Report from the Dock
It takes more than a few cold nights and days with temperatures below freezing to create enough ice to cover a lake. There also needs to be a lack of wind. As the headline implies, ice is in short supply across New York and anglers who are finding it, and some fish, are keeping the details in their back pockets. DEC once again has issued a release advising anglers to be safe and use good judgment when it comes to ice safety. They’ve also released several new fishing regulation proposals (see cover) that anglers should be sure to comment on. If you must fish, consider the fact that New York’s trout streams are open for the first time during the winter months to catch-and-release fishing opportunities, or consider (safely) boating on warmer, calmer days. Many anglers are doing just that.
1000 Islands Region
Folks were still waiting for the lake to lock up.
Walleyes are holding on the downstream side of main river points in hard bottom areas 20 to 45 feet deep. Perch are still hitting flathead minnows fished on the bottom at 17 to 25 feet. Some skim ice has formed in the very back of slack water bays off the main river, but the warmer air temps are preventing any decent ice coverage, so proceed with extreme caution.
Fortune favors the bold and Frank Kohlbach, of Pondskipper Fishing Adventures, was out recently doing very well pulling Walleye Nation Creations stickbaits rigged at 111 feet behind in-line planner boards at 1.7-mph catching walleyes, lake trout and northern pike. He targeted the 15- to 25-foot zone for the best results.
New York Fishing Adventures reports the pickerel bite remains very consistent in Sackets Harbor and Henderson Harbor using 3- and 4-inch Keitech swimbaits rigged on 1⁄8- or ¼-ounce jig heads. These fish are being caught from shore or while boating, with the best depth being the 9- to 14-foot zone where anglers cast out, count it down to seven or eight, and employ a steady retrieve. You can reasonably expect to catch 8 to 15 fish for a few hour’s effort.
Captain Burnie Haney, New York Fishing Adventures, burniehaney.com
Adirondacks, Capital District/Upper Hudson Valley
There are some social media and other reports of anglers getting on the ice, and catching some fish, but the locations have remained a secret. The interior of the Adirondacks and areas at higher elevations are more likely to have ponds iced over, especially if the forecast for cold weather holds. Otherwise, the lack of cold weather continues to plague ice conditions. Some anglers are going out in their boats on calmer days, where they would normally be ice fishing.
Catskills/Southeastern New York
Recent warming trends have made fishing on most Catskill rivers accessible – especially on the Beaverkill and the Willowemoc where water flows have generally been ideal. With most shops not posting updated seasonal information, you have to check water temperatures and flows before you commit to a Catskill trip. This writer been actively fishing several Catskill rivers and have seen a few hardy souls out there taking advantage of the new regulations that allow trout fishing (catch & release only). On rivers like the Beaverkill, Willowemoc and Neversink, smaller trout fly presentations are the key to success.
Searching nymph patterns like the Hare’s Ear, Prince, and Pheasant tail in sizes 16 and 18 are solid choices for this time of year. Some anglers are mixing it up with two-fly droppers using a midge pattern of your choice as the bottom fly. The Zebra midge (in sizes 18-22) is a personal choice for any winter fishing. Stick to the slower and deeper runs this time of year for fly presentations and fish each area slowly and thoroughly. Adjust your expectations to catching a good fish or two during any winter outing.
Central New York
The South Shore docks have been removed. When conditions are right, anglers fishing stickbaits right before and after dark from shore are still getting some walleyes. Anglers getting out in boats are doing well on yellow perch in the east end.
For steelhead and brown trout try egg sacs, beads, or pink worms, either bottom bounced or fished under a float. Remember there are mandatory personal flotation device zones on the river.
Steelhead are being caught throughout the river but with the recent higher water a lot of the activity has been in the upper river. Try egg sacs, beads, or pink worms fished under a float or bottom bounced, if fly fishing try egg imitating fly patterns.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
The Route 34B bridge over Salmon Creek remains under construction. No access is allowed.
Skaneateles Lake, Otisco Lake, Owasco Lake, Sandy Pond, Seneca Lake, Keuka Lake, Canandaigua Lake, Sandy Pond, Sodus Bay, Whitney Point Reservoir, Chenango, Tioughnioga and Susquehanna Rivers
Finger Lakes Tributary fishing ended Dec. 31. DEC reports no safe ice at press time.
