in the western Sound.
The ocean water temperatures have risen only a few degrees and remain below 50 degrees during April. This has kept the bulk of the stripers to the south awaiting the water temperatures to climb into the mid-50s. There are bunker in the South Shore bays which will provide plenty of forage fish to hold the stripers when they arrive.
The traditional weakfish season starts when the dogwoods bloom, which is still a few week away. Expect the weakfish to arrive when the bays and canals all around the Island when the inshore water temperatures reach 55 degrees. The bluefish should arrive in the bays at the same time or, slightly after, the weakfish along with some porgies and sea bass.
With the charter boats on hold, and some areas open and others closed, give your local tackle shop a call for the latest updates as well as fishing advice.
During April, trout continued to be stocked in many of the ponds and streams and should wrap up soon. In areas where access has not been closed, trout fishing has been good, with brown and rainbow trout up to 14 inches long being caught on worms, Power Baits, small swimmers, and spinners, as well as streamers.
There were no reports of offshore bottom fishing for cod, haddock, pollock and ling as of late as the generally windy conditions made offshore fishing difficult. With the planned opening of the recreational marinas, thereby allowing more private boats to be placed in the water, expect reports of good bottom fishing soon.
Southeastern New York
As water temperatures rise, trout stocking picked up in mid-April with many streams being stocked by Region 3 fisheries staff, as volunteers are not being used for fish stocking.
In the Hudson and Delaware rivers, anglers were targeting striped bass and their bait, blue herring. Waters remained cool but should be warming up.
With seasons for northern pike and walleye opening on May 2, anglers should be hitting the St. Lawrence River hard in the early days of May.
Western New York
Lake Erie and tributaries
Perch fishing has been very good as of late, according to local reports. Recently, Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga, fished out of Cattaraugus Creek and found his best fishing to be in 55-58 feet of water. One tip he shared was to use about a 2-ounce sinker and smash it down into the mud to stir things up a little. Then slowly lift your bait a foot or two, repeating over and over. They will hit on the rise, according to Rustowicz.
Capt. Joe Fonzi, of Gasport, reports good success on smallmouths around Buffalo harbor and in the upper Niagara River from 18 to 31 feet of water. Gold and chartreuse blade baits caught most of the fish for him and his son, Morgan. Two fish were over 5 pounds. He also did well on perch between the Catt and Sturgeon Point from 48 to 65 feet of water. Lots of fish out there.
With fish stocking taking place both in the Great Lakes waters and inland waters, please take note that there are special distinctions between both areas. The Great Lakes waters include lakes Erie and Ontario and the tributaries up to the first impassible barrier (such as a dam). Trout and salmon that are stocked there as fingerlings and yearlings follow a certain protocol – put, grow and take. They are not meant to be taken immediately after they are stocked in places like the Wilson or Olcott harbors.
For the Lake Ontario basin, the minimum size for browns, rainbows and Pacific salmon is 15 inches in length. Some people have been catching and keeping trout well under that size close to shore. There are certainly more regulations than just these, such as new rules in the tributaries for brown trout (one per person) and rainbow/steelhead (one per person with a minimum size of 25 inches).
The big news is that there has finally been reports of smelt being taken in the Niagara River. While Lewiston Landing (sanddocks) didn’t produce anything, anglers did get some at Artpark to the south and from docks to the north. Best time was after 11 p.m.
Fishing in the lower river for trout continues to be good depending on who you talk to. Steelhead, brown trout and lake trout are all being caught by anglers fishing from boat and shore. Water visibility was about 5-6 feet. Spinners from shore are still producing trout in the gorge. Boaters are drifting minnows, egg sacs or running plugs like Kwikies or MagLips off three-way rigs. Bass are starting to turn on as the waters warm up, both in the lower and upper rivers. It was around 45 degrees this week.
Some more exciting news is that the king salmon fishing has started to turn on in Lake Ontario. Matt Tall, of Wilson, and Capt. Taz Morrison, out of Wilson, worked their lures in 30 to 80 feet of water to take some nice kings and lake trout. They caught kings up to 25 pounds. Conditions change almost daily with things warming up so fast. They were running stickbaits and spoons mostly, working in 46-degree surface temperature. The temperature doesn’t change much until you get out to 90 feet of water.
Lake trout are eating everything in sight. James DeGirolamo, of Derby, reports that they were fishing anywhere from 180 to 220 feet of water straight out from Olcott. They had meat rigs and spoons work and trout and salmon hit most everything, but spoons are the way to go.
Terry Swann, of Wilson, reports that bullheads are biting at the Wilson-Tuscarora Park boat launch and in the West Branch of 12-mile Creek. Worms and shrimp seem to be the bait of choice. A few nice perch are showing up too. Pier action has been good for trout in both Wilson and Olcott. Spoons and spinners or live bait under a float work best. Tributary action has slowed a bit and with recent rains, with more being forecasted for the end of April. It will probably muddy things up and create higher flows. Stay safe out there!
The Olcott launch ramp opened back up in mid-April, but there are no workers or amenities. Action out in the lake continues to be good for salmon and lake trout in 50 to 70 feet of water, according to Roy Letcher, of Newfane. Wilson has been a hot spot of late. Spoons and stickbaits are both working to take fish. Wade Winch, of North Tonawanda, launched his boat at Fort Niagara and hit the Niagara Bar for some Easter action. He hit 3 kings, an Atlantic salmon and a lake trout using DW Orange Crush spoons 60 to 80 feet down over 200 to 220 feet of water. Try netting a king salmon by yourself on a boat if you are looking for a challenge.
The piers are still producing a mix of fish including some nice brown trout when the water isn’t too muddy coming out of 12- or 18-Mile Creeks. Cast spoons or stickbaits. Cooler temperatures have kept steelhead around for some possible action, drop backs who have finished with their spawning.
Water clarity has limited, but when the waters start to clear, look for good trout fishing to continue in the Niagara. Water levels have been high, especially after the winds pushed water into the eastern basin. The New York Power Authority reminds anglers that the fishing platform, the stairs leading down to the Devil’s Hole shoreline and the access stairs off Upper Mountain Road to the Reservoir are all closed at this time.
Shoreline fishing for trout is still available using spinners or other hardware, drifting eggs or egg imitations under a float in the clearer water tight to shore.
The Spring LOC Derby has been canceled for May 8-17, and the Niagara County Pro-Am Tournament set for June 5-6 has been canceled. The Erie Canal Fishing Derby originally set for July 16-26 is being postponed until July 15-25, 2021, in Niagara and Orleans counties.
Capt. Mike Sperry with Chautauqua Reel Outdoors reports that the crappies have been going strong in the canals around the lake. It’s been mostly fishing from shore. There are some boats out on the lake, too. Fish wouldn’t be on their beds yet, but it won’t be long.
One of those people in their boats was Capt. Joe Fonzi, of Gasport, who was making the rounds. He targeted perch and crappies. Perch action was good as he kept about 75 fish that were 9 inches or better. Crappies were around Bemus and size was way better than normal with fish up to 15 inches being taken. White tubes under a bobber took most of the fish.
Orleans County: Oak Orchard Tackle & Lodge reports that the cooler weather is prolonging tributary steelhead chances. Mid-April flows in Oak Orchard Creek were slightly high and mostly clear, but were expected to become dirty.
Fishing pressure remained light, with anglers finding a few scattered pods of spawning fish. Chances remain for a few fresh fish migrations or some small jack steelhead. Smallmouth bass should become more prevalent, too as the month of May progresses.
Inland Trout Fishing: Fly-fishers have seen decent action on mayfly nymphs. As creek temperatures begin to rise, look for possible hatches of midges and blue-winged olives to start up. Concentrate efforts during the warmest part of the day.
Western New York anglers have a variety of wild trout streams, stocked trout streams, lakes and ponds to choose from. Public Fishing Rights maps are available on DEC’s website, which is also where the most recent stocking data an be found.