Upstate New York Fishing Report – May 21, 2020

Greater Niagara Region

Bill Hilts, Jr.

The big news this week is that we have entered into Phase One of the reopening process here in Western New York and that means that charter fishing operations are full steam ahead for taking advantage of the excellent fishing that has been happening in Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. Of course, there are plenty of guidelines in place to keep people safe for the charter captains to follow and the customers also need to abide by social distancing requirements, wear face masks and having antibacterial gel handy is always a good thing. Charters started running on Tuesday and it looks like a great Memorial Day weekend!

Jim DeGirolamo and Aaron Scott
Jim DeGirolamo of Derby and Aaron Scott show off a double of king salmon they caught off Wilson last weekend.

In Lake Ontario, the action has been fast and furious according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott. Their 24-hour bait machine (that also includes top lures, safety items like masks, and other handy items) has been a big hit. They are now open to assist customers with certain restrictions. Some of the best salmon fishing has been in 60 to 100 feet of water out front, as well as both east and west of the harbor. It has been primarily a spoon bite. Capt. Joe Oakes of Salmonboy Charters reports that the fishing was red hot with kings and lake trout being caught in 60 to 170 feet of water from Wilson to the power plant east of Olcott. He has been running stickbaits, spoons and flasher-fly combos in the top 100 feet of water depending on where he is.

salmon trolling spoons
Capt. Bob Songin of Reel Excitement Charters shares his top 3 salmon trolling spoons from this week.

Capt. Bob Songin of Reel Excitement Charters reports that fishing is as good as it gets from out in front of Wilson to a couple miles west. There are plenty of kings anywhere from 80 to 140 foot of water. Magnum spoons have been the best, such as DW Carbon-14 super glow, white two face and a new one, a UV green skirt. Fish are coming anywhere from 30 to 70 feet down on the downriggers; ten color lead core lines on the boards, and divers at a number 2 setting out anywhere from 80 to 120 feet back behind the boat.

Mike Rzucidlo
Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a sizeable lower river lake trout he caught on 6-pound test fishing line.
Mike Rzucidlo white bass
The white bass are still running the river, as evidence with Mike Rzucidlo’s catch this week in the Niagara Gorge.

In the lower Niagara River, Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle is back operating again and she reports that the steelhead action has been especially good in the morning in Devil’s Hole before the water comes up. According to her husband, Capt. Steve Drabczyk, run an emerald shiner off a three-way rig to take your fish. Smallmouth bass have been chomping on tubes, swim baits and Ned rigs downriver around Peggy’s Eddy and Joe Davis State Park.

Mike Ziehm
Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a huge lower river lake trout he caught from shore.
Michelle Ginter
Michelle Ginter of Orchard Park was fishing this week with Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston in the Lower Niagara River and managed to catch this big steelhead in Devil’s Hole.

Only artificial lures can be used during this catch and release season. The Niagara Bar at the mouth of the river off Fort Niagara around the green can continues to be a productive spot for king salmon and lake trout. Throw on a MagLip or a Kwikfish and use a three-way rig to bottom bounce, moving just fast enough to get the action out of your lure. There are some Coho salmon hanging out in the upper parts of the water column. If you see feeding birds on the surface, you will know that bait is around and that means the Coho salmon will be nearby. If you do catch any Coho salmon, save the head for a DEC study on these fish. Bags and forms can be found at Fort Niagara at the fish cleaning station, Bootleggers Cove Marina in Wilson, and the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott near the fish cleaning station. There is a freezer at all three locations for you to deposit your catch. Check out for proper procedures. In the lower river gorge area, Mike Rzucidlo and Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls did very well this week casting spinners and jigs to take a mixed bag that include lake trout, steelhead, and white bass.

Alex Gauld smallmouth bass
Alex Gauld of Tonawanda with his 5-pound, 11-ounce smallmouth bass he caught this week in the upper Niagara River.
Nick Calandrelli
Capt. Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston caught this 6-pound smallmouth bass in the lower Niagara River this week.