The freshwater fishing was very good with anglers targeting stocked trout, pickerel and panfish. Anglers reported catching trout using worms, trout baits, small spinners, and spoons. Fly-rodders did well using small streamer, woolly buggers, and nymphs fished slowly in the deeper spots of the lakes and streams that were part of the DEC fall trout stocking program.
Pickerel and panfish were active but the key to a successful day was fishing during the warmest and sunniest parts of the day when the fish were there most active. The panfish – bluegills, yellow perch, crappies, and white perch – responded best to worms fished close to the bottom. Live minnows fished on the edges of weed beds close to drop-offs to deeper water was the top pick for pickerel.
Anglers targeting white perch reported good fishing in the brackish water on both the North and South Shores. Small marabou jigs, spoons, and spinners were productive, but the top choice were worms or grass shrimp fished under a bobber. White perch are schooling fish and tend to move in and out of areas depending on the tide. Once the pattern is established, the action is predictable. Anglers fishing from kayaks often had the advantage over shore anglers as they were able to follow the schools of white perch as they moved in and out of the brackish waters. Fly-anglers did well fishing small streamer once the schools of white perch were found.
A few small striped bass were reported mixed in with the white perch. Anglers also reported catching a few small stripers, typically under 18-inches long, along the ocean beach fronts and North Shore beaches. Small tins and plastic baits were the top producers.
The offshore bottom fishing for cod, pollock, haddock, sea bass, and ling was excellent with anglers targeting wrecks or offshore rockpiles and reefs. The species caught depended on the depth of the water and area fished. Pollock and haddock were more common east of Shinnecock Inlet and ling in New York Bight. Clams were the were the top bait, with jigs productive when the conditions permitted.
Guy Zummo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Western New York
Not much to report as things are in the transition period between open water and ice fishing seasons.
Lake Erie and tributaries
Angler pressure on the tributaries has tapered off some, but good fishing prospects remain. Recent steelhead action has been pretty good, including some fresh “chromers” spread throughout the system. Cattaraugus Creek is still high and muddy, while Buffalo and Cayuga Creeks are slightly high but fishable. All other Erie County and Chautauqua County streams were at or near prime condition the first week in January. Forecasted rain and snow will likely have streams on the rise. In colder water conditions, drifting techniques with egg sacs, trout beads, egg flies, jigs and nymphs fished at the bottom is a dependable approach. Slow down the drift and target tail-outs, seams and current breaks.
Tributary action off Lake Ontario saw can up-tick in fresh fish after recent rains. Trout are being caught, although fishing pressure has been limited. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen to the tributaries with rain and snow forecasted. Stay safe out there!
It is important to remember that the daily creel limit on walleyes changes after the first of the year to March 15 to help protect large females. The daily limit drops from three to one fish with a size limit of 18 inches.
In the lower river, steelhead and lake trout are both being caught in the section below Niagara Falls – from the gorge to the Niagara Bar. Lisa Drabczyk, of Creek Road Bait and Tackle, in Lewiston, reports lake trout action on the Niagara Bar has been good. Steelhead and brown trout have been hitting in and around Artpark. For the boat guys, live bait like minnows and shiners are working well along with Kwikfish and MagLips fished off three-way rigs. Shore guys are using spinners and jigs, as well as egg sacs and beads and fished under a float.
Capt. John DeLorenzo, of Niagara Falls, sends word that even though the water is finally clearing, the steelhead fishing has still been a little picky – probably because the river is full of bait. He’s never seen so many birds feasting on minnows and large numbers of baby smelt. The best bait for him has been beads but he recently switched to B-n-R soft beads in chartreuse, peach, orange and pink, very effective for him. The Bar has been pretty good recently using golden shiners. He has been catching mostly lakers, but a few nice brown trout have started to show up there, too. Hair jigs and blade baits have also been good to use.
Frank Campbell, email@example.com
Canal seasonal feed and winter drainage water is done or nearly done and the trib levels remain up thanks to the natural run of the river contributions. Flows in the Oak are slightly high with 1 to 2 feet of stained visibility. A good head of turbine water lending fishy water and cover for fish to be anywhere in the water course they would want to be.
It sounds like guys have had some better steelhead action. Look for post spawn browns to be redistributed through the waterways and the chance for some fresher steelhead. All the waterways are wide open to fish with no icing to worry about for now. Fishing pressure is light to moderate with what looks like a few guys here and there probably enjoying holiday time off..
— Ron Bierstine, Oak Orchard Tackle & Lodge