Western New York
Ice fishing: It’s been a good ice fishing year so far but you will really want to be very careful out there, giving the roller coaster weather. The ice in Olcott Harbor can be affected by excessive flow coming through the Eighteen Mile Creek system. At last check Wilson had up to 6 inches of ice. There was quite a bit of open water at Burt Dam and Eighteen Mile Creek, and better flows should be pulling in some fresh fish into the system. Anglers were reporting steelhead with the occasional brown trout mixed in. White or black jigs tipped with a wax worm and fished under a float was working for Greg Schloerb of Amherst.
Lower Niagara River: Fishing for trout and walleye has been surprisingly good. While melting snow, runoff and rain can muddy things up for a bit, there were plenty of trout available from boat or shore. If you are fishing from shore, again, extreme caution should be taken in the gorge area where most of the fishing is taking place. Jigs seem to be the bait of choice right now. From boat, the Lewiston launch ramp is the easiest access to get you on the water. Fish can be caught from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar. Steelhead, brown trout, lake trout and walleye were all being caught with regularity and the bait you use is dependent upon conditions. If the wind is out of the south or southwest, use a lure like a MagLip or Kwikfish off a three-way rig. If the drift is slower, use a minnow or an egg sac. Several reports came in from boaters catching a limit of trout and walleye. If you do target walleye, remember that you’re only allowed one fish per angler from Jan. 1 to March 15.
Lake Erie tributaries and harbors: Cattaraugus Creek was dropping fast and may be fishable by now. All other Lake Erie tributaries were in good fishing shape at last check. The open sections of Barcelona and Dunkirk harbors were also trout options. When the harbors were ice covered anglers were catching some steelhead.
Lake Ontario tributaries: Eighteenmile and Oak Orchard Creeks were open below the dams and flows have dropped back to fishable levels. Ice has been flushed out of the smaller creeks, as well.
Chautauqua Lake: Anglers reported varying ice thickness. There was upward of 10 inches of ice, but many thinner spots too. Use caution when moving around. Anglers were finding some decent walleye action around the north basin, and walleye have been most active during low-light periods. Depths of 30-35 feet were a good starting point. Jigging Rapalas and vertical jigging spoons tipped with a small minnow or grub are good walleye offerings. Keeper-sized yellow perch remained tough to find in most places. The flats off Mayville have produced some better sized perch, along with decent numbers of sunfish.
Buffalo Harbor: Ice in the inner harbor was 10-12 inches thick at last check. Anglers were catching mostly smaller sunfish and yellow perch, with the occasional keeper. Anglers were also exploring the sheltered bays and channels to the north and south of the harbor.
Silver Lake: The lake had good ice of 10-12 inches at last report. Anglers were catching plenty of yellow perch in deeper waters of 30-35 feet. Jigs with grubs or Maki plastics produced decent numbers of 8-9.5 inch perch. There were decent numbers of sunfish around the weedy south end, but fish were tight-lipped. Downsizing to a small jig and single spike has been productive. Tip-ups with shiners produce the occasional northern pike.
Orleans County: Oak Orchard Creek was slightly stained at last look. Anglers able to get a drift down and slow were having some action on steelhead, and a few fresh fish were reported. A return of winter weather likely cleared water conditions a bit. Fishing pressure has been moderate. Middle and upper reaches were pretty well open to fish and anglers have scored a few steelhead and brown trout hook-ups. Downstream reaches may still have some ice and ice jams.
Central New York
Oneida Lake: Anglers have been getting out around the lake with walking, and dragging sleds, conditions improving. Ice thickness ranged from 10 to 12 inches at last report. Watch out for areas of running water and for enlarged pressure cracks if deciding to venture out. Walleye were being taken around the lake, with the most consistent action on the east end and north shore. The yellow perch bite has been good at times.
Oswego River: High flows at last look, so much so it made shore fishing difficult if not impossible. Anglers getting out in drift boats were catching steelhead and a few brown trout.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: Nothing to report due to high flows of late.
Sandy Pond: Anglers were getting out, with ice thickness reports ranging from 12 to 14 inches at last check, and yellow perch and northern pike being caught.
Sodus and Irondequoit bays: Anglers are getting out on both waters. Sodus has reports of 8 to 10 inches, with walking conditions being good. Yellow perch fishing remained good. No ice thickness reports for Irondequoit but fishing has been slow; a lot of gizzard shad were being seen by anglers using underwater cameras.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
Keuka Lake: Anglers were scoring consistently on lake trout when there was safe ice, but the warmup late last month could have affected conditions greatly.
Cayuga Lake: Prior to the melt and rain anglers were getting out on the north end, with ice thickness reports ranging from 6 to 10 inches. Haven’t heard much lately.
Skaneateles Lake: The DEC launch has been closed for the season. Anglers are getting out on the north end but no ice thickness reports at this time.
Owasco Lake: A few days without wind finally helped to get some ice to form on Owasco. But we don’t have any safe ice reports.
Otisco Lake: Use caution along the shore, but anglers have been back out on the north end with 5 to 7 inches of ice being reported at last look. The bluegill bite has been a little slower of late. Keep an eye on changing conditions and use caution if you take to the ice.
Conesus Lake: Ice apparently survived the warmup. Anglers can target northern pike, tiger muskellunge and largemouth bass in shallower areas with tip-ups and shiners. The bluegill fishing is generally best at the north end off Vitale Park. Anglers may have to weed through smaller bluegills for modest numbers of keepers.
Honeoye Lake: The sunfish and yellow perch bite had slowed a bit at the south end. Tip-ups with shiners produce largemouth bass and chain pickerel. When cooperating, larger yellow perch are a better bet in deeper areas over 20 feet. The odd walleye catch is also possible, including some hefty fish.
Canadice Lake: There were reportedly some thin-ice spots in the south end shallows, so use caution. Lake trout were available over deeper water. Jigging with spoons is a good bet. Anglers catch smelt in mid to upper water column after dark. Target suspended smelt schools with small glow jigs tipped with single spike or wax worm.
Whitney Point Reservoir: Anglers were getting out on the reservoir, with ice thickness reports ranging from 10 to 12 inches. As of mid-January the Kieble Road gate was still closed.
This is the last issue of New York Outdoor News before the scheduled New York State Crappie Derby on Saturday, Feb. 17. For updates on the status of the popular event, go online to www.crappiederby.com.
Chenango, Chemung, Tioughnioga and Susquehanna rivers: No new information to report for these waters at this time as the rivers were running high after the warmup.
Tupper Lake: Plenty of ice, and a few pike.
Lake Champlain: Plenty of options on the big lake, with safe ice in the traditional spots at the northern and southern end, as well as South Bay. Not hearing a lot on the quality of the fishing except perch action is running hot and cold, which is not surprising.
Schroon Lake: Safe ice at last check, but fishing had been slow. It’s been our experience to get their early and drill your holes right at sunrise.
Piseco Lake: Ice was good at last check, and likely getting better. Plenty of lakes, most on the short side.
The ground fishing for codfish, ling, pollock and conger eels was better during the middle of the report period, as the action slowed during the full and new moon periods at the beginning and end of this report period. The full and new moon periods speed up the currents along the bottom, making it difficult to hold the bottom when at anchor. This was mostly an issue for the boats fishing out of Montauk Point as they tend to anchor over reefs and rockpiles in and around Block Island Sound. Despite the currents, most boats reported a handful of keeper cod with a mix of ling and pollock.
Overall the boats running out of Shinnecock and Moriches inlets did better than the Montauk Point boats, as they typically drift in 120 to 150 feet of water, using either fresh skimmer clams or diamond jigs. Most of the keeper cod in all areas ranged between 10 and 20 pounds, with a few just over the 20-pound mark. Most boats reported about 5-7 fish per angler about average. On most days the cod to pollock ratio was about 3 to 1, with diamond jigging outfishing clams for the pollock. The pollock were about the same average size as the cod, but relatively few over 20 pounds were reported. The King Cod running out of Shinnecock Inlet reported that it has caught a big white hake or two on each trip, some to 15 pounds.
The boats fishing New York Bight were reporting excellent mackerel fishing, with the top anglers catching 75 or more per trip. The codfish boats out of Sheepshead Bay were reporting mixed cod results, with ling and conger eels rounding out the catches. Dogfish did not seem to be much of a problem out of any port this report period.
The freshwater lakes and ponds have enough open water that anglers did well fishing wax worms for perch and bluegills. A few brown and rainbow trout were caught on trout worms, Berkley trout baits and small spinners.
Lake George: The big lake generally survived a warmup late last month and is offering good conditions. Vets Park has been a hotspot for perch and the occasional laker.
Saratoga Lake: We know the ice is decent, but we haven’t heard of much fish catching lately.
Southeastern New York
The region’s hard-water options can change quickly, as evidenced by the warmup last month that put some waters off limits due to sketchy conditions. Always use caution when you head out.
When conditions allow, however, there are some good options available. Among them:
Ulster County: Chodikee Lake, Onteora Lake and Louisa Pond.
Sullivan County: Morningside Lake, Mongaup Pond, Lake Superior, Swinging Bridge Reservoir and White Lake.
Orange County: Glenmere Lake, Round Lake, Walton Lake and Greenwood Lake.
Dutchess County: Upton Lake, Stissing Pond and Sylvan Lake.
Putnam County: White Pond, East Branch Reservoir, Canopus Lake, Bog Brook Reservoir, Middle Branch Reservoir and Lake Gilead.
Westchester County: Muscoot Reservoir, Titicus Reservoir and Cross River Reservoir.
Not hearing much now, and it will likely stay that way until the April 1 trout opener.
St. Lawrence River: Lake Of the Isles has been the hottest perch spot lately, with an occasional northern as a bonus – or unwanted surprise.
Black Lake: Milearm Bay was yielding crappies, but a lot on the small side. It’s probably worth a look to try for perch at Chapman’s Sports in Hammond.
Chaumont Bay: The bay’s ice survived a brief warmup, and anglers were getting out and catching some fish, including some big walleye (see photo).