JANUARY - LAKE ONTARIO TRIBUTARIES
January is steelheading time in New York and it's known worldwide that the Lake Ontario tributaries are the place to be during the annual spawning run. This is cold-season fishing at its best (or worst), so come prepared to brave wind, cold, ice and boiling currents where steelhead trout in the 10-pound class are considered commonplace.
Successful tactics include pool-jumping (moving from pool to pool in search of fish) or camping out at one spot and casting repeatedly (all day if necessary) until a fish decides to take your offering of salmon eggs, bright lures or flashy flies.
The larger tributaries are the most popular destination for January steelhead anglers but don't discount the smaller streams where some surprisingly big fish may be found.
Other Options: Wait for safe ice and then head for Cayuga Lake where perch in the 12-inch class are the norm. Bashakill Marsh is open year-round for pickerel fishing. Three-inch live shiners fished just below the ice will keep the flags flying all day.
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FEBRUARY - HONEOYE LAKE LARGEMOUTHS
Look for February largemouth in deep water near structure and where points, drop-offs and submerged channels converge. The best bait for winter bass through the ice is a large, lively shiner, but these fish will also take jigged lures, ice flies and specially-rigged streamers. Fish a variety of lures and baits at varying depths until bass begin to respond and then drop all lines to the appropriate level. Sometimes the action will be fast and furious for an hour or so and then all lines go dead. At this point it's best to pack up and head for a new spot using the same procedure.
Other Options: Ballstron Lake in Region 5 ice-fishing hotspot offers great fishing for perch and northern pike. Morgan Lake in Dutchess County is open year-round with a daily bag limit of three trout.
MARCH - OTISCO LAKE TIGER MUSKIES
Ice-fishing for tiger muskies is legal through March 15. Standard muskie baits include large, live shiners and suckers, foot-long jointed plugs and minnows, and (if open water prevails) giant spinnerbaits fished slowly just under the surface. Ice-fishermen should set up over weed beds and structure and check their baits often to ensure that they are lively and working hard to attract cruising muskies. In open water, try slow trolling close to structure or go deep in weed-lined channels to pick off cruising fish.
Other Options: Fourth Lake in Region 6 is well known among ice fishermen for its abundant lake trout surpassing the 30-inch mark. Region 9's Bear Lake features easy access and a good population of black crappies that may be caught through the ice or in open water.
APRIL - WAPPINGERS CREEK BROWN TROUT
Wappingers Creek is stocked annually with over 12,000 brown trout and 2,000 rainbow trout, with all of the rainbow trout being stocked downstream of the dam at Pleasant Valley. Some wild brown trout reproduction exists, especially upstream of the Taconic Parkway. Wappingers Creek is the largest stream in Dutchess County and yields some large brown trout. Wild brook trout can also be found in its headwaters. Trout fishing season opens April 1 but most anglers know that the best fishing comes somewhat later as water levels drop and temperatures begin to rise.
Smart anglers head for the water well supplied with nymphs, woolly buggers and wet flies because insect hatches are still several weeks away. Work the deep holes and runs with small, dark-colored flies. Be sure that every inch of fishable water is probed before moving on to the next pool.
Other Options: The Beaver Kill is divided into the upper and lower sections. Both sections support wild brown trout.
MAY - NEVERSINK RIVER TROUT
The Neversink River contains a quality wild brown trout population and is stocked annually with over 5,000 additional brown trout. This is a tailwater fishery that contains good cold-water habitat throughout the summer, providing anglers an opportunity to catch quality fish when other streams are too warm to fish. The Neversink has a long-standing tradition of excellent trout fishing dating back to the 1800s, so don't expect these fish to be pushovers. It will take all of your skills to fool the biggest browns, many of which have seen plenty of presentations over the years.
Other Options: Genesee River is a proven May trout river offering over 19 miles of stocked water with plenty of public fishing access. Ninemile Creek in Onondaga County flows for 22 miles to Onondaga Lake. There are 5 miles of Public Fishing Rights (PFR) a short drive from the city of Syracuse.
JUNE - CATSKILL CREEK TROUT
Catskill Creek flows for 37 miles through three counties before entering the Hudson River at the village of Catskill. The upper 2 miles of the creek is warm and unsuitable for trout. The next section is 5 miles long and ends about upstream of the village of Preston Hollow in Albany County. This section has abundant wild trout, both brown and rainbows. From Preston Hollow downstream 13 miles to the Freehold airport in Greene County the stream is stocked with 6,500 yearling and 400 2-year-old brown trout. There are some wild brown and rainbow trout in this section with the best numbers in the Preston Hollow portion.
Other Options: Central Park bluegills can be fooled with garden worms or dark-colored nymphs in the shadows of Central Park skyscrapers. Blind Sodus Bay largemouth are the most sought-after targets in this large, multi-species hotspot.
