Report from the Dock
Oct. 15 marks the closure of the season for New York’s trout species and that of landlocked Atlantic salmon. However, many waters remain open throughout the year, especially where ice fishing is permitted in the colder weather. Be sure to check regional regulations. Recent rains in New York have sure been beneficial to trout waters for late-season anglers, especially on the streams. What a great way to wrap up the season.
Northern pike and walleye fishing has remained consistent. But the smallmouth bass fishing continues to be excellent.
Seasons for trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon close on Oct. 15. However, there are many lakes, rivers and streams in both Regions 4, 5 and 6 that have year-round seasons. Be sure to consult the 2020 New York Freshwater Fishing Digest for special regulations by county.
Catskills/Southeastern New York
Generally cooler evening temperatures have provided a window of opportunity for some very good fall trout fishing in the Catskill region. As always, trying fishing in between moderate to significant fall rains to find cooperative fish. Some rivers are closed but a few remain open through the end of November and they include the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, Esopus Creek, and the East Branch of the Delaware (check your regulations before fishing as they will vary per river). Most anglers have reported good to above average fishing conditions depending on the water body. Fly anglers using grasshopper, beetle, and various ant patterns will find eager trout looking to fatten up a bit before winter. A reliable favorite for these late fall fishing opportunities is the fish a sturdy stimulator pattern dry fly (sizes 10-12) with a small nymph pattern dropper (about 18 inches off the dry fly). Use small nymph searching patterns like Pheasant Tail or Prince nymphs in sizes 16-18.
Spinning anglers will find consistent action using their favorite spinners with marabou in browns, blacks, white and yellow in mix and match colors. Spinners in sizes 1/8 ounce seem to be producing well for trout now. Be sure to vary your retrieves to find the speed that the trout prefer for best fall action. Natural baits like trout worms and salted minnows work well during this time as well.
Consistent smallmouth action is being reported up and down the Wallkill River as it flows into Orange County and through Ulster County. Smallies in the 2-3 pound range are not uncommon catches now as the bass are feeding aggressively before winter comes. Spinning anglers using smaller hard baits 1 ½ to 2 inches in length are doing well working any structure they find along the river. Don’t overlook the upper reaches of the Rondout Creek for smallmouth bass action as well.
There a many rivers and lakes in this region that are open all year round but receive far less fishing pressure after Labor Day. Great spots that are fishing well should be in your consideration set include: Upton, Sylvan and Morgan Lakes (Dutchess); Ramapo River and Hessain Lake (Rockland); White Lake, Lake Huntington (Sullivan); and the Bashakill Marsh (Orange).
David Diks, dirksoutdoors.com
Central New York
Look for walleyes in the 20 to 40 foot range by trolling or using blade baits. With the cooler conditions taking place the shore bite for walleye will hopefully be starting soon. Bass fishing has been challenging so basically just cover water and try different baits.
For bass, try 2 to 5 foot of water around the isolated clumps of vegetation with wacky rigged stickworms.
The flow was down a little but salmon being taken up around the dam and powerhouse.
Due to the current low water levels, and to ensure enough salmon make it to the hatchery for egg collection, The Lower Fly Section will remain closed until further notice.
There have been a couple of good runs of salmon lately. A lot of the activity is still taking place in the lower river (Route 81 downstream) but fish have made their way throughout the river.
Look for bass along the outside edge of weed beds with topwaters, spinnerbaits and stickworms. With the cooler weather yellow perch fishing should start to pick up.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
Lake trout are being taken in 70 to 90 foot of water by anglers vertical jigging. Trolling in 90 to 150 foot of water is also working.
Trolling down 90 feet is producing some lake trout.
Lake trout are being taken near bottom in 115 foot of water by anglers vertical jigging with white paddle tail plastics. Trolling 65 to 70 feet down over 100 to 120 foot of water with rainbow colored spoons is also working for lake trout.
Look for lake trout down 70 to 100 foot over 150 or more feet of water.
Try trolling 60 feet down with small spoons for the trout. Look for smallmouth bass and rock bass in 15 to 25 foot of water with tube jigs, drop-shot, and Ned-rigs.
Lake trout are being taken in 70 to 90 foot of water by anglers trolling or vertical jigging.
Whitney Point Reservoir
Look for walleye with stickbaits, jigs or worm harnesses in the old river channel.
Chenango, Tioughnioga and Susquehanna Rivers
Try tube jigs or topwaters along shore for the smallmouth bass. Look for walleye in the deeper holes with hair jigs.
The fluke season ended with anglers reporting improved fishing both in the bays and ocean. Fluke to 3.5 pounds were reported by many anglers fishing the South Shore Inlets and the ocean out to 80 feet of water. The fluke fishing in the Sound was very good with fish to 2 pounds common. Bucktails, spearing/squid combos and plastic lures were all productive.
The striped bass fishing improved as the water temperatures continued to drop, concentrating the bait as they gather for their fall migration. Large and numerous schools of adult bunker were schooling in the ocean from New York Bight to Montauk Point in 20 to 90 feet of water. Anglers reported catching stripers between 15 and 30 pounds and bluefish to 8 pounds while live-lining snagged bunker, trolling bunker spoons on wire line or on Mojo rigs with bunker spoons or large-plastic paddle tail lures, in and around the bunker schools. The key to success was to move from school to school until the stripers and bluefish were found feeding.
There were large schools of bay anchovies reported in the ocean from the inlet mouths to about 30 feet of water along the entire South Shore. Large schools of snappers, up to 2-pound bluefish, schoolie stripes and the occasional false albacore were reported feeding these small baitfish. South Shore surfcasters and flyrodders both reported excellent fishing when the bay anchovies, aka rain bait, were within casting range. Surfcasters reported catching striped bass to 20 pounds and bluefish to 8 pounds on fresh bunker chunks.
