Upstate New York Fishing Report – December 17, 2020

Gary Laidman steelhead

Greater Niagara Region

Bill Hilts, Jr.

With Christmas a week away, there are plenty of fishing-related gifts that can be stuffed in stockings or wrapped up for under the tree. A fishing charter is a great option to help someone along to learn more about fishing or treat someone to a special outdoor adventure. A Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby season pass is a great stocking stuffer, too, along with a lifetime fishing license for young and old alike. New rods, reels and tackle boxes are good for under the tree. A gift certificate for your local tackle shop is a way to show local businesses a little holiday love. It is not too late to find a perfect gift for that special someone.

Gary Laidman steelhead
Gary Laidman of South Wales reeled in this chunky steelhead from Devil’s Hole while fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island last weekend.
Mike Rzucidlo lake trout
Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a Devil’s Hole lake trout he caught on a jig. Lake trout season is open as of Dec. 1.

We are not sure how much of an impact there will be from the Nor’easter storming up the east coast. It appears we will not be feeling the full effects of the weather event with only an inch of snow being forecast. The Niagara River was muddy again from wind, but it is slowly starting to switch over to cleaner water. Mike Rzucidlo and Mike Ziehm, both of Niagara Falls, hit the lower river from shore using No. 5 spinners in roughly 2 feet of visibility on Monday. The duo reeled in over a dozen steelhead, caught and released. According to Rzucidlo, just use a very slow retrieve and get close to the bottom for trout. Use bright fluorescent colors when its muddy water. Also use bigger spinners. He did that this week and did well. Earlier they went to Devil’s Hole and used jigs all day. They managed to catch 6 lake trout and 1 bass. Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston hit the water of the lower river on Tuesday this week and the water was slowly clearing into more favorable conditions. His trip managed to squeeze out 5 out of 8 fish for a mix of lake trout and steelhead. They also managed to catch a smallmouth bass. They were using minnows fished off three-way rigs, primarily in Devil’s Hole because of a north wind. The final day for muskellunge fishing for the lower river, Lake Ontario and beyond was Dec. 15.

Mike Rzucidlo steelhead
Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught several steelhead like this one using No. 5 spinners in the lower Niagara River.
Mike Ziehm steelhead
Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a lower river steelhead he caught on a No. 5 spinner.

There are a few fishermen at Burt Dam on 18 Mile Creek, but fishing pressure has been down of late. The focus has been on steelhead and browns, with wax worms, single eggs and flies all taking fish this past week according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott. Water flow is moderate, and this coming week should be the last of the Erie Canal releases according to a published schedule for fall and winter draining.

Stay safe out there and hopefully we can update this report next Wednesday.

Wayne County Fishing Update

Chris Kenyon


We had more precipitation last week and Maxwell Creek has a better flow. Some browns were caught on the north side of Lake Road on the west side of the stream. They were hitting egg sacs under bobbers.

There are some smaller pools on the south side of Maxwell that are holding some browns. Unfortunately, it is a hit or miss situation.

Some steelhead were caught off the Sodus Bay channel pier. Be careful as there is ice build-up.

Salmon Creek has a decent flow under the bridge. Public access sections are limited so comply with posted areas.


It’s perch season in Sodus and Port Bays with 10 to 12 inchers schooling near points and rocky bottoms. Use rubber shad. That is what they have been eating…shad minnows.

Be careful launching as all the DEC docks have been pulled for the winter.

Temperatures today are in the mid-twenties and if we can keep below freezing temps, we might be on the ice later this month.

Usually, the first place to freeze on Sodus Bay is near LeRoy Island. Many ice anglers start the season at that location fishing for pike.

Remember the important regulation regarding life jackets. (PFD’s) Use must wear your PFD from November 1st through May 1st if your boat is less than 21 feet. This means it must be worn…not lying in the bow of your boat.
The official rule: All persons on board a recreational vessel less than 21 feet in length (including canoes, kayaks, and rowboats) must wear a USCG–approved PFD from November 1 to May 1.

Erie Canal

The south shoreline of the canal at Widewaters had a small skim of ice today. If we get low temperatures that area will freeze solid. Currently you can still launch at the county park west of Newark on Route 31. The perch, bluegills, and sunfish are all tasty fish than can be caught in the canal this time of the year.

Keep informed from the NYS Canal web for changes and restrictions with canal waters.

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.

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

Orleans County

Ron Bierstin, Oak Orchard Tackle & Lodge

Looks like our first stretch of colder winter weather is upon us for this mid-week with highs forecast around freezing. There is no significant snow accumulation expected from Wednesday’s winter storm. This area is on the northern fringe and may get a couple of inches according to the forecast. With moderating temps above freezing expected late this week, the area may get some runoff going due to greater snow amounts south of here.

For this mid-week, so far it looks like the Oak is holding steady or else dropping back just a little toward more moderate flows and mostly clear. Other smaller area tribs could be seeing the final spate of wintertime canal drainage water at medium to slightly high and slightly stained flows. Those increased flows may be holding off any serious ice, but thanks to consistently cold temperatures, look for some iced up conditions on those smaller waterways.

Fishing pressure is pretty light and the last reports we had for the end of last week/beginning of this past weekend indicated guys were into mostly steelhead on the Oak and grinding out browns on the other area smaller tributaries. Look for Canal water to be lasting something like through this week or maybe weekend. There are still plenty of brown trout and steelhead chances, especially with less angling competition and reasonable flow conditions hanging in.

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