Upper Niagara River smallmouth bass action continues to be good according to Jeff Pippard at Niagara Outdoors and, again, only artificial lures can be used during this catch and release season. Alex Gauld of Tonawanda managed to catch smallmouth up to 5 pounds, 11 ounces last weekend. Anglers are picking up some walleyes at night up toward Buffalo by casting stickbaits and jigs. There is a virtual meeting on Lake Erie and the Upper Niagara River being run by DEC on May 21 starting at 7 p.m. Find out details at Stay safe out there!

Wayne County Fishing Update

Chris Kenyon

Lake Ontario

Surface temperatures at Oswego are currently 43 degrees. There is an east south east wind at 8 knots. This is noted because the wind has been blowing way too much lately, so although an east wind is not the best, we’ll take the 8 knots.

Most of the brown trout action has been west of Sodus. Set-up in 30 feet of water and troll towards Maxwell and Bear Creeks. Look for the temperature breaks and put out spoons and stickbaits, Use boards, riggers, and lead core.

Colors have been glow green and dark purple. The spring king fishing is slowed during last week, however the fish caught are extremely healthy.

Now that the charters are on the water, we will get the weekly scoop from the pros.


The bullhead fishing is excellent. You can fish off Bay Bridge using leeches. Wear your mask if you cannot be six feet apart.

Pike are still being caught trolling or casting the east side of Sodus Bay. Some perch are near the channel in 20 feet of water.

Both launch sites at Port Bay are opened. Crappies are still suspended down five feet over 15 feet.

Some perch are also being caught near the channel; however, this is the time of year where they enter Lake Ontario.

Erie Canal

Fishing near Swifts Landing in Palmyra has been productive for panfish. There is also action near Widewaters, west of Newark. With a warming weekend predicted, the panfish will be active and on the bite.

Currently the canal is closed for boat traffic. You can keep informed from the NYS Canal web.

You can still fish from shore at pull-off sites along Route 31.

Charters in Wayne County are Opened for Business

Wayne County Charters are now opened for business. The Finger Lakes region has currently met all the necessary requirements during Phase One to operate their business. All steps and guidelines to ensure safety are listed HERE.

Boat Launches Opened

Privately-owned marinas, boat launches, and many other recreational marine locations are now opened.

The official statement from New York State is made in conjunction with similar ones from the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, is the latest change to the guidance from Empire State Development on what is and isn’t affected by the governor’s Executive Order 202, which ordered employers to reduce the number of employees working at individual locations to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance regarding privately-owned marinas, boatyards and recreational marine manufacturers allows for operations and boat repair/maintenance so long as the facilities ‘adhere to strict social distancing and sanitization protocols.’ However, watercraft cannot be used for charters or rentals, and any restaurant facilities there must remain take-out or delivery only.

Safety Precautions from DEC

While enjoying the outdoors, please continue to follow the CDC/New York State Department of Health guidelines (leaves DEC’s website) for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Try to keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others.
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
  • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.

When fishing, DEC recommends avoiding busy waters and following the guidelines on DEC’s website about fishing responsibly in New York State. If an angler arrives at a parking lot and there are several cars, they should consider going to another parking lot. If an angler is fishing upstream, they should fish downstream of the other angler or consider fishing another day. Anglers fishing from boats should be able to maintain at least six feet of distance between one another. For more information about the benefits of being outdoors safely and responsibly, go to DEC’s website.

New York State is open for fishing and DEC encourages anglers to recreate locally at a nearby waterbody. New York’s lakes and streams offer great opportunities for fishing in a wide array of settings across the state. Even during the current COVID-19 public health crisis, getting outdoors and connecting with nature while angling in New York’s waters is a great way to help maintain mental and physical health.

Charters and Guides

The “New York State on PAUSE” Executive Order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone during the COVID-19 response, includes a directive that all non-essential businesses statewide must close effective at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, and temporarily bans all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason.

At this time, fishing guides or charters of any size have been determined to be not essential and are subject to workforce reduction requirements of the Executive Order. The full and updated guidance on which types of businesses are determined essential and other designations associated with the order can be found online. For more info

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