In the Sound and along the North Shore beaches, bluefish to 5 pounds, and stripers to 20 pounds were reported by anglers fishing bunker chunks or tossing poppers, or bunker imitation flies on a flyrod, into schools of breaking fish. A few false albacore were caught by anglers fly casting spearing imitations or casting thin tins at first light off the western Sound harbor jetties.
The fishing at the canyons and at the 100-square area was excellent this report period. Yellowfin tuna to 60 pounds, bluefin tuna to 100 pounds, and large schools of mahi were reported by boats trolling during the day and chunking at night. Anglers trolling also reported blue marlin and wahoo attacking trolling plastics and deep diving plugs. Anglers fishing in 400-feet of water reported tilefish between 5 and 15 pounds. There were few reports of sharks, but the reports that did come in were of makos less than 100 pounds caught along the 20-fathom line.
The weakfish fishing continued to slow in the Great South Bay and in the Peconics with a few fish in the 2- to 3-pound range reported in West Channel, in the Shinneock Canal, and around Jessup’s Neck. In the Peconics the porgy fishing remained strong as it did in the western Sound with limits of porgies reported, with a few porgies to 3 pounds reported. Strips of squid and sand worms were the top bait, with small bucktails tipped with squid a productive lure combo.
Anglers fishing the artificial reefs reported sea bass to keeper size, porgies, ling and a few bluefish. Anglers fishing the ocean wrecks between 90 and 120 feet of water reported sea bass to 4.5 pounds as well as a few mackerel and bluefish. In all areas, fresh skimmer clams were the top bait.
Inside the bays and harbors, large blowfish and snappers were caught from many docks and piers. The blowfish were caught on small pieces of clams or worms and the snappers on tins and snapper poppers. Many of the bays and creeks have large schools of peanut bunker, many of which were holding snappers to 12-inches long.
The freshwater fishing remained strong with the cooler and clearer water making the largemouth bass and panfish active. The panfish were cooperative throughout the report area, with trout worms, small spinners and fly-cast streamers were all productive. The best largemouth bass fishing was reported from the East End lakes and the Peconic River, where a few pickerel were also reported.
Western New York
Anglers are catching decent numbers of walleye by jigging along weed edges and around the rims of the deeper holes in the north basin. Look for musky fishing to heat up as water temperatures drop. Anglers can target muskellunge along weedlines, or suspended 10-15 feet down over 20-35 feet of water. Fishing along weed edges and in pockets with live minnows and worms is a good bet for a mix of yellow perch, white perch, white bass and bluegill.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Inclement weather greatly limited Lake Erie outings this past week. Previously, the waters off Cattaraugus Creek were the top option for walleye and yellow perch. Depths of 70-85 feet of water have been productive for suspended walleye, 60-70 feet down. Walleye fishing is reportedly slow off Barcelona, Sturgeon Point and Buffalo. Anglers are reporting decent to good yellow perch catches off the Catt in 60-65 feet of water. Roving perch schools are scattered, so some searching is required.
Stream temperatures are looking good for steelhead to move into the creeks, but most stream levels remain low. The recent rain has helped, although smaller stream levels did not come up very much. Additional precipitation should be more impactful. Cattaraugus Creek currently has moderate, stained flow. The Catt is a top option when conditions permit as it was previously producing steelhead catches in the lower section. Eighteenmile Creek currently has slightly low flow, while Canadaway and Chautauqua Creeks remain low. Anglers can target staging steelhead off the Cattaraugus Creek breakwall (at mouth) or by wading off creek mouths and casting spoons and spinners.
Heavy rains and cooler temperatures should trigger runs of fish in the tributaries off Lake Ontario, especially at 18 Mile Creek and Burt Dam. Roy Letcher of Newfane reports that some salmon can be found scattered in 18 Mile Creek now, with limited numbers at the dam. Use salmon skein under a float in the creek, using a small boat to gain access to the deeper holes. Fisherman’s Park at Burt Dam is open, but they are not charging yet for parking. Cost will remain at $3/person when they do open, when the fish arrive in any numbers. Off the piers, Letcher prefers J-13 Rapalas or casting Moonshine and Cleo spoons. Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott reports that pier action has been decent in Olcott for a mix of salmon, trout, and pike. Glow in the dark spoons were the hot ticket from her shop. If you are able to make it into the lake this weekend, head to deep water for more stable conditions, 400 to 500-foot depths and beyond. Target the top 100 feet of water with spoons. You can also try and target mature kings staging off the piers in Wilson and Olcott. Perch action in Wilson was good this week according to Evarts.
Lower Niagara River action for salmon has finally turned on according to Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston. Devil’s Hole area has been a good place to be, either off the NYPA fishing platform or from a boat drifting with treated egg skein. Boaters were doing better last week, but they are still catching fish from both spots. Casting glow spoons, spinners or Rat-L-Traps will work. Walleyes and bass are hitting downriver and on the Niagara Bar. Popular drifts in the river include Stella’s and Peggy’s Eddy, as well as the Coast Guard. Be forewarned that there is some regular maintenance taking place along some of the Artpark trails in the gorge for some scaling work. The upper trail is closed, but the lower trail is partially open including ¾ of that trail and the 3 designated fishing areas. Lake trout season closes Oct. 1. If you do catch any lake trout moving into the river to spawn, make sure you release the fish quickly and without harm to them. The season will re-open December 1. In the upper river, Capt. Connor Cinelli of Grand Island reports that bass fishing has been good around Strawberry Island. The crab bite has switched to a shiner bite. Some perch have been showing up, with a lot of little ones mixed in with some nice keepers. Remember that Canadian waters are still closed from any kind of fishing from this side of the border.