January 26, 2017
New York's angling fraternity is in the unique predicament of having more great fishing opportunities than time to pursue them.
Every month of the year offers "best of" angling ranging from Great Lakes ice-fishing to Long Island Sound saltwater action.
Here's a look at 36 top picks for Empire State fishermen to consider while making their 2016 vacation plans.
JANUARY - Tributary Steelhead
Cold temperatures and snow are minor setbacks for anglers seeking Lake Ontario's tributary steelhead. Steelhead average 10 pounds, but fish in the 20-pound class are not unusual and larger specimens are caught during the long, annual spawning run. Use flashy, bottom-bouncing lures or traditional baits (egg sacs or imitations) and be patient: target a specific fish and keep casting till it takes.
OTHER OPTIONS: Head for the Finger Lakes where big yellow perch are the order of the day. Use small, lively shiners or flashy jigs to find schools of hungry perch. Or, head for Otsego Lake for king-sized lake trout. Jig with large silver or gold lures in deep water just off the bottom.
FEBRUARY - Allegheny State Park Pike
This 65,000-acre park provides a wide variety of fishing options but ice-fishing for big northern pike is a perennial favorite. Use large shiners in shallow water near weedy cover, sunken structure and drop-offs.
OTHER OPTIONS: Ninemile Creek is open to trout fishing year-round under catch-and-release regulations. Fish deep and slow this month, using nymphs, dark-colored streamers and Woolly Buggers. Sylvan Lake in Beekman is open to trout fishing year-round with a daily bag limit of five fish. Try jigging with small spoons and ice flies at various depths starting from the bottom.
MARCH - Wallkill River Walleyes
The walleye season ends March 15 but anglers can still take advantage of some great fishing till the very end. Anglers have the most success fishing for the walleyes using suspending jerk baits and bright colored jigs bounced on the bottom.
OTHER OPTIONS: Otisco Lake tiger muskies provide hot winter action through ice-out. Large, lively baits are the standard offering, but big jigs also take their share of fish. Oneida Lake yellow perch are popular targets in March. Jig with small spoons tipped with mousies or tip-ups baited with small minnows.
APRIL - Hudson River Stripers
It's opening day on the Hudson, which means striper time. Popular methods include trolling with live or imitation baits, especially eels and shiners. Deep holes and current seams will hold the most fish.
OTHER OPTIONS: Trout fishermen come out of the woodwork now. Head for the Salmon River for out-sized Lake Ontario-run specimens. Flies and lures that imitate salmon eggs rule the day. Honeoye Lake is a popular spring destination for crappies. Use worms, small shiners or tiny jigs to fool schooling crappies in shallow water where structure abounds.
MAY - Beaver Kill Trout
Fly-fishermen are in their glory now as New York's legendary trout streams begin to heat up. Beaver Kill browns are no pushovers but a well-presented Coachman or Woolly Bugger will often do the trick.
OTHER OPTIONS: Troll the Finger Lakes with flashy lures to dredge up big rainbows, which come to the surface in spring to feed on the abundant forage. Head for Long Island Sound for early schooling bluefish, which may be caught from shore or boat using tins and flashy crankbaits.
JUNE - Niagara River Smallmouths
Bass anglers rejoice as the season on largemouths and smallmouths opens this month. The famed Niagara River is home to some of the state's largest bronzebacks, which are best fished from a boat using deep-diving crankbaits and bottom-bumping jigs.
OTHER OPTIONS: The Adirondacks' colorful native brook trout draw anglers from all over the world. Use dry flies, nymphs or wet flies in brooks and streams, or try live baits in lakes and ponds. For bigger fish, try the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River for muskies. Troll big, jointed lures in deep water or ply the weedy shoreline with chunky crankbaits.
JULY - Lake Ontario Coho Salmon
Deep trolling for big cohos is the name of the game this month, where fish in the 30-pound class are common — but only when using the proper gear and tackle. Best bet: Hire a charter boat and learn the ropes before going after the big ones on your own.
OTHER OPTIONS: Susquehanna River channel catfish are easy to fool at night, dawn or dusk using chunk baits, chicken parts or large, lively minnows fished directly on the bottom. Striper anglers can charter a boat and head for Long Island Sound where big stripers can be taken using cut bait, big tins or deep-drifted eels.
AUGUST - Upper Niagara River Muskies
Fifty-inch lunker muskies, including tigers, are boated annually around Buffalo Harbor and the islands. These big fish require big lures and appropriately heavy tackle including wire leaders. There are plenty of guides on the river but capable boaters can expect to make great catches on their own.
OTHER OPTIONS: Finger Lakes bullheads are on the move this month, providing easy fishing from shore or boat in muddy, shallow bays and coves. Patient fishermen using worms, cut bait and standard stink baits can fill a boat with tasty horned pout, especially at night. For a unique experience, try casting poppers and small deer-hair flies to New York's Central Park pond bluegills. Avoid the crowds by going early or late in the day and get there mid-week to enjoy some elbow-room.
SEPTEMBER - Lake Champlain Northern Pike
A northern pike weighing over 46 pounds was caught in Lake Champlain during September. These fish are abundant throughout the lake and may legally be shot with rifles during spring (on the Vermont side)! Most anglers go with large, lively baits or flashy minnow-imitating lures fished near weeds, drop-offs and structure.
OTHER OPTIONS: Long Island Sound is the place to be for big stripers during the fall months. Charter boats work "The Rips" where 50-pound specimens are not uncommon. For a unique angling experience, try the Connetquot River for big browns. These fish are notoriously hook-shy but experienced fly-rodders use patience and persistence to fool them hatch-matching dries, nymphs and Woolly Buggers.
OCTOBER - Chemung River Smallmouths
One of New York's best fall bass hotspots, the Chemung is full of feisty bronzebacks that will take just about anything thrown at them. Popular lures include Rapalas, Mepps spinners and crawfish-imitating crank baits. Focus on the heads and tails of deep pools and current seams where natural forage is carried to bass waiting in quiet eddies and pockets.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Ontario's many steelhead tributaries begin to heat up again as big lake-run trout head into the rivers for winter. Patient anglers use spot-and-stalk strategies, casting flies, lures and egg sacs to individual fish. Don't overlook smaller streams where some surprisingly big fish may be found. Montauk is the place to be for big stripers this month. Fish pushing 40 pounds may be caught on live baits including eels, mackerel, cut bait and assorted large lures that imitate these forage species.
NOVEMBER - Finger Lakes Tributaries, Brown Trout
Emulating the runs of steelhead out of Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes tributaries offer exciting November fishing for browns, rainbows and landlocked salmon. Dress for the weather and expect rapid changes in temperature, wind and precipitation. Use flashy lures and small, lively crankbaits in heads and tails of pools and below fast-moving rapids.
OTHER OPTIONS: Genesee River steelhead will be running this month, and the fishing can be as exciting as any of the more famous Lake Ontario tributaries. Same baits, same tactics, but expect harsh weather most days, which is often when the fishing is most productive. Try Oneida Lake for yellow perch: Schools of 2-pound specimens are not unusual. Trolling, casting and drift-fishing with small jigs and live bait produces the most action.
DECEMBER - Chemung River Walleyes
Walleye fishing in the Chemung River is nothing short of fantastic through the month of December. These fish can be taken on jigs, spinners and minnows fished slow and low in the deeper pools. Plan to be on hand early and late in the day and at midday during cloudy or stormy weather. These light-shy fish can be finicky on blue bird days, but there are few of those in December!
OTHER OPTIONS: Head for the Niagara River Bar for giant late-season trout. Best bet for first-timers is to hire a guide to gain familiarity with strategies, tactics and safety procedures, as "The Bar" is notoriously rough in December. For saltwater excitement, try fishing off Sandy Hook for big winter tautog, or blackfish. Crabs, clams and worms fished deep along the ledges will take these fish, which grow to 15 pounds and more in the cold, deep water off the New York's Long Island coastline.