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Otisco Lake

Otisco Lake is the most easterly of the eleven Finger Lakes. It lies wholly within Onondaga county near the city of Syracuse. Otisco Lake is seventh in size among the Finger Lakes. Otisco Lake is divided into two distinct basins by a causeway at the south end. The southern smaller basin is shallow and extremely turbid which contrasts sharply with the relatively clear water of the main lake.

Physical Features

Elevation: 787 feet
Area: 2,200 acres
Length: 5.4 miles
Maximum Width: .75 miles
Maximum Depth: 76 feet

Plant Life

The largest concentration of weed growth is in the north end of the lake. To a lesser extent weeds can be found at the south end just north of the causeway and in Turtle Bay. A thin line of weeds also runs parallel to the shore along much of the east side of the lake and parts of the west side. Very few weeds grow in the turbid water south of the causeway.

Public Access Sites

Dec Hand Launch Site -West Valley Rd, two miles north of saw Mill Rd., shore access at causeway. Private boat launch access is available at two locations at the southeast end of the lake.

General Fishing Information

Man holding an Otisco Lake smallmouth bass.

The north end is noted for good panfishing, bass fishing and tiger musky fishing. During routine fishery surveys on the lake largemouth bass over 20 inches are frequently collected. Walleye fishing is good during the spring, early summer and fall. Casting from shore, or from the causeway after dark with stick baits works well for walleye. