Upstate and Western New York Fishing Report – February 18, 2021

Greater Niagara Region

Bill Hilts, Jr.

Things are set for the Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest sponsored by the Niagara River Anglers Association on Feb. 27. Sign up at Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston or the Lewiston launch ramp the morning of the event. Remember that you must be a member of the NRAA to compete in the contest. Cold temperatures (it was single digits this morning) haven’t kept fishermen from fishing on the water, be it open or frozen. Yes, there is still some open water fishing going on. Capt. Richard Brant of Tonawanda sends word that he had some great fishing days in the lower Niagara River over the weekend despite the cold weather. There is quite a bit of ice chunks flowing through the river system, too. Water temps were 32 degrees, and the wind has been so cold it was making skim ice on the surface making fishing conditions tough according to Brant.

Rick Ilecki steelhead
Rick Ilecki of Tonawanda with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught over the weekend fishing with Capt. Richard Brant of Tonawanda.

Matt Keener steelhead
Matt Keener of Sanborn with a Burt Dam steelhead he caught this week.

The steelhead bite has been great with water clarity 7-9 feet of visibility. Natural soft colors such as pink, peach, and yellow egg sacs have been working best. Live bait is also working off 3-way rigs according to Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle. Bob Hubler of Niagara Falls targeted walleye over the weekend and he did catch some in the cold. Remember that the daily limit is only 1 fish per person through March 15. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls got some casts in from the shoreline in the gorge and managed to catch some dandy steelhead on jigs and No. 4 spinners. Water clarity was 3-4 feet of visibility. Be very careful maneuvering around the shoreline ice. Wear some type of ice cleats on your shoes or boots. Steve Hawkins of Capt. Bob’s Outdoors reports there is a new steelhead leader – Mike Dahar of Amherst boated a 30-inch steelhead on a 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a Keitech easy shiner swimbait. The derby continues to March 15.

Mike Dahar steelhead
Mike Dahar of Amherst with a 30-inch steelhead from the lower Niagara River to take over the lead in the Capt. Bob’s Outdoors winter derby.
Mike Rzucidlo steelhead
Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a beautiful Valentine’s Day steelhead from the lower Niagara River, caught on a spinner.
Mike Rzucidlo steelhead
Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a colorful steelhead from the lower Niagara River.

Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports solid ice at Wilson Harbor with pike and perch both being caught, but nothing hot and heavy. Roy Letcher of Newfane reports that they been doing okay at Burt Dam. Matt Keener of Sanborn was using black and gold jigs to take a half-dozen steelhead and browns the past week at the dam. Nearby Ringneck Marsh has ice in the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area and some fish are being caught. Stay safe out there!

Oswego County

David Owens of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.

Oswego River Report

The CFS hovered around 4000 this past week but dipped recently.  This afternoon’s reading was at 2450.  These low flows, cold temperatures, and the snow mean the river is frozen in a lot of spots.  The west side is the best starting point and our “go to” bait on the Oswego River this week continues to be white jigs with colored heads.  Pink, white, and chartreuse heads are ideal.  Natural colored eggs sacs are also working well.

Year-Round Notice: There are mandatory personal flotation device (PFD) zones on the river. For more information, visit our website at 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 494 CFS as of this afternoon. This drop in flow happened on February 16th. Slush below Pineville continues to make things challenging, but most of the ice shelf has dissipated with the fluctuation of water levels. But we predict accumulation again soon, with frigid temperatures right around the corner.

Fishing has been extra good from Ellis Cove to the Lower Fly Zone. Cold temperatures and generally slow fish continue to make this an ideal time to hire a guide who runs trips from a warm drift boat!

The sun is rising a lot earlier these days so (if you can fight the cold) you may consider going out earlier when angler pressure is the lowest.

If we had to pick a bait this week, we would start with egg sacs. Blue, white, or pink have all been successful and the big garish flies aren’t getting as much action. Jigs are doing well too, but the beads have been a lot slower this week.

Continue to be extra careful of the ice, including in the parking lots.

Oneida Lake Report:

Temperatures remain cold and we still have 10-12” of ice in most places, but a lot more slush this week. “Sloppy and wet” as one angler described it. We’re still seeing the machines moving though.

A caty jig with a full buckeye, or something similar, continue to be our “go to” suggestion.

Structure and changes in depth are often the default starting point, but don’t completely rule out the flats. Either way you must keep moving to find them.

We also have reports of a few near “white-outs” on the ice. There is snow in the forecast again tonight and this weekend, and we always recommend bringing a compass and knowing your readings. Stay safe!

Sandy Pond Report:

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.

We still have a good base of ice, but also some slush earlier this week. However, that should dissipate with the projected drop in temperatures.

The pike bite and perch bite are both hot now, with the crappie picking up and the pickerel doing well too. We continue to have multiple reports of people bringing in big hauls, and several 12” fish. Northland eyeball jigs, slender spoons, Caty jigs, and Swedish pimples remain standards.

Overall weekends have been packed, sometimes 200-300 anglers are out. So come early to claim your spot.

Keep in mind that “Taco Bob’s Ice Fishing Derby” is this Saturday, February 20th. You can call 315.387.3766 for more info on registration. The usual fish fry that goes along with this event is canceled this year due to Covid-19 safety measures.

Wayne County Fishing Update

Chris Kenyon

Lake Ontario

The countdown begins for BT fishing the lake. April is only six weeks away. Many charters will be plying lake waters by April 1st. That’s something to look forward to for the trout and salmon anglers.


There is safe ice on all bays. Sodus has some slush on the top of 8 to 10 inches. Yesterday’s predicted storm did not happen which is good news for dragging your shanty on ice. And snow cover stops the ice making.

Reports from Port and Sodus Bays show the little perch (dinks) showing up more than the bigger 10 inchers. Try fishing above the school of fish targeting 30 fow.

Use heavier jigs…perch color…tipped with perch eyes or spikes for the larger fish.

Parking for ice fishing is always a challenge. If you fish Third Creek try Shaker Road, however, do not block the road.

Margaretta Road has parking and if you fish the east side of Sodus, try the small parking area south of Skipper’s Landing restaurant.

There are catching some perch straight-out from Skippers in 15 fow.

On the ice “take-out what you bring-in.” There has been trash left on the ice and near the parking area. Keep it clean.

Erie Canal

There is solid ice near the Widewaters section of the canal. Fish the weed beds on the south side for perch bluegills, and sunfish.

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

Oak Orchard winter steelhead
Hardy anglers can still get in on “hot” Oak Orchard winter steelhead. Photo courtesy of “Country”

There was a good shot of area wide snow through last night (Monday) and today (Tuesday). So now the snow is pretty serious with close to a couple feet of accumulation. You can bet that there will be good run off flows in the future on some warming weather. Yet to be seen is if we’ll get a quick warm up in the near future with resultant blow out conditions or some kind of slower melt and run off. Whatever rise in flows we get toward late winter or spring should mean some fresh steelhead migrations. Anglers likely will have to target some high and cold and stained/dirty flows to get in on the fresh chrome. For now, flows are low and clear and iced up in most spots except for fast water sections on the Oak and at the dam. The forecast is for cold weather hanging on thru this week and another good chance at more snow accumulations around Thursday. Long range forecast looks like chance for a seasonable warmup around the end of the weekend or beginning of next week.

West Marine store finder

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