Avid New York anglers know that there is a place to wet a line every day of the year no matter the weather conditions. From Central Park to the Finger Lakes and the wild Adirondacks the action is non-stop. What follows is a sampling of great fishing spots for every month of the year. Let’s go fishing.
Images by Vic Dunaway
STEELHEAD: Lake Ontario Tributaries
Ten-pound rainbows lay in every deep pool of Lake Ontario’s tributary rivers and streams. Steelhead-savvy anglers target the smallest streams where there is less competition and fish are easier to find and catch.
January lake-run rainbows are not easy to fool but traditional favorites include salmon egg sacs, brightly-colored darts and flies and small, glittery lures. Fish slow and deep and bring a full measure of patience because often of the biggest steelhead will ignore your best offering 100 times but then strike savagely on the next cast.
Winter fishing means winter clothing – expect the worst and dress for it. Many of the best catches are made when temperatures are near freezing with high winds, rain, sleet or snow in any combination.
OTHER OPTIONS: Great Sacandaga Lake is the perfect location for a January ice-fishing foray for rainbow trout. Cut several holes perpendicular to shore and then alternate use jigs or flashy lures till you find the ‘bows. Sylvan Lake in Dutchess County is open year-round and is stocked with brown trout that grow to 10 pounds and more. Fish at dawn or dusk when targeting the big ones.
WALLEYES: Cayuta Lake
Cayuta Lake is open to ice-fishing for walleyes through March 15 with a three-fish, 18-inch bag limit. Cut a number of holes in the ice to cover a variety of depths and then drop small minnows or jig with spoons (such as the popular Swedish Pimple) tipped with spikes, mousies or a minnow head.
Plan to be on the ice early and late in the day or any time during overcast, inclement weather because walleyes, even in winter, are light-shy and less active during periods of bright sun.
Start out jigging close to shore but work your way into deeper water throughout the day. Use a fish-finder to locate schools of walleyes, which will be found in close proximity to pods of baitfish. Move quickly and change baits often to accommodate the bite.
OTHER OPTIONS: Keuka Lake in Region 8 is the perfect destination for February lake trout. Fish just off the bottom in deep water. Chazy Lake in Region 5 is great for landlocked salmon. Concentrate on the center of the lake and use jigs or flashy lures worked just under the ice.
STEELHEAD: Salmon River
New York’s famed Salmon River offers excellent steelhead action. Egg sacs or egg-imitating flies and plastics are the most popular options. Fish that entered the river in the fall will hold over in the deeper pools of the river throughout the winter. Warming periods during the winter may bring new fish into the river. Spawning usually takes place during mid-March and through early April.
After spawning the fish begin to drop back to Lake Ontario. These fish feed heavily because they have finished spawning and are easily caught on plugs, spinners, flies, egg sacs and night crawlers.
OTHER OPTIONS: The Alleghany State Park Lakes are open year-round and contain good numbers of stocked brown trout. The bag limit is five fish but only two may be longer than 12 inches. Lake Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County is open to bass fishing this month under catch-and-release regulations. Artificial cover has been provided to help anglers find more largemouths.
YELLOW PERCH: Braddock Bay
Early spring fishing for yellow perch can be outstanding. Northern pike, chain pickerel, largemouth bass and sunfish are also popular targets during the open water season. Try worms fished under a bobber or small plastic tube baits or twister-tails for perch and bass.
Because perch tend to roam in same-aged, same-sized schools experienced anglers keep an eye out for the larger fish and then attack with flashy lures, night crawlers and small crankbaits.
The bite may last for only a few minutes so make the most of your time by casting non-stop for as long as the action persists.
OTHER OPTIONS: Traget schoolie stripers in the upper Hudson River, which is open to sport fishing on a catch-and-release basis only. Iroquois Lake near Schenectady is a shallow, weedy lake that is full of small (3- to 5-inch) sunfish that offersplenty of fishing action for kids.
BROWN TROUT: BEAVER KILL
The Beaver Kill is divided into upper and lower sections at the confluence with Willowemoc Creek in the town of Roscoe. Both sections support healthy populations of wild brown trout. The upper section of the river good numbers of wild brook trout that increase in number upstream toward the famous river’s popular headwaters. Rainbow trout are also scattered throughout the watershed as a result of both natural reproduction and non-DEC stockings in private sections of the river.
Since the earliest days of American fly fishing, anglers have maintained a springtime love affair with the Beaver Kill. Must-hit pools include Barnhart’s, Hendrickson’s and Cairns’ if only for their historic, sentimental value.
OTHER OPTIONS: Hemlock Lake’s salmonid fishery consists of lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and landlocked salmon. West Branch of Fish Creek is a medium sized stream in Oneida and Oswego counties. It contains stocked brown trout and wild brook trout. Anglers will also find Atlantic salmon in the creek.
TROUT: West Branch Croton River
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation manages the West Branch Croton River as three segments under Artificial Lures Only regulations. In two cases these three segments are coupled with high size limits and low bag limits to protect the quality of the fishing.
On all three of the streams the goal is to give trout additional protection in an effort to keep more fish in the stream and to allow more to reach larger sizes. Anglers are advised to crimp down the barbs on all hooks to make catch-and-release easier and to protect the fish from unnecessary injury.
