Greater Niagara Region
Bill Hilts, Jr.
The Western New York wind machine will be cranking up this afternoon with gusts up to 50 miles per hour. We bring this up because it could have an impact on the amount of ice in the Niagara River. We simply do not know for sure, but it is a word of caution heading into the weekend with the steelhead contest coming up. Saturday is the Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest sponsored by the Niagara River Anglers Association. You must be a member of the NRAA. Sign up for both at Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston or sign up the morning of the contest at the Lewiston Launch Ramp. The cost is $20 for a membership and $20 for the contest, plus an extra $5 for a big brown trout purse. It looks like temperatures will be in the 40s on Saturday so take advantage of the warmth. The river was filled with ice yesterday, but Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports that there are still some boats trying to head out for steelhead. Egg sacs have been working well for boaters. Live bait like shiners and minnows are also producing some fish. You do not have to fish from a boat for the NRAA contest either. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls fished the shoreline in the gorge a couple of days this past week, and he caught 3 steelhead a day on jigs and No. 3 spinners, including a big 13 pounder. There was 4 feet of visibility. The Niagara County tributaries along Lake Ontario are also eligible waters … if you can find open water. Burt Dam is a sure bet there will be open water there.
Some big walleyes were caught in the Niagara River this past week – both above and below the falls. Denis Kreze of Fort Erie, Ontario boated a big 12-pound walleye in the upper river. Not to be undone, Tom Brownyard from Rochester reeled in a 12-pound 2-ounce walleye he caught on a large Emerald shiner fishing slow with a vertical jig presentation with Capt. Richard Brant of Tonawanda. Walleye action has been relatively slow in the lower river. The season closes March 15.
In Wilson Harbor, Lisa Drabczyk at Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports that yellow perch have been cooperating through the ice there. Open water action was being reported at Burt Dam according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott, but there has not been a lot of fishing activity from anglers. Egg sacs or egg imitations top the list, but wax worms and jigs should catch fish, too. Melting ice and snow could start to bring steelhead into streams.
David Owens of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.
Oswego River Report
The CFS fluctuated between 2500 and 5000 this past week and seems to have leveled off the last few days. This morning’s reading was at 3670. We have had a spike in temperature recently, which has released a lot of the ice buildup. The forecast currently shows mostly above freezing temperatures during the day, so we expect the current trend in conditions to continue.
Use extreme caution, especially when wading. Giant ice chunks could easily take even experienced anglers off their feet.
Our “go to” bait on the Oswego River this time of year 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 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.
Salmon River Report:
The Pineville gauge was at 512 CFS as of this morning and has mostly hovered around 500 for the past week. Temperatures have been hovering in the mid-40’s, and a lot of angler are taking advantage of these conditions.
The majority of angler are still focusing on the upper river. We’ve seen large numbers in the fly zones especially. But we recommend trying the lower river this week as it has opened a lot and has far less angler pressure.
Overall fishing has also picked up and we have several reports of double hookups or multiple fish in the span of a few hours. Our go-to setup this week for float fishing or bottom bouncing is blue, pink, or white egg sacks. Pink worms and beads are doing well too. For flyfishing, our recommendation are stoneflies and egg patterns. We’ve had some reports of anglers doing well dead drifting with nymphs too.
Continue to be careful of the ice chunks and be sure to check the USGS gauge as well as Safe Waters (Facility 42) for any updates in flows.
Oneida Lake Report:
It’s been very warm during the days. Unlike Sandy Pond, Oneida Lake has also experienced several nights where the temperature hovers above freezing. Saturday and Sunday we may experience rain, which will only add to the slushy conditions.
Tuesday might be below freezing again, but that’s the anomaly this week. Use extreme caution on the ice and don’t go out if the warm weather continues.
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 further to walk.
All the recent warm weather makes for a lot of slush and very few anglers. Most days have been warm, but it has been below freezing almost every night. We have reports of an 6-8” base, and no big areas of open water yet. These conditions make the pond fishable as of February 25th, but we recommend going early to avoid the afternoon slush.
With Tuesday being the only day in the forecast below freezing, conditions will likely make the pond unfishable soon.
On February 24th we saw only two groups go out at all, and similar reports this morning. No machines on the ice at this time.
Wayne County Fishing Update
The countdown continues for BT fishing the lake. April 1st is now only five weeks and three days away. Many charters will be plying lake waters by April 1st. Ya hooo!
The ice is safe, however with the recent snow and mild temps predicted you will probably be pulling your shanty through slush…which is not fun.
The east side of Sodus has seen perch action in 15 feet of water. That would be straight out from the south side of Skipper’s Landing restaurant.
Third Creek, which is Shaker Road has also been a good spot for perch fishing. You’ll have to hike a tough walk to get to 20-30 fow.
If you use your ATV be careful of thin ice close to shore.
The perch are hitting bright perch-colored jigs and live bait. The fish have been in 25 fow with the larger ones suspended two feet off the bottom.
On the northwest side of Sodus there has been some action in the deeper water. If you go out from the “trestle” you can park across the street next to the old malt house.
Port Bay action has been on the east side of the bay in 20 fow. The south DEC road is closed, which is unfortunate because there is a large parking lot at that location. Parking is always a challenge for ice anglers.
On the ice “take-out what you bring-in.” There has been trash left on the ice and near the parking areas. Keep it clean.
Widewaters has safe ice. If you set-up on the south side of the canal you can fish the weed bed.
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
Are you ready? Can you feel it? There’s a hint of a change in the warming weather, longer days and the start of some more runoff! Are you ready for the chromers hopefully riding those renewed trib flows for the delight of fly floggers, pin heads and spin knotters?
The second day of a moderate warmup. Temps on Wednesday are forecast in the high 30’s near 40°F and then dropping back below freezing at night. There’s a chance of rain showers today and tomorrow, cooling back down for the end of the week and then another moderate warmup for the end of the weekend and beginning of next week.
For now, flows are slowly coming up. There are no big changes inflows just yet. Flows in the Oak through yesterday and so far earlier today have come up from real low to just regular low. Flows are clear and open all the way down through the Archers Club area and even the downstream frog water areas are open down the chute. My guess is that it would be hard-pressed for anything to significantly freeze back up at this stage of the season. Look for a continued slow rise at inflows as hydro managers make day-to-day adjustments based upon upstream supply and Lake Alice stage height. For now, all flows are easily contained in the turbine channel. We’ll need more prolonged days and nights of warm weather and or coupled with serious rain to really get things headed toward a blowout. The area-wide snowpack at this point is mostly just condensing with resultant ground infiltration and some runoff. That we know of, guys continue to pick off some recycled steelhead and a stubborn salmon here and there. At some point known only to the steelhead gods, flows in the Oak should entice some fresh fish upstream. That’s easy to predict on a blowout but not so much if flows ratchet up slowly. The other area smaller tribs, for now, are still mostly iced in at low to moderate flows yet are no doubt rising some below the ice and slushy flows. Be mindful of changeable conditions out there, always marking flows to notice changing water levels and watch for any debris or ice coming down upon you from upstream. Observe all Brookfield Power rules/regulations and announcements. Consider bank ice unstable and exercise caution.