Report from the Dock
Mid-December is often about the time when select few waters begin to button up well enough to support the first-ice anglers of the season. Each year is different, however, as Mother Nature always has a say as to when this will be. Unless it turns extremely cold, real quick, it could take a little longer for lakes to freeze over thanks to some warm weather earlier this fall as well as in late November.
1000 Islands & Black Lake
With the cooler weather pressure has subsided on the St. Lawrence River, but those who have ventured out have been rewarded with some solid late season bass and walleye fishing.
On Black Lake, anglers are watching the thermometer and the lake for the formation of ice. Some years, the lake freezes over fairly early, especially in the bays.
Remember, there is no catch-and-release season for black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) in Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties. The season closed Nov. 30.
With the late muzzleloading season ending on Dec. 13, sportsmen turn their interests to ice fishing. Some of the first waters to freeze over often include Simon Pond and other parts of Tupper Lake as well as the bays of Lake Champlain along with smaller and shallower bodies of water. Given the warmer water temperatures this fall, that could be delayed. Please be careful on early ice.
Deer season continues to get most of the attention. The Southern Zone regular season closes Dec. 13 and is followed by a 9-day late muzzleloading season (archery too) in most areas, except around Albany. Warm weather is keeping the ice at bay, but anglers will be watching places like Round Lake, Saratoga Lake and Grafton Lakes should some extremely cold weather move in.
Catskills/Southeastern New York
The border waters of the West Branch and the main stem of the Delaware River as well as the section of the East Branch of the Delaware river (below Shinhopple Bridge) are good options now for trout on spin or fly. These sections are open to anglers all year round and on a catch-and-release basis, using artificial lures only.
Fly anglers swinging larger bucktails and streamer patterns in olive, brown, and black color combinations in sizes 2 through 6. Carry some CDC Comparduns in olive and tan and blue wing olives in sizes 20 and 22 when trout looking up and taking dry flies. Spinning anglers throwing hard baits in silver/black and other darker combinations are finding good action on these rivers now.
Lower Hudson Valley anglers will find good action on the East Branch of the Croton River from the diverting reservoir to the East Branch Reservoir. This section is also open year-round and generally larger trout since the minimum length is 14 inches (daily limit of one) using artificial lures. Fly anglers using streamers mimicking rainbow and brown trout as well as streamers in brown/white and red/white combinations in sizes 4 through 8 are good choices on this river now.
Bass anglers looking for consistent fishing are finding it on the Bashakill Marsh in Orange county. Good water flows and cooler waters and less weeds are allowing anglers who have not given on up fishing the opportunity to consistently catch bass and pickerel. Shallow diving hard baits are best bets now. Just vary the speed of the retrieve to find the right speed that the fish prefer this time of year.
David Dirks, dirksoutdoors.com
Central New York
Some walleyes are still being taken by anglers casting stickbaits (minnow imitating lures) just before and after dark from shore. Just a reminder that the daily limit for walleyes on Oneida Lake is three fish, 15 inches or greater.
The flow was up and steelhead and brown trout were being taken in the river on egg sacs and beads. Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory personal flotation device zones.
Steelhead along with a few brown trout were being caught on egg sacs (blue mesh), beads, or egg imitating flies. Anglers covering water are having the best luck at this time. Just a reminder that the Upper Fly Section closed Nov. 30 and remains closed until April 1.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
All of the dock structures at the DEC boat launches have been removed so please plan accordingly. This applies to the following waters: Lake Ontario, Sandy Pond, Sodus Bay, Owasco, Skaneateles, Otisco, Seneca, Keuka, and Canandaigua lakes, Chenango, Whitney Point Reservoir, Tioughnioga and Susquehanna Rivers.
It’s that time of year when there should be some Atlantic salmon and brown trout in the tributaries. It’s very unpredictable and usually requires an angler to cover some ground to find some fish. Often rain events help trigger a run.
The fall striped bass season is winding down with the largest stripers, those over 20 pounds, moving westward into New York Bight and down the Jersey Shore. Most of the striped bass caught along the South Shore were less then 24 inches long, while those were along the North Shore averaged around 18 inches, with the occasional keeper reported.
Along the South Shore anglers reported catching stripers fishing diamond jigs from the beach or jigging them in 30 to 60 feet of water and by trolling umbrella rigs. Needlefish and poppers were also a good bet from the beach. In the South Shore inlets stripers were caught by anglers drifting eels or clams, with the outgoing tide the most productive tide. A few stripers were caught among the schools of bunker, but the better action was reported when the stripers were found feeding on schools of sand eels or bay anchovies. A few bluefish to 8 pounds were reported mixed in with the stripers. Large schools of bunker are present in the Sound, ocean, and South Shore Bays, but there are less than a few weeks ago. On occasion, bluefish to 10 pounds were reported attacking the schools of bunker in the ocean.
