New York Outdoor News Fishing Report — March 10, 2017
(Fishing update: It wasn’t a great hard-water season for the ice fishing fraternity, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll find safe ice anywhere in the state at this stage of the game – certainly, given the changing conditions March typically brings, we wouldn’t feel comfortable pointing you toward any hard-water possibilities. So we’re in that in-between season now, with small-game hunting seasons generally closed, ice fishing done and open-water options fairly limited, although tributary anglers continued to score on steelhead and brown trout. But most sportsmen and women are attending the various winter outdoor and gun shows across the state, and awaiting the next big opening day – the April 1 opening of the trout season in New York.)
Western New York
Lake Ontario: Spring seems to have arrived early and boaters have started working the Lake Ontario shoreline for decent catches of smaller brown trout. Trolling with smaller stickbaits run behind planer boards is the top tactic in 6-20 feet of water. Key on areas near tributary and harbor outflows that have slightly warmer water. Watch out for floating debris. The Niagara Bar is hot and cold. It might be because there is a ton of bait around. All in the Same Boat Tackle in Newfane is running a catch and release steelhead contest that runs through March 25. Stop down to the shop to register and pick up a copy of the rules.
The Lake Ontario tributaries were in great shape at last check. The smallest streams like Keg and Twelvemile Creeks that were getting a little low. Eighteenmile Creek anglers have seen decent action for steelhead and the occasional brown trout. Anglers have also commented on catches of “nuisance” perch clear up to Burt Dam. Flows at Oak Orchard Creek have been a little high, but water clarity was good. Oak anglers have had to work for their trout catches. Johnson and Sandy Creeks had medium flows and have produced good catches of steelhead and brown trout. Egg sacs, egg flies, trout beads and grub-tipped marabou jigs are good trout offerings.
Pier sites were ice-free and offering access to a variety of fish species that congregate at the slightly warmer outflows of the harbors. Anglers could potentially hook up with steelhead, brown trout, northern pike, yellow perch, crappie and more. Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga reported banner days late last month in various tribs he worked with egg sacs.
Lower Niagara River: Lower river water conditions have been ideal and boaters have seen good trout action, including some steelhead and lake trout over 30 inches. Controlled drifting using three-way rigs with egg sacs, Kwikfish lures or shiners is the standard approach. Trout action has been picking up for shore anglers and ice is no longer a problem. Shore anglers can target trout at Artpark, Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool state parks. Drifting egg sacs, egg flies, minnows and jigs with grubs or casting spoons and spinners are common shore tactics. The New York Power Authority fishing platform is closed for the winter season.
In the Niagara River below Niagara Falls, water conditions were near perfect at last report, with mixed reports on people catching fish from boats. Some of the guys have been doing pretty good picking away at them, using whatever baits the fish want or what the conditions allow for. For example, a strong southwest wind was blowing boats down the river, so switching your minnows or egg sacs over to Kwikfish or MagLip lures seemed like the logical solution. While some fish were caught that way, it was still slower than what most anglers would have liked. Boat control is critical. It wasn’t until afternoon that the steelhead turned on in the afternoon and it was egg sacs that worked for Capt. Frank Campbell. He had a couple veteran anglers on board – Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma and veteran angler and guide Jim Hanley. Using egg sacs that had been treated with Pautzke Fire Dye. Six nice steelhead were boated between noon and 2 p.m. including several over 12 pounds by Bylsma. Shore fishermen were struggling a bit for some reason and it was probably because of the weather. Casting spoons, spinners, egg sacs or egg imitations should produce some trout from Artpark to the Whirlpool.
Upper Niagara River: Upper river waters were in good shape, with a green coloration and 2-3 feet of visibility. Anglers at Broderick Park have been catching the occasional rainbow, lake or brown trout. Anglers can target trout by drifting egg sacs and minnows, or by casting spoons and spinners. Emerald shiners are showing at foot of Sheridan, but there was no sign of them at Broderick Park or foot of Ontario Street at last check.
Lake Erie tributaries: Lake Erie tributary anglers enjoyed nice weather and improved steelhead fishing late last month. Water conditions were ideal on all but Cattaraugus Creek, which remained high and murky at last look. The bite tended to shut down fairly early on creeks that saw heavy fishing pressure. Best to get there early or get away from the pack. Egg sacs, egg flies, nymph patterns, trout beads and small jigs tipped with a wax worm (fished under a float) are good offerings. Live or salted shiners are also a good bait in the lower sections.
Lake Erie and harbors: Some boaters launched out of Cattaraugus Creek late last month in search of perch, but no good catch reports have surfaced yet. Emerald shiners have been available for dipping in the upper Niagara River at the foot of Sheridan Drive.
Buffalo Boat Harbor is now ice-free. Boaters were catching some yellow perch in the harbor, but the bite for shore anglers has been slow. Trailered and cartop boats can be launched from the ramp closest to the restaurant, but there is currently no launch dock in place. The remainder of the launch ramps and parking lots are currently a construction zone and are fenced off. Barcelona and Dunkirk harbors were ice-free. Trout sometimes show in those harbors at this time of year.
Chautauqua Lake: Chautauqua Lake’s ice sheet was melting away but was not quite ready for boats at last report. But it won’t be long. Some of the canals and shoreline areas were open. Once the open lake ice clears, there will be good walleye fishing opportunity until the season closes on March 15. Also, crappie action tends to pick up shortly after ice-out.
Silver Lake: Ice cover was quickly melting away and should be ready for boats. Crappie action was recently good near the north end for ice anglers, and is a good starting point for boaters.
Orleans County: Word has it that the Welland Canal is due to open very soon (it may even be open by now), which put the opening as one of the earliest ever. The ice is now but just a memory, so the ice fishermen have lost yet another year to warmer weather.
Fishing late last month was good to very good on both Johnson Creek and Oak Orchard, with good numbers of both brown trout and steelhead being caught. Egg sacs seemed to be the no-so-secret weapon of choice. On the lower stretches of “The Oak,” perch were being taken but you still have to sort through them to get a good catch of keepers. The ice is off Lake Alice and anglers were catching bluegill, perch and some crappie off the Kenyonville Bridge – but again, you have to sort through the smaller ones for a decent catch.
On Lake Ontario, when the winds are kind, smaller boats are working the discharges of our tributaries and picking up brown trout, steelhead and an occasional coho.
Central New York
A number of county web sites offer good information on fishing in the region, including bait shops, guides, etc. A few examples are: Onondaga County (fishonondagacounty.com); Oswego County (visitoswegocounty.com); and Wayne County (waynecountytourism.com). Oswego and Wayne counties also have a weekly fishing hotline on their web page as well.
Lake Ontario: There were brown trout and steelhead being taken in some of the tributaries, and most streams have a decent flow of water after the rain and snowmelt. There has been some ice and snow to contend with and with the warmer weather the flows will likely be increasing. Egg sacs or egg-imitating plastics are usually good bait choices.
Oswego River: The river was up due to rain and snowmelt, which is standard for this time of the year. The higher flow makes shore fishing difficult. Anglers have been getting some brown trout and steelhead.
Remember, the bridge to Leto Island is closed, and there are mandatory PFD zones on the river.
Salmon River: Steelhead fishing continued to be slow over the last few weeks but some fish are being caught on egg sacs with blue mesh, either bottom-bounced or fished under a float. Beads, nymphs and pink trout worms are also working at times. Flows have been high, which is typical for this time of year.
Sodus and Irondequoit bays: No safe ice and no new information.
Finger Lakes/Southern Tier
Cayuga Lake: Shore anglers continued to get some Atlantic salmon. When anglers can make it out in boats, they are also getting some salmon as well as lake trout when trolling. The lake level is down, so use caution when launching and retrieving boats as many of the launch sites are shallow.
Skaneateles Lake: The launch is closed for the season. Some rainbow trout were being taken by shore anglers fishing the marshmallow and worm rig.
Chenango, Tioughnioga and Susquehanna Rivers: No new fishing information to report for these waters, which were blown out and running high and muddy last week.
Whitney Point Reservoir: Nothing to report.
Tip of the Week: When putting your ice fishing gear away for the season, take a few minutes to repair any equipment that needs it and make a list of gear you need to replace or want to try for next year. There are often good sales this time of year that will save you some money, plus you will already be prepared when next year’s season starts.
Lake Champlain: We don’t advise it at this point, but there might be some safe ice in some bays, although access could be challenging due to the shore ice gradually going away.
Schroon Lake: Anglers were, in fact, finding ways to get on the ice late last month, although shore ice was largely absent. Most of the news has centered not on the quality of the fishing but the ability to “get on.”
Overall, the brackish water white perch and tidal trout fishing has improved, the codfish action continued to become more difficult, herring were still being caught at the local piers and beaches, and a few schoolie stripers were being reported. On the freshwater scene, the winter trout stream and pond fishing has been quite good.
White perch were responding well to both worms and grass shrimp either fished on the bottom or under a bobber at many brackish water locations around the island, including the Carlls River, Santapogue Creek, Mill Creek, and the East End creeks. Bait out-fished artificials when schools of white perch were located, but anglers casting small spinners, curlytail jigs or streamers did better when the perch were scattered as they were able to cover more water. A few small stripers have been reported mixed in with the white perch.
Tidal brown and rainbow trout were caught at Bubbles Falls, the Carlls River and in the Nissaquogue River. Worms, doughballs and small spinners were all productive. Perhaps it’s the warmer winter weather, but the tidal trout fishing seems to be better when compared to the past few seasons.
The herring fishing remained spotty, but there were enough fish around to keep anglers interested. Herring tend to move with the tides, so it’s a good move to call the local tackle shops for the top tide phases in the area. Sabiki Rigs jigged from the piers or cast in front of a diamond jigs from the Western North Shore beaches or South Shore inlet jetties were the best rigs. The most consistent spots remained the 69th Street, Magnolia, and Canarsie piers.
The cod fishing has become spottier, especially off Montauk Point and Block Island Sound. Not because that there are fewer cod, but that the cod are focusing on the schools of mackerel and herring that have settled into the offshore grounds. This makes targeting cod with clams and jigs less productive. Cut mackerel and herring are an option, but anglers are reporting that they are catching too many dogfish and too few ling to make the switch worthwhile. The better cod fishing has been on the wrecks in 90 to 120 feet of water outside the central South Shore ports between Jones and Shinnecock Inlets. Most cod are just keeper sized, with teen-sized cod taking most pools. Mixed in with the cod are ling and a few pollock.
The freshwater ponds and lakes are ice-free, and the weather has been mild, so there has been an uptick in anglers casting small spinners, spoons and streamers. They have been rewarded with small largemouth bass, yellow perch and crappies.
A reminder that from Nov. 1 to May 1, all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet must wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) while underway.
Not hearing much on the ice fishing front, and anglers were again very limited this winter on Lake George and other waters in the region.
Southeastern New York
Just not much happening right now on the fishing front, with the ice now gone and most folks awaiting the April 1 trout kickoff, the May 1 spring gobbler opener or passing the time scouting for this fall’s whitetails or searching for antler sheds.
Some anglers, on the warmest of days, are venturing out onto the region’s trout waters that remain open for fishing, kick-starting their season ahead of the “regular” April 1 trout opener. But we’re not hearing a lot.
St. Lawrence River: Might be some ice still available, but most anglers have packed their gear away for the winter.
Black Lake: Some anglers were still on the ice on popular spots like Rollaway Bay, but that could have changed by now.
Chaumont Bay: The folks at Chaumont Hardware report ice moving around the bay based on which way the wind is blowing, and sometimes it can jump the ramp. The Chaumont River was ice-free. They recommend getting your small boats ready for the run of walleye, pike and crappie into the river. Shore fishing is allowed under the bridge but parking is limited.