OTHER OPTIONS: 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.
MUSKIES: Chautauqua Lake
Chautauqua Lake in western New York is recognized as a premiere, world-class muskellunge fishery, with many fish in the 40-to 50-inch class caught each year. Better catch numbers tend to come from shallower areas along weed edges, where trolling or drifting and casting are effective methods. Trollers also see good action for larger muskies suspended over depths of 25 to 35 feet, especially in the north basin.
Anglers are encouraged to release their catch without bringing the fish into the boat. When a big muskie is handled carefully its odds of surviving are excellent.
OTHER OPTIONS: Anglers looking for native brook trout should try the numerous tributaries of East Branch of Fish Creek, upper Mad River and Otter Creek and the Sugar River in Lewis County. Wild trout streams can also be found on the eastern side of the Black River.
BLUEFISH: Long Island Sound
Bluefish are long, stout fish with distinctly forked tails and jaws filled with triangular, serrated teeth. It is these teeth that have earned the bluefish a reputation as a voracious and dangerous feeder.
Fish caught by anglers range in size from 9 inch “snappers” to 15-pound “brutes.” Bluefish hit a variety of artificials with shiny metal spoons and tin jigs being the most popular effective. Fishing chunk bait on the bottom will take the larger blues.
Only well-maintained, sea-worthy boats with seasoned captains should ply the rough waters of Long Island Sound. Find current seams, drop lures directly to the bottom and then “reef” them to the top and hang on.
OTHER OPTIONS: Region 7 is replete with rivers and lakes that offer some world-class carp fishing, a European specialty that is fast becoming a hot option for American anglers in August. Wappinger Lake in Region 3 offers great largemouth bass fishing this month. Start fishing in the weedy shallows in the morning and as the sun starts to come up try fishing the weed lines on the north and south ends of the lake.
LANDLOCKED SALMON: Saranac River
The Saranac River in the city of Plattsburgh provides great fall salmon angling from its mouth to the Imperial Dam (an impassible barrier) approximately three miles upstream. Much of the river bank is owned by the city of Plattsburgh and is accessible to shoreline anglers.
Salmon may be found at any depth this month but savvy anglers start out trolling near the surface early in the day and then drop down to near bottom for the midday period. Weather conditions can affect fish response so be flexible and work all the water that can be reached while changing lures and motor speeds.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lamoka Lake’s chain pickerel are abundant in weedy shallows. Try casting weedless rigs in and near weed beds. Crystal Lake in Sullivan County is open to trout fishing with artificial lures only this month.
TROUT: Region 6 Streams
Herkimer, Oneida and Lewis counties contain stocked streams, prime streams (wild trout populations) and remote wild streams that are open to fishing through Oct. 15.
For best results in September fish pools and slow riffles during the warmest part of the day. Fall fly fishermen generally use streamers, nymphs or flies. Fish the smaller streams in fall using the same tactics that work in spring.
OTHER OPTIONS: Steelhead in Cattaraugus Creek reach 12 pounds so heavy equipment is required. Medium or medium/heavy action spinning rods of 7 to 9 feet with reels filled with 6- to 12-pound test line are standard. Drifting egg sacs is popular among spin anglers. New York City’s six watershed reservoirs are open to trout fishing year-round. Use small, flashy artificial lures or gaudy streamers to fool big October trout.
LANDLOCKED SALMON:Lake Champlain Tributaries
New York’s Boquet, Saranac and Ausable rivers have their sources in the Adirondack Mountains. These rivers are among the 10 New York and Vermont tributaries to Lake Champlain which historically had native runs of Atlantic salmon. The main salmon run occurs in the fall. This offers the best opportunity for anglers to catch a large salmon and can provide up to two months of fishing for die-hard salmon anglers.
The main run of salmon usually extends into mid-November with the best action occurring from early October to early November. Worms work best early in the season but seem less effective as fall progresses.
Another productive natural bait is the salmon egg cluster. River flows seem to govern the intensity and timing of salmon runs, so anglers are advised to check the Region 5 Fishing Hotline to determine the current status of the run.
OTHER OPTIONS: Sixberry Lake is a deep, clear lake that offers good walleye fishing in November. Fish after dark or early and late in the day and on overcast days because walleyes are notoriously light-shy.
TROUT: Niagara River
The Niagara River flows northward from Lake Erie for about 30 miles before emptying into Lake Ontario, providing one of the most diverse freshwater fisheries in the world.
The Niagara is particularly renowned for its world class winter trout fishery, which kicks off in November and lasts all winter.
At this time of year the river is jumping with acrobatic rainbow trout, and the famous Niagara Bar at the mouth of Lake Ontario boasts one of the finest lake trout fisheries in the world. Lake trout season opens Dec. 1.
Anglers who come prepared for winter weather and deep, fast, cold water will enjoy the best fishing. The Niagara rages year-round but is eminently fishable for anglers who come prepared to handle its deep holes and strong current.
OTHER OPTIONS: Try the Upper Chateaugay Lake in Clinton County for lake trout when safe ice forms. The bag limit is three fish over 21 inches. Walton Lake in Region 3 offers good winter brown trout fishing. For more information on New York’s diverse year-round fishing opportunities, log onto dec.ny.gov.
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