Whether you’re a seasoned expert, a weekend warrior or a novice fisherman looking to wet your first line, Lake Ontario and its magnificent tributaries offer up four seasons of angling excitement.
This great lake, and its feeding water sources, are teeming with fish. Chinook, Coho and Atlantic salmon abound along with rainbow/steelhead, brown and lake trout.
Lake Ontario fishing also offers smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye and muskellunge; even yellow perch and panfish. There is a species here for you to experience first-hand and share with family and friends.
The mighty Chinook or king salmon is one of Lake Ontario’s premier fish. Fish up to 48 pounds have been caught, but the average size depends on the time of year. Action takes place from April to November, starting in the lake and ending up in the rivers and streams. This is the headliner when it comes to the many derbies and tournaments available every spring and summer.
Coho salmon are also available, but those feisty fish aren’t as big as its Pacific cousin because they are not as long-lived. However, the world record Coho comes from the lake, a 33 pound 7 ounce fish from Oswego. Both salmon species are supported through stocking and natural reproduction.
Rainbow/steelhead can be caught all year long – either in the lake, the Niagara River or the many tributaries that feed the lake. Steelhead can be caught in the lake from April to September with regularity; the remainder of the time they can be found in streams with good water flow. The same can be said for brown trout. Some excellent spring fishing can be found in the lake from east to west trolling the shoreline. Summer action can be pretty darn good, too. Fall fishing in the tributaries can be just as dynamic, especially in tributaries like 18 Mile Creek, the Oak Orchard River, Maxwell Creek, the Oswego, the Genesee and Salmon rivers to name but a few.
Lake trout is a species indigenous to Lake Ontario. Numbers are plentiful and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is documenting increasing natural reproduction in the lake. Fish up to 40 pounds have been caught in the basin. While the season is limited, the average size is 8 to 10 pounds and Lake trout add a fun fish filler to the lake’s diverse selection of salmonids. “Lakers” can be found throughout Lake Ontario and for the hardier souls, in the Niagara River in the fall and winter.
Walleye & Bass
With the focus on salmon and trout in the lake, species like walleye and bass take a back seat in the promotion department. Take a look at the Bassmasters contests in the St. Lawrence River or the regional fishing reports to see how good the fishing can. In fact, a fish caught in 2016 tied the state record smallmouth mark at 8 pounds, 4 ounces out of the 1000 Isles. Walleye fishing can also be very good when the season opens the first Saturday in May, continuing into the fall. The bigger rivers seem to attract the most attention like the St. Lawrence, the Black, the Oswego and the Niagara.
The mighty muskellunge can be found in the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers. Arthur Lawton’s 69-pound monster is still a state record that New York recognizes. Fish over 60 inches are reportedly caught in the Seaway every season – usually in the fall when these fish are bulking up for the winter. The season opens the third Saturday in June, the same as the bass season.
Speaking of the winter months, let’s not forget about some of the excellent ice fishing available in the various ponds, embayments and harbors located along the lake’s shoreline. Wilson, Olcott, Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, Sandy Pond, Henderson Harbor and Fair Haven are great spots to get you started.
Put all of this together and you get one of the finest freshwater fisheries on the planet – all year long. Each county brings something different and unique to the table. From a region steeped in history, blessed with a rich agricultural base – from vines to wines – and a long list of family activities you can enjoy in the great outdoors … come and visit Lake Oh!
Fishing Hot Spots
Niagara County – Olcott, Wilson, Niagara River/Bar;
Orleans County – Point Breeze, Oak Orchard River, Johnson Creek;
Monroe County – Genesee River, Irondequoit Bay, Braddocks Bay;
Wayne County – Sodus Point, Sodus Bay, Maxwell Creek;
Cayuga County – Fair Haven Bay, Sterling Creek, Finger Lakes;
Oswego County – Oswego River, Salmon River, Sandy Pond;
Jefferson County – 1000 Isles, Henderson Harbor, Black River;
St. Lawrence County – Waddington, Ogdensburg, Black Lake