Upstate and Western New York Fishing Report – January 21, 2020

smallmouth bass ice fishing
Photo courtesy of Upstate Guide Service

Eastern Finger Lakes / Central New York Fishing Report

Mike Crawford of

Ice anglers are getting out in many parts of the state but conditions vary from region to region. In the Adirondacks ice thickness varies from five to 10 inches. Heavy snowfall this past weekend in some parts of the North Country has made ice travel difficult…and in many places unsafe.
Lakes with flowing water, like many of the flows of the Adirondacks have varying ice thickness. They can be dangerous even when the bays are thick with over a foot of ice. Now with a foot or more of snow resting on slush on top of thin ice, extreme caution is required.

ice fishing perch and pike
Photo courtesy of Upstate Guide Service

Traversing frozen bays on foot is arduous with slush and snow and tempts anglers to employ machines when in fact the ice may not yet be suitable. Snowmobiles and quads add another element of risk when traveling on thin ice and/or poor surface conditions.

Tragedy struck on a popular lake in the Town of Hammond this past weekend. This is a solid and somber reminder that ice travel requires sound and good judgment. On foot or via machine. Stay safe and on top of the ice.

Greater Niagara Region

Bill Hilts, Jr.

Only 2 more months until Spring! The recent Western New York lake effect event missed us here in Niagara Falls USA once again, but the influences can still be felt by stained water in the Niagara River from the winds impacting Lake Erie. Lake Erie water temperatures are still above freezing and there is no ice, so a wide-open lake is susceptible to winds, rain, and snow – whatever Mother Nature dishes out to us this time of year. And it can change quickly!

Mike Ziehm jig
Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls hand-ties his own jigs to take a mixed bag of trout in the lower Niagara River.
Mike Ziehm lake trout
Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls had some decent fishing over the weekend in the lower Niagara River. He caught this lake trout on a jig.
Mike Ziehm steelhead
Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a colorful steelhead he caught in the lower Niagara River on a jig.

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls was reporting 3 feet of visibility on Monday morning upstream of the power plant. He was landing brown trout, lake trout, rainbows, and steelhead for four days in a row. Jigs and spinners were the tools of his casting efforts. However, visibility turned to 1 foot at mid-day and the action was finished until things settle down again. More wind is on the way. Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston said that beads and jigs tipped with a plastic shad minnow were working along Artpark before the water turned color.

Dan lake trout
Dan from West Virginia with a Niagara Bar lake trout, reeled in while fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky.

From boats, Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Wet Net Charters reports that the river is stained right now, and he has not been out this week yet. However, the bite was decent before the water got dirty. Devil’s Hole was giving up some feisty steelhead on egg sacs, fished off 3-way rigs. The Niagara Bar has been pretty good as well. There was a decent lake trout bite with some browns mixed in, again off 3-way set-ups. Emeralds and golden shiners were best out there, triggering consistent hits. An occasional king salmon has also been surprising anglers drifting around out on the Bar. If the wind does not blow too much, look for action to begin again by this weekend.

Boris walleye
Boris from Pennsylvania caught this personal-best Niagara River walleye that weighed in at over 12 pounds. He was fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell.
Chris Farrish steelhead
Chris Farrish of West Virginia with a chunky lower Niagara River steelhead he caught fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky.
Mark Scott steelhead
Mark Scott of West Virginia reeled in this steelhead in the lower Niagara River fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Wet Net.

In the tributaries of Lake Ontario, Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that scattered single trout are everywhere, but you must work for them. This is the usual winter fishing pattern that we are in right now. Waters are low and clear. Be stealthy on your approach. The streamer bite remains good. Karen Evarts at the Boat Doctors in Olcott reports that wax worms and spikes have been flying out of their 24-hour bait machine in front of their shop. Candy bars and floats, too. Fishing pressure has been light. With colder temperatures in the forecast, look for some icing up to take place in the smaller streams. Good luck out there and stay safe!

Wayne County Fishing Update

Chris Kenyon


Some steelhead were caught in Maxwell Creek yesterday during the MLK holiday. They came from the south side of Lake Road. They hit egg sacs…the real eggs.

The other creeks in the county have an excellent flow of water and most streamside shores are clear of snow. That can change with local lake effect dumping snow in different locations, however today they are clear.

Salmon Creek in Pultneyville has seen steelhead action. Be respectful of private property as access points are limited. Fish under the bridge.

At the mouth of Bear Creek some browns and steelhead were caught casting out bright red Kastmaster spoons.


Some anglers took advantage of Monday’s warmer temps and launched at Port Bay. The perch were caught off the points on the east side of the bay.

We are still experiencing the transition time for bay fishing. Colder temps are coming this week and if we don’t get snow cover and the winds are calm, ice will form. Four-to-five-inch solid ice is what we need, so next week might be the beginning of ice fishing.

Erie Canal

A colder week is predicted and the ice making machine will start. The Widewaters area is the best place to drill holes.

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

Orleans County

Ron Bierstin, Oak Orchard Tackle & Lodge

Trib flows all around are on a slow drop and clear. Most everything is low – or moderate, if you’re optimistic. Flows in the Oak are hanging in a little bit thanks to fair upstream swamp headwater supplies and there’s even a little color. Forecast ahead though, it finally looks like a bit of seasonable colder weather dropping back into the 20’s°F or lower at night. For now, most everything has remained open and fishable despite the lowering flows, but ahead I’d expect to see some icing in the lower reaches of the waterways and in some of the smaller tribs’ fast water stretches too. Some Lake Effect Snow is forecast now and thru mid week but most all of that is southwest of the area. I’m still looking for that good snowpack to make for some high or blowout flows toward the spring.

Fishing pressure is real light, a handful of guys are out on the Oak. They’ve done OK by January standards, getting some hookups on steelhead with some chromers mixed in. I suspect that the warmer than typical trib flows are enticing the few fresh fish in. It might get tougher before it gets better for hook ups in the short term and, with the next good high or blow out flows, we should be into the typical good February and March steelhead action.

1 thought on “Upstate and Western New York Fishing Report – January 21, 2020

  1. John Kurtz

    Looking for a 2 day ice fishing trip for lake trout, wallie or pike the week of Feb; 13,14, 2021 . I live in Patchogue so the drive would not be a problem? Any suggestions?

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