Report from the Dock
Nov. 30 is a big date on New York’s fishing calendar. Most notably, it marks the closing of the regular bass season in New York. It’s also the closing date for striped bass fishing on inland rivers and as well as muskellunge statewide and tiger muskies in certain areas around the Great Lakes. Be sure to check New York’s Freshwater Fishing Guide for specifics. The early-November warm spell found anglers fishing in summer-like conditions for a brief period and was keeping water temperatures warm.
The recent warm spell resulted in some decent smallmouth bass fishing on the St. Lawrence river, while this generally a good time to fish for largemouth bass. Keep in mind that fishing for black bass (including catch & release) is prohibited in St. Lawrence outside of the open season which ends on Nov. 30.
Adirondacks & Capital District
The Indian Summer weather of early November not only provided some comfortable fishing conditions, but has also helped keep waters warm, likely prolonging ice-making. Lake trout heading to spawn are providing some decent shore fishing in deeper lakes, a fall ritual.
Catskills/Southeastern New York
Anglers on the Esopus are reporting consistent catches of spawning brown trout up and down the river. Cold mountain nights make the best time to fish now from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the warmer parts of the day or days when sun can warm water temperatures. Spinning anglers using hardbaits targeting deeper hopes and sections of the Esopus will find it the most efficient way to find browns.
Another great set of trout options now – with far less angler fishing pressure – are the border waters of the West Branch and the Main Stem of the Delaware River. These sections are open to anglers all year and on a catch-and-release basis, using artificial lures only. Check your local regulations before fishing. It’s a good time to swing some larger bucktails and streamer patterns in olive, brown, and black color combinations in sizes 2 through 6.
David Dirks, dirksoutdoors.com
Central New York, Finger Lakes & Southern Tier
It’s that time of year again when many anglers are putting down the fishing gear and heading to the woods. Many of the dock structures at the DEC boat launches have been removed, so, please plan accordingly.
Overall, anglers fishing the East End have been concentrating their efforts on the excellent sea bass and blackfish fishing, while anglers fishing the western Sound and east of Shinneock Inlet have been targeting the schools of stripers that have been working their way to the west.
The striped bass fishing remained good to excellent depending on the day and location as the stripers are migrating from east to west. Along the South Shore, the largest stripers were most often reported west of Jones Inlet and improving toward New York Bight, where stripers to 40 pounds were reported. The best action was reported in 30 to 45 feet of water, with reports of stripers as deep as 70 feet on certain days. A few bluefish were mixed in with the stripers in all areas. First light was the most productive time in most areas.
The stripers are feeding on adult bunker as well as on bay anchovies, aka rain bait. The smaller stripers, those 28-inches and less were focused on the bay anchovies, which allowed anglers jigging diamond and free-fall jigs, casting tins and flies, to experience very good action when the fish were attacking the schools of baitfish. Anglers trolling umbrella rigs, with red or white tubes the top color, reported catching schoolie to 28-inch stripers along with the occasional 20 pounder. There were a lot of dogfish caught on jigs and on bunker chunks.
Larger stripers, many over 30 pounds, were reported on bunker spoons trolled using wire line or via a mojo rig, along with large shad bodied lures also fished on a mojo rig, along the ocean beach fronts in 30 to 40 feet of water, on the Tin Can Grounds and into New York Harbor. Excellent striper fishing was reported into Jamaica Bay by anglers casting plugs or flies. Bunker live-lined on a weighted treble hook or on a large circle hook, and fresh bunker chunks, accounted for many of the stripers larger than 30 pounds in most areas. Anglers fishing inside the South Shore Inlets and in the back bays around Massapequa Cove reported keeper stripers taking whole skimmer clams and live eels.
Surfcasters reported mostly schoolie stripers along the ocean beaches with the occasional teen sized striper. Tins and diamond jigs were the top lure, with pencil poppers accounting for fish when at first light and when the stripers were pushing bait onto the surface. Anglers surf casting the north and south sides of Montauk Point report good action on schoolie stripers using tins, bucktails, darters and poppers.
