Upstate New York Fishing Report
Greater Niagara Region
Bill Hilts, Jr.
It is cold out there. The temperature this morning was 12 degrees. This cold snap will stay with us for at least another week or so. The polar blast has had a serious impact on Lake Erie and what was once wide-open water as recent as last week now has 80 percent ice cover according to recent reports. What that means for lower Niagara River fishermen is that storms will not have as much of an effect on the river fishery. The storm last week blew out the river and the muddy water conditions shut things down for several days. The wind also blew in quite a bit of ice chunks so dodging small ice pieces will be an issue when boats make it back on the water or shore fishermen start casting hardware. The shore casting could start as soon as today. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls reports that there was 3 feet of visibility in the water Tuesday and he will try to head down soon to give it a go. Spinners will probably be his lure of choice, No. 4 or 5. Gary Laidman of South Wales was out with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island Wednesday and Thursday just before the storm blew in and the determining factor for how well they did was the direction of the wind. According to Laidman, they caught all the steelies on pink/yellow egg sacs off 3-way rigs. The North wind was tough on Wednesday, holding up the boat drift. Thursday was great without wind. They caught their fish mostly at Artpark and Stella drifts. Laidman caught some walleyes, too, on 3-way rigs with golden shiners but no big ones yet have been reported.
On the local front for ice fishing, Wilson Harbor now has some safe ice according to Lisa Drabczyk at Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston. Anglers are catching perch and pike. Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott reports that there are a few guys fishing at Burt Dam, too. Spikes, wax worms, and flies are the most talked about baits. Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that there is very little open water in the tributaries. The smaller ones are locked up. The first melt should trigger fish runs in all the streams.
Remember that this coming weekend is a Free Fishing Weekend in New York State, Feb. 13 and 14. No license is needed but you do have to abide by the regulations in the body of water you intend to fish. In addition to the fishing side of things, this is the weekend for the Birds on the Niagara Festival, set for Feb. 12-14. Check out the website at birdsontheniagara.org. The Niagara River Corridor is globally recognized as an Important Bird Area. Learn more about what the area offers in the way of our feathered friends through the website. You will be able to see why many people say Niagara Falls USA is for the birds!
David Owens of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.
Oswego River Report
There was some variation in the CFS this past week, but it never reached 5000. This morning’s reading was at 3,940. Low flows, cold temperatures, and lots of recent snow mean the river is frozen in a lot of spots. This is especially true near the upper west side by the dam and the lower east side behind the hotels. Both the high and low walls are fishable, but the fishing remains slow, and the floats are freezing up. Our go to bait on the Oswego River this week would be white jigs.
Year-Round Notice: There are mandatory personal flotation device (PFD) zones on the river. For more information, visit our website at visitoswegocounty.com and click on the Fishing Report along the top bar on the home page. The Oswego Fire Department offers loaner life jackets at no charge through its “Loaner for Life” program. For more information contact the fire station at 35 E. Cayuga St. by calling 315-343-2161.
Click here for the Brookfield Varick Fish Safely brochure.
Click here for the current water flow.
Salmon River Report:
The Pineville gauge was at 600 CFS as of this morning, while the dam discharge was 500 CFS. This rise in flow happened on February 9th. Slush below Pineville continues to make things challenging.
Fishing all week has been like a switch – one day we see some big steelhead, the next day very few fish are landed. But the fish are in the river, so the anglers who are willing to patiently grind it out will eventually be successful. This would also be an ideal time to hire a guide who runs trips from a warm drift boat!
If we had to pick a bait this week, we would start with egg sacs. Blue, white, peach, or pink have all been successful. We also have reports of success with stoneflies and egg patterns.
Continue to be extra careful of the ice, including in the parking lots, and check the CFS before you go out in case it drops again and we see more ice shelf.
Oneida Lake Report:
Temperatures remain cold and we have seen a lot of snowfall recently. We now have 10-12” of ice in most places.
Like the Salmon River, all reports indicate that the fishing on Oneida Lake has been like a switch. Some days the fish are aggressive, and jigs are the way to go. Other days the fish are looking for something slower, in which case we recommend beginning by deadsticking a caty jig with a full buckeye or something similar.
Structure and changes in depth are usually the go-to spots, but don’t rule out the flats. Either way you must keep moving to find them.
Generally, the best bite has been first light and last light. This coming week looks like cloudy most days, with some possible snow on Monday and Tuesday.
Sandy Pond Report:
There is a lot of ice on the north pond now, 10-12” as of today. We have had a lot of snow recently; some has blown off and there is minimal slush.
The pike bite remains hot, and the perch bite has picked way up. We have multiple reports of people bringing in big hauls, and several 12” fish. Northland eyeball jigs, slender spoons, Caty jigs, and Swedish pimples continue to be our go-to recommendations.
Two events to keep in mind: The Sandy Pond Sportsmen’s Association derby starts Friday, February 12th and goes through the weekend. Check out their website for more information. Then “Taco Bob’s Ice Fishing Derby” is next Saturday, February 20th. You can call 315.387.3766 to register. There is 100% payout, but the usual fish fry is canceled this year due to Covid-19 safety measures.
The main points of ice access for Sandy Pond are: Greenpoint, “The Elms,” Wigwam, and the new DEC launch at Stanley Drive, which is now a free option for parking, but it is a bit further to walk.
Wayne County Fishing Update
There was some steelhead action on the south side of Maxwell Creek. There is not much open water as the small stream freezes fast. If you find any openings, throw out egg sacs.
The safe ice is here, and the ice anglers are coming to Sodus Bay. Over 70 trucks were parked along Shaker Heights Road last Saturday. Ice Anglers were also fishing north of Bay Bridge Sport Shop, and on the east side of Sodus out from Skipper’s Restaurant.
There were hundreds of happy ice anglers finally having the opportunity to walk on safe ice.
I will post some pictures on Facebook later today.
Currently, there is a solid eight inches on Port and Sodus Bays. Just beware of streams and dock bubblers where the ice is never uniform.
The south road to Port Bay is closed, while DEC works on the ramp. If you take the north barrier road, make sure have a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The loop road on Sodus Bay is closed and there is some parking available at the yacht club.
The quest is perch, and they are hitting bright jigs tipped with spikes or perch eyes. They have been in 20 feet of water; however, you might need to move around to find larger fish.
Stay away from the Sodus Channel and the northwest side of the bay near the restaurants. If there is ice…it’s never safe. Currently, it’s all open water.
There are six to eight inches of ice at Widewaters. It is safe for shanties. You can catch perch, sunnies and bluegills in the canal. Fish the south shore where the weed beds are located.
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
This weekend is FREE Fishing Weekend! February 13-14, 2021
Well, the snow is accumulating little by little. And that’s a good thing for later on when the weather warms up and the flows increase, encouraging fresh steelhead migrations. For now, there’s probably 8 – 10 inches of snow with seasonably cold forecast for this week and additional snow showers. Exceptional cold is forecast for the end of week and weekend. Flows in the Oak are low and clear and still mostly open. Even the head of the downstream frog water is still open but looks to be closing in some each day. Look for that ice cover to be moving up all the way toward the Road Hole. Fishing pressure is real light, now with hook ups at the dam even becoming tougher. That we know of, most all other smaller area tributaries are iced up and frozen in. Even the big water, the Genesee is frozen. There’s still some good Niagara drift opportunities to satisfy your big trout addiction! Contact us for drift trip info.
During Free Fishing Days/Weekends, anyone can fish the fresh waters of New York State and no fishing license is required! All other freshwater fishing regulations still apply. Read more at NYS DEC’s website.