JULY - LONG ISLAND SOUND BLUEFISH
It's time to head for the coast where Long Island's famed bluefish blitz is just starting. Big blues may be taken from shore using cut bait, live bait or lures. Anglers with seaworthy boats will do well jigging big tins along current seams all across the Sound. Watch for blitzing schools and try to get into the fish before the feeding frenzy ends, which often is only minutes after it starts. Keep an eye out for diving gulls, which follow the schools of foraging bluefish across the Sound.
Other Options: New York's state-record northern was taken on the western shore of Lake Champlain and biologists say bigger fish exist in the big border lake. Deep, fast water is the order of the day on the raging Niagara, where bronzebacks in the 5-pound class can be cught this month.
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AUGUST - NEW CROTON RESERVOIR BASS
New Croton Reservoir is the last stop in the NYC DEP Croton Watershed before emptying into the Hudson River. This 2,182-acre reservoir provides anglers with the chance to catch bass up to 7 pounds and crappies up to 3 pounds. Focus your attention on weed beds, downed trees and other structure to find these fish. Access is provided by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. A free watershed access permit is required. In August most of the biggest New Croton bass will be found in deep water or in areas where weeds and other cover provide shady hiding places. The best late-summer fishing takes place near dawn and dusk as water temperatures drop for the day.
Other Options: Cassadaga Lake's extensive, natural wetland shoreline offers excellent cover for largemouth bass. At Lake Champlain smelt are the primary forage for lake trout, so long, narrow spoons and plugs should be slow trolled just off the bottom.
SEPTEMBER - LONG ISLAND SOUND STRIPERS
This is the time of year when the Sound's biggest cow stripers begin to feed most heavily. This is big-rig fishing at its best, with many anglers joining charter boat captains for a day on the water. Current seams and rips are the preferred hiding places for foraging striped bass this month, and big, heavy lures are the name of the game. Let the lure drop to the bottom and then bring it up quickly and erratically to emulate injured baitfish. Hits can come as soon as the first turn of the reel handle to be prepared for a tooth-jarring strike at any time. Anglers using their own boats work the edges of the most powerful rips and the endless current seams that weave across the Sound like spider's webs. Fish directly over a seam and drop heavy lures straight down, jigging them upward in erratic, fluttering motions.
Other Options: Sodus Bay northern pike can be caught during the open water season by using a spinnerbait or stickbait in shallow, weedy water. Indian River Lakes are shallow and have a uniform temperature from top to bottom. They also support extensive beds of rooted aquatic vegetation, providing perfect habitat for fat yellow perch.
OCTOBER - LAKE ONTARIO TRIBUTARY STEELHEAD
October is prime time to return to Lake Ontario's famed steelhead tributaries where great fishing begins with the annual spawning run and continues non-stop through the winter months. Fishing strategies vary from spot-and-stalk casting to specific fish holding in deep pools and runs to stand-your-ground tactics where preferred baits are drifted or sunk to the bottom in hopes that a passing trout will show some interest.
Other Options: Kayaderosseras Creek brook trout fishing remains open till Oct. 15 with no size limit. Some special regulations apply on certain sections. Waneta Lake largemouth bass can be caught early and late in the day along shore or spend the mid-day period jigging over deep water structure.
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NOVEMBER - FINGER LAKES YELLOW PERCH
Pick a lake, any lake in the Finger Lakes region and anglers will find abundant populations of big yellow perch. November's cold, sometimes stormy weather presents an extra challenge to panfishermen from shore or boat, but the rewards can be great.
As always, the trick to catching lots of perch is in finding and keeping up with nomadic schools as they roam in search of baitfish. Boaters equipped with sonar gear should have no trouble targeting feeding perch, but then the game becomes one of choosing the proper lure or bait even as the school passes by.
Other Options: Pepacton Reservoir holds record-class bronzebacks. Slow trolling in deep water is the way to fool Pepacton's lunker bass. Walleyes under 18 inches are throw-backs Wallkill River during its productive November fishery. Expect equally good fishing for smallmouths as well this month.
DECEMBER - BLACK LAKE YELLOW PERCH
This Region 6 ice-fishing hotspot is well known for its variety of species and for producing good numbers of the most popular winter targets, which range from yellow perch in the 12-inch class to largemouth bass, black crappies and northern pike. Anglers focusing on yellow perch do well when they set up in water that is 10 to 20 feet deep over weed beds, sunken channels, drop-offs and points. Black Lake covers over 7,500 acres with depths ranging from 8 to 40 feet. There is more than 63 miles of shoreline, which should give anglers plenty of room to find and pursue roving schools of perch.
Other Options: The Saranac River in Region 5 is open to catch-and-release trout fishing with fly-fishing tackle only. Park Station Pond in Chemung County is a trout hotspot open to ice-fishing with a daily bag limit of five fish of any size.