Along the North Shore most of the striped bass reports were from anglers targeting stripers from the beaches or jigging from boats along the beaches. The fish were typically schoolie bass between 3 and 8 pounds as well as a few bluefish. Tins, diamond jigs, bucktails, poppers and small swimming plugs were all productive. Excellent striper fishing was reported in the back of the harbors and inlets for anglers using a fly rod as the stripers are feeding on small baits, predominately bay anchovies and peanut bunker.
The sea bass fishing remained very good on the deeper wrecks, those in 90-feet of water and deeper, off Montauk and Orient Points, in Block Island Sound, and to a lesser degree on the ocean artificial reefs which tend to get fished hard. Pool fish were typically around 4 pounds with a few to 6 pounds reported. A few porgies and ling were mixed in with the sea bass. Fresh clams and diamond jigs were all productive.
The blackfish fishing remained good to very good with a blackfish to 8 pounds being consistently reported on both forks of the East End and in New York Bight, with pool fish often in the double digits. Blackfish to 4 pounds were reported inside the South Shore inlets and North Shore harbors around the bridges, rock piles and stone jetties. Green crabs were the top bait in all areas. Blackfish were also reported by anglers targeting sea bass using clams under the South Shore inlet bridges.
The best combo blackfish and sea bass fishing trips were reported of the North Fork where sea bass approaching 6 pounds as well as blackfish to 10 pounds were reported consistently. Green and white crabs remained the top baits for the bigger blackfish and sea bass, with calms accounting for a greater number of sea bass as well as some porgies. Anglers reported a few codfish to 15 pounds caught when targeting blackfish and sea bass in Block Island Sound and near Fisher’s Island.
There were some reports of giant tuna off Montauk Point and to the west. Bluefin were reported from Jones Inlet to Montauk Point by anglers targeting stripers from both the beach and surf. Off Montauk Point, the bluefins, many over 100 pounds, were seen crashing the surface attacking sand eels and other baits. Brown and thresher sharks were caught by anglers drifting live bunker targeting striped bass in the ocean, as well as by anglers casting bunker chunks from the ocean beaches.
The freshwater fishing has improved with the warm air temperatures and bright sunshine putting the fish on the feed. Panfish were the most cooperative fish with trout worms, Power Baits, small spinners and for the fly-rodders, bead head nymphs and streamers, all producing well. A few largemouth baits were reported taking small poppers at first light and late afternoons as well as plastic baits during the day. A few trout were reported on worms and PowerBaits.
Guy Zummo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Western New York
Target walleyes around weedbeds during low light periods and by vertical jigging around the deeper holes in the north basin during the day. Target late-season muskies by casting large stickbaits or musky spinners along weedlines. Anglers can search for fall congregations of crappie in the same spots as they are found in spring, such as in canals, off canal mouths and around shallow structure. Small minnows or tube jigs work well for crappie.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Steelhead seem to running a bit bigger on average this year, compared to the previous two. Fishing action has slowed this week on falling stream levels. Cattaraugus Creek is running at about 400 feet per second at report time, but is still a touch cloudy. The Catt should be in prime fishing shape through the weekend. All other tributaries are running low and clear. With no rain in the forecast, look for levels to go even lower. Downsize baits, lines and move stealthily if fishing those streams. Lake Erie steelhead commonly hit natural baits like egg sacs or worms, flies including egg imitations, black stone flies, nymphs, streamer and bugger patters, and lures such as minnow-type stickbaits, in-line spinners and small spoons.
For the Lake Ontario tributaries, Karen Evarts with the Boat Doctors in Olcott reports that there are still some salmon around, along with browns and steelhead. The combination of Erie Canal water releases and recent rains finally created some decent flows, and with it brought in some additional fish. Beads, wax worms, spikes, trout worms and egg sacs are all being talked about by anglers and there has not been much fishing pressure at 18 Mile Creek and Burt Dam. Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports he picked up a mixed bag of trout recently in some of the smaller creeks that have been pulsed with Erie Canal water, using a large bead head woolie bugger in olive. He fished it “on the swing,” casting and letting the fly slide across the creek at a 3/4 angle. Wilson Harbor was doing well on perch, bluegill, and the occasional brown trout according to Evarts.
Fishing is a little unsettled after a windstorm that brought in gusts that neared 70 mph and additional winds that continued for several days, Lake Erie was one riled up mess that created some muddy conditions that impacted Niagara River water quality. Prior to the blow, Joe Yaeger, of Amherst, reported that trout action was good to very good from his boat. His hot bait was 10 mm Lazy Larry’s hot yellow translucent beads fished off three-way rigs. Catches were split between lake trout and steelhead. Capt. Pete Alex, of Erie, Pa., passed along that he had a couple great days of fishing with his friend Capt. Ken Nulph of Pittsburgh. They were 21 for 29 one day and the next day they were 18 for 26 on trout. Almost 80 percent of all their fish were caught on beads, 10 percent on brown trout egg sacs, and 10 percent on golden shiners. The beads were all Mad River brand in an 8 mm size. Best colors were chartreuse, mottled chartreuse, UV chartreuse and light orange colors. It was a mixed bag of lake trout, steelhead, and brown trout. They also caught 3 bass that were not part of their daily totals.
Shore anglers were picking up some steelhead and the occasional brown trout in Devil’s Hole and along Artpark. Beads, sacs, and spinners were being used. Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls was using a No. 5 spinner to catch both steelhead and lake trout. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls used a jig to catch walleye and trout from the shoreline and even a king salmon. Remember that lake trout season in the lower river and Lake Ontario re-opens on Dec. 1 this year – a new regulation that was passed this year. Shore fishermen are usually fishing before the boat anglers after a mud event. The NYPA fishing platform is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Also off-limits is the NYPA reservoir at Upper Mountain Road access and at reservoir park. Intake park in the upper river is also closed. Bass fishing has been crazy good from Youngstown to the Niagara Bar according to Drabczyk. Swim baits and Ned rigs or minnows and shiners. Muskellunge action in the upper river will be delayed until the water clears according to Capt. Connor Cinelli of Grand Island. Action should be good when it does. Remember that the season closes on the upper river and Lake Erie, along with most of the state, on Nov. 30. The only open waters will be the lower river and Lake Ontario, where the season will remain open through Dec. 15.
Bill Hilts Jr., niagarafallsusa.com
Winter drainage of the Erie Canal is underway. No single waterway was seeing a major rise in flows though as the drainage water is spread out through all the different tribs. Canal managers do want to see a more noticeable rise in flows in the tribs and they are working on tweaking the various gates and valves and water control devices for that result with the ultimate goal of draining the Canal. This year is after-all a pilot program and one consideration is that without this year’s Reimagine the Canals WNY water feed initiative that flows could be exceptionally lower then they are now during this continued dry and now unseasonably warm weather and that fish could be struggling without at least the water cover they have.
Look for a continued longer duration drainage scenario for some tribs and a possible rise in flows in select tribs. For example, flows could go from moderate to medium-ish in the Oak and from low to moderate in the other area smaller tribs. In the Oak, there are still plenty of Kings around and pods of green fish are still migrating yet most of the salmon fishing effort is going away. Brown trout action is fair and most guys targeting them get some hook ups everyday. One angler today said he got something like 6 hookups on mostly browns in a half days effort and that the fish were there if you worked for them. Also expect the likely daily water level fluctuations in the Oak thanks to peak leaf fall and hydropower operations. Fish can get a little spooky when flows go from low to nearly no flows but its a temporary thing and flows do rebound. As leaf fall ends the water level fluctuations will become less frequent. Fishing pressure is down some to reasonable levels again on the Oak while to the east there can be heavy pressure at the bridge pull off spots with reported good brown trout action on trophy sized fish.
— Ron Bierstine, Oak Orchard Tackle & Lodge