No matter what town, city or county an Empire State angler calls “home,” he’ll find a dazzling assortment of fishing holes in easy driving distance. In fact, the most daunting rod and reel challenge most residents face is deciding which body of water to fish, and when.
Well, we at New York Game & Fish have coming up with an itinerary that lists three top angling destinations for every month of the year, starting with January. Readers who look between the lines will also find the sort of suggestions that transform fishing trips into catching trips. Here we go!
Whitney Point Spillway
The stretch of the Otselic River immediately below the Whitney Point Reservoir in Broome County fills up with 1 1/2- to 6-pound walleyes after heavy autumn rains or winter thaws. Access this hotspot from a parking area off Route 26. Don’t forget your slip bobber rigs. To verify local conditions, check the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 7 weekly Fishing Hotline, at (607) 753-1511.
Look for jumbo jacks schooling on the big flat, in 30 feet of water, off Lewis Point.
Lake of the Isles
Located on the east side of Wellesley Island State Park in the 1000 Islands, Lake of the Isles is actually a bay, one packed with panfish that inhale ice-fly jigs.
The state-record norlunge was caught in the Tioughnioga River in 1990, but most of the monster New York tiger muskies taken since then came from Otisco Lake, at the east end of the Finger Lakes chain. Tom Boice of Marcellus hauled a world ice-fishing record specimen, weighing more than 27 pounds, through the frozen surface at “the Narrows” a couple of winters back. Two other 20-pounders were caught that same week! Big shiners are the favored bait for such fish.
Like many cozy bays along the Lake Ontario shore, Braddocks Bay near Rochester is home to big schools of over-wintering perch from ice-up to ice-out.
The steelhead bite is red-hot from the state parks below the falls all the way to the mouth of the awesome Niagara. Preferred baits are golf ball-sized spawn sacks, bounced on bottom.
Long Island creeks
Upstate fishermen who think of white perch as pesky bait-stealers would be astonished to see the crowds that flock to dozens of small, brackish water creek mouths along the Island’s south shore. They’re seeking white perch that often weigh 2 pounds and measure 15 inches long.
The “Cat,” a short drive north from Dunkirk, draws New York’s densest runs of steelhead, but cloudy runoff water can make it difficult to fish. Your rule of thumb should be, dark water, dark fly; clear water, bright fly. If you want to fish the best water on the creek, be sure to obtain a required permit from the Seneca Nation Indian reservation at Salamanca.
Seneca Lake grows slightly bigger perch, but you can’t beat Keuka for numbers of 12- to 14-inch jumbos. Perch school according to year-class — by age and size, in other words — so keep moving until you find the round-bellies.
Before the Great Lakes tributaries were converted into steelhead factories, fishermen in search of trout trophies on the opening day of the season swarmed to the south end of Seneca Lake and Catharine Creek. Yesteryear’s 12-pounders are seldom seen, yet “Queen Catharine” still gives up plenty of 3- to 8-pound spawners to her loyal followers.
Actually, the mouth of the Black River at Dexter is one of many great places around the rim of Lake Ontario where you can catch a mess of tasty bullheads on warm spring nights. All you need is a can of worms, a light spinning rod and a forked stick.
Typical of New York’s put-and-take trout waters, Nanticoke Creek is easily accessible along Route 26 near the village of Maine inBroome County and has plenty of deep holes to hide stocked and holdover browns.
Best bets for May, June, July and August are on page two