Eastern Finger Lakes / Central New York Fishing Report
Mike Crawford of upstateguideservice.com
Since last report the ice thickness in The North Country has increased only slight. Anglers were out on select bays of the Saint Lawrence River and some of the smaller lakes over the weekend. Most reports were of ice four to six inches thick.
In the Adirondacks the ice is only slightly thicker and in some places still under six inches in thickness. A blanket of snow that fell on January 2nd left a foot of powder on top of four to five inches of black ice.
Oneida Lake froze over last Friday evening with single digit temperatures overnight. The skim ice is holding as winds have been light and variable.
Some reports of anglers getting out on some of the shallow bays of Oneida. Mild daytime temps this week have not spurred ice growth. Fishing pressure on the few lakes and bays that have safe ice is heavy.
Greater Niagara Region
Bill Hilts, Jr.
The mild January weather so far has limited ice production on many inland lakes and bays. First and foremost is that you stay safe out there. Four inches of solid clear ice is usually safe for any hard water anglers traveling around on foot. Ice thicknesses can vary, even on the same body of water, and you should spud your way on to any water body to make sure the ice is safe. Be particularly cautious around any moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to limit ice production. Fish with a friend or family member and make sure you tell someone where you are going to be. Make sure you carry a couple ice picks with you that are easily accessible, as well as a long length of rope as a precaution. Make sure you read and understand the fishing regulations on the body of water you intend to fish, especially the baitfish regulations. If you are 16 or older, remember that you must carry a fishing license. There is a weekend coming up Feb. 13-14 where a fishing license is not required. However, you must still abide by the rules and regulations for the body of water you intend to fish. This is a great way to try out ice fishing but go with someone who knows what they are doing. Just a reminder that if you are fishing the lower Niagara River, there is a special walleye regulation in place that only allows for 1 fish per person through March 15 now, sporting a minimum size of 18 inches.
Fishing has slowed down in the lower Niagara River according to Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston as of Monday. As of Tuesday, Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reports muddy water and increasingly fast water due to Lake Erie winds and it may take a day or two to settle down. Live bait had been the hot ticket for boats this week, fished off 3-way rigs. Shore guys in the gorge were having the best luck on jigs with plastic baits, split tail minnows and No. 4 and No. 5 spinners. Sacs and beads are still working, too. Top colors depend on the conditions. On Monday it was pink sacs. According to Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Orchard Park, water was crystal clear prior to the wind. It was a little slower over the weekend due to heavy boat traffic and the clear water. But Monday was incredible for O’Neill, boating 20-plus fish by noon along Artpark. There were no boats around. Chartreuse egg sacks and beads were the preferred baits. O’Neill switched to small and light gear with a #12 hook and 6-pound test fluorocarbon leader. Then he headed to the Bar for lakers for a change in pace. He finished off the morning boating 5 fish in 6 drifts on the flats in 18-20 feet of water. He was using minnows with a pink or yellow 10 mm bead pegged 2 inches above the hook. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls reports he switched to jigs the last 2 times out with the clear water. The move produced 3 to 5 trout a day on white-silver 1/4-ounce jigs. The visibility on Monday was 6-8 feet in Devil’s Hole. When things do start to clear again, the shore fishermen will have the first advantage.
For Lake Ontario, Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors reports limited fishing pressure at Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek, but a few steelhead were being reported on wax worms and spikes. Smaller streams were holding fish, but water levels were starting to come down. Some snow is in the forecast for this week, but it should not be more than an inch or two. Night temperatures have been cold, but some daytime temperatures could reach 40 degrees this week. Try fishing in the afternoon when things warm up.
Wayne County Fishing Update
The Port Bay channel opened-up this weekend and although a small outlet, steelhead and browns have been known to enter from the lake.
All streams in Wayne County have excellent flows and January is the month for steelies. They will take egg sacs and any bright beads. Live bait works the best. You can find them in all waters that connect to Lake Ontario.
I was at Webster Creek (Monroe County) last year and there was a small school of exceptionally large steelhead…and they were in water that was less than a foot deep.
In Wayne County fish Salmon and Bear Creek and Maxwell Creek.
We are still in the transition mode for bay fishing. It is now in the mid-thirties which doesn’t make ice.
The south end of Sodus has a couple inches of ice; however, the rest of the bay is opened. Port Bay has no ice.
As soon as we get 5 inches, we are featuring ice fishing on Sodus Bay with Rush Outdoors. Host Tim Andrus and I will compete with some of the video guys from Rush Outdoors. We will film an episode for a future show.
Hopefully, Andrus and I will have the heated shanty. We must make sure our hands are ready to haul in fish. Sodus Bay is the hot spot for perch during winter fishing, so this should be fun.
Widewaters and other sections of the canal have ice, however nothing safe enough to drill a hole. Cold air is predicted next week, so everything could change with a few 20-degree days.
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.
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 https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026.
Ron Bierstin, Oak Orchard Tackle & Lodge
‘Not bad’ flows are hanging in for now at the Oak at about medium or just one tick less. Still color to the water too with about 2+ feet of visibility. Look for flows likely to continue to drop and clear toward moderate. Over the past week or so of up and stained flows, there’s been a slow pick on some steelhead and a brown here and there. There’s still a few rogue dark salmon or two as well. The tougher action is probably more a function of the calendar then anything else. Hopefully heading into February or March on another good rise in flows or blowout we’ll see a push of some spring steelhead.
Fishing pressure is real light – a handful of cars at either access spot. Yes, not bad daytime temps in the 30’s°F with below freezing temps at night and not a lot of sun lately has lead to more net freezing then things staying open. Oak frog water downstream is still open, but with low and clear flows on the smaller waterways, there is a fair amount of ice up.