Anglers fishing in the Long Island Sound reported catching stripers casting tins and small poppers from the beaches and harbor jetties. A bucktail or small plastic teaser placed in front of a tin, needlefish or popper accounted for many of the stripers. Bluefish to 3 pounds were mixed in with the stripers. Stripers were also reported in the western Sound and in Lower New York Harbor by anglers drifting bunker chunks or live eels. In the back of the harbors and in the Nissequogue River schoolie stripers were caught by light-tackle anglers casting tins and bucktails as well as by anglers using flyrods. A few keeper stripers were reported chasing schools of squid in the mid-Sound.
The sea bass fishing remained very good off Montauk and Orient Points, with sea bass to 4.5 pounds common on most trips. The sea bass fishing showed signs of slowing along the wrecks in the ocean west of Montauk Point. There was a good amount of keeper codfish, a few porgies and some pollock were reported mixed in with the sea bass. The ocean artificial reefs yielded a mix of porgies, sea bass and bluefish for anglers using diamond jigs or fresh clams.
Blackfish were reported caught on the ocean wrecks and artificial reefs on green or white crabs. A few codfish were reported by anglers targeting sea bass in Block Island Sound and around Fishers Island. In the Sound, good blackfish fishing was reported by anglers fishing the rock piles with green and white crabs. Excellent blackfish was reported by anglers fishing around Montauk Point with pool winning fish approaching 10 pounds on most trips. Small blackfish, along with a few keepers, were reported by anglers fishing the South Shore inlet bridges.
A significant amount of spiny dogfish were caught on the wrecks and the artificial reefs by anglers targeting sea bass. Striped bass anglers reported catching dogfish while diamond jigging the ocean in 30 to 60 feet of water. A few sea robins were mixed in with the dogfish.
The freshwater fishing was very good for panfish, largemouth bass and yellow perch in many of the area’s lakes and ponds. Anglers fished trout worms, night crawlers as well as spinners and small plugs to catch both trout and largemouth bass. Worms were the top bait for panfish, including crappies and bluegills.
Guy Zummo, email@example.com
Western New York
Crappies have been showing up in shallow areas around structure and green weeds. Any places where crappies typically school up in spring, is also worth a shot. Small minnows or tube jigs work well for crappies. No new intel available for walleyes or muskellunge. In fall, walleyes can typically be found around weedbeds and also in the deeper holes of the north basin. Vertical jigging works well in the deep holes. Muskellunge season closed on Nov. 30.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Cattaraugus Creek has been at a ideal fishing level for more days than usual this fall and steelhead fishing has been quite good. The ideal flow range on the Catt is between 250-500 cfs. Other popular Erie tribs have fished well when flows are up, but fish have had severe lockjaw during frequent low and clear periods. 18 Mile Creek and the Chautauqua County streams are currently in prime shape with moderate flows. Lake Erie steelhead commonly hit natural baits like egg sacs or worms, trout beads, 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.
Scott Feltrinelli, of Ontario Fly Outfitters, reports that water was high and muddy everywhere after nearly an inch of rain recently fell. Small tributaries cleared and dropped from high water stages, fishing well for both browns and steelhead. Andrew Mauser, of Pittsburgh, fished Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek for a few days prior to the rain, and he enjoyed some good brown trout fishing using zonkers and egg-pattern flies. He reported limited fishing pressure at the creek. Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors, in Olcott, reports the same limited fishing pressure with brown trout and steelhead at the dam. Best baits were egg sacs, mealworms, woolly buggers, and a variety of flies.
Lake trout season is now open in the lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario. Meanwhile, Gary Laidman, of South Wales, had another magical muskie day on the Upper Niagara River fishing with Capt. Connor and Chris Cinelli, of Grand Island, just before the last round of wind. After catching fish that stretched the tape at 46.5 and 47 inches, Laidman hit his biggest of the fall this year with a 51-inch fish that sported a 27-inch girth. Muskie season is now closed in the upper Niagara River, Lake Erie, and most of the state. The only exception is the lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River.
Water clarity was affected by wind recently once again on Lake Erie, but just before those winds arrived Kurt Smutko, of North Carolina, and his 89-year-old father Dr. George Smutko, of Youngstown, managed to get out on the lower river with Capt. Joe Marra, of Lewiston. The trio had a banner day on steelhead and lake trout using beads off 3-way rigs. MagLips will also produce fish consistently off 3-way rigs. A few browns are starting to hit down river, too. From shore up in the gorge, Mike Ziehm, of Niagara Falls, reports that fish are available by casting No. 4 spinners. Beads and other egg imitations are available for shore anglers fished under floats. Egg sacs will work, too.
— Bill Hilts Jr., niagarafallsusa.com