Upstate and Western New York Fishing Report – March 4, 2021

Matt Cipolletti steelhead
West Marine

Greater Niagara Region

Bill Hilts, Jr.

The highlight this week is the fishing action in the lower Niagara River this past weekend. In the Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest hosted by the Niagara River Anglers Association last Saturday, Matt Cipolletti of Lewiston won first place with an 11.62-pound fish he reeled in on a pink egg sac.

Matt Cipolletti steelhead
Matt Cipolletti of Lewiston caught this 11.62-pound steelhead in the lower Niagara River to win the Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest sponsored by the NRAA. He was fishing with Capt. Ryan O’Neill and it was caught on a pink egg sac.

He was fishing with Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Orchard Park. Second place went to Jason Ballard of Lindley, NY with an 11.16-pound steelie and Capt. Paul Schirmer of Cambria came in third place with a 11.08-pound steelhead on an egg sac, all caught in the lower Niagara River. Big brown trout was weighed in by Jim Leiby, checking in at 10.64 pounds. He was fishing on the Niagara Bar with Capt. Richard Brant of Tonawanda. Fish were caught from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar during the contest. You just have to figure out what the fish want on any given day. One day the fish want sacs, the next day they want beads and minnows. The next day it is plugs like MagLips and Kwikfish. Browns and lake trout are on the bar if the winds cooperate. Capt. Joe Czyrny of Cambria, fishing with Capt. Paul Schirmer, had a really good bite going, catching over 20 fish and losing a couple more. Schirmer ended up catching the big one of the day around 10:30am. All of their fish came on egg sacs. With more winds in the forecast mid-week, it is a roll of the dice if boats will be able to get out. Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston agreed with changing baits each day. When he does run plugs, he coats the outside with Pautzke Fire Jell and that seems to make a difference. From shore, jigs and spinners continue to work for Mike Ziehm and Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls. Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports that jigs with plastic shads are working, as well as sacs and beads for the shore casters. Water conditions were good Tuesday but there was some ice in the river. Water clarity could be affected with the wind we are seeing this week so far but Wednesday morning it was still good. It could bring some more ice downriver, but we will not know the effects right away. Remember that walleye season closes on March 15.

Capt. Ryan O'Neill brown trout
Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Orchard Park with a big Niagara Bar brown trout.
Mike Vail steelhead
Mike Vail of Derby caught this lower Niagara River steelhead fishing with Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Orchard Park.
Pat Tesmer steelhead
Pat Tesmer of Clarence caught this lower Niagara River steelhead fishing with Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Orchard Park.
Jim Leiby brown trout
Jim Leiby reeled in the winning brown trout in the NRAA Roger Tobey Memorial Contest in the lower Niagara River last weekend, fishing with Capt. Richard Brant of Tonawanda.
Josh Beshaw steelhead
Josh Beshaw of Lockport shows off a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught last weekend fishing with Capt. Matt Bedient.
Capt. Matt Bedient steelhead
Capt. Matt Bedient of Lockport caught this steelhead in the Niagara River last weekend.

In the upper Niagara River, some trout and walleye are being caught and ice fishing action continues in Buffalo Harbor. How long that will stick around depends on the weather.

Rob Roeble pike
Rob Roeble of North Tonawanda reeled in this 31-inch northern pike through the ice at the Small Boat Harbor in Buffalo this week.

Fishing has been tough in the streams this past week. Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott reports that a few more people have made it to places like 18 Mile Creek and Burt Dam, but water is high and stained from rain and snowmelt from last weekend. The other smaller tributaries are high and dirty where they are open. Use bright colored baits and add some scent to them.

Oswego County

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

Oswego River Report

A big rise in the water level this past week. The CFS climbed from 3500 to 9210 as of this morning.

Temperatures have dropped since last week, so anglers are hopeful this will reduce any flooding and slow the ice release. Continue to use extreme caution, especially when wading. Giant ice chunks can easily take even experienced anglers off their feet and now the water is very high. The lower part of the river is now a hot spot.

Our “go to” bait on the Oswego River this week are jigs. But try your luck with swimbaits and blade baits too.

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 up, at 654 CFS as of this morning and has slowly climbed for the past week. Temperatures have dropped this week and are predicted to stay below freezing until Monday or Tuesday.

Most anglers continue to focus on the upper river, from Tailwater to the lower fly zone. However, we recommend anglers continue to try their luck on the lower river this week as it has opened a lot and has far less pressure. We’re getting regular reports of fish caught from Sportsman pool to Trestle, and some good hookups at DSR too.

Overall fishing continues to pickup with the warm weather and as we move toward the postspawn season. Our go-to setup this week for float fishing or bottom bouncing is blue, pink, or white egg sacks. Squirmy worms and beads are still doing well too. For flyfishing, our recommendation are stoneflies and mop flies.

Douglaston reported a guest landing four out of five steelhead yesterday drifting a 10mm deep orange bead under a bobber.

Be careful of ice shelf and be sure to check the USGS gauge as well as Safe Waters (Facility 42) for any updates in flows.

Oneida Lake Report:

The season seems to have been extended after the recent warm weather stint. Temperatures have been low for the last week, and the forecast shows daytime temperatures staying below freezing through Monday. Although we do have reports of some shoreline problems and varying conditions including a big open area near three mile bay.

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 further to walk.

The recent drop in temperature means we still a good ice base (8-10”) and no big areas of open water. These conditions make the pond fishable as of March 4th, although the ice is slick. Conditions are predicted to remain steady through early next week and we are hopeful that the season could now go through the end of March.

The pike bit remains consistent as well as the pickerel. The perch bite is hot now too, and we even had reports of a few walleye. Our go to baits are the normal Caty Jigs and Slender Spoons.

Wayne County Fishing Update

Chris Kenyon

Lake Ontario

The countdown continues for BT fishing the lake. April 1st is now only 29 days away. Many charters will be plying lake waters by April 1st. Ya hooo!


All the bays have 10 to 12 inches of ice and most areas are slush-free. Slippery walking, however great for pulling sleds.

The perch fishing has slowed, but they are still in the bays. Try different locations in shallower water. On the east side of Sodus, they are catching perch in 15 feet of water using small jigs…perch color and silver. Tip the jigs with spikes or perch eyes.

There was still some action near Second Creek on Shaker Road, however nothing like two weeks ago.
Try straight out from Arney’s towards the middle in 20 to 25 feet of water was also productive. You can park in the Margaretta parking lot across from the ramp.

The Port Bay ice is a solid 12 inches thick and the perch have been caught on the east side. Wear creepers on your feet. The ice is slippery after the recent rainfall.

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.

Erie Canal

Two ice anglers were fishing Widewaters on Saturday and told me they were catching bluegills. They said they had to move around, however “they were having fun.”

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

With this up and down weather, comes with it up and down flows. And remember – to really hit the best fishable flow conditions, you have to try and anticipate WHAT WILL HAPPEN – the best you can anyway. So yesterday, flows in the Oak blew out with lots of overflow water. Today (Tuesday) after a 10 degree night, the overflow levels have already diminished and turbine flows are once again dominant. Flows are high and stained with about 1 foot of visibility. Lots of nice, driftable water for fish to hold throughout the river course with good water cover and to encourage upstream migrations. Weather ahead this week looks like no big warm up, but seasonably cool with highs in the 30’s°F and dropping back at night. I’d look for flows to hang in or actually retreat a little, that is until we might get some consecutive days with above freezing temps and/or rain. There’s no serious icing back up likely in the Oak. So the high and stained conditions are more challenging to fish, but that’s the nature of steelhead fishing! The hook ups that we are hearing about are primarily nearer the dam by guys making some good checked drifts. This time of the year with these conditions though can lead to a chrome encounter in most any spot in the river. The other area smaller tribs are high and dirty, back on the retreat from being blown. Some of the winter time ice and debris was moved out but not all. And now the weather is setting back up to probably make at least some bank ice again. Fast water areas should stay open. Where you can present a fly, bait or lure in some reasonable color holding water or where fish are moving thru in open flows those chrome hook ups await! Watch for changeable flow conditions, keep an eye upstream for moving debris or ice flows. Wade carefully in stained water and follow all Brookfield announcements and site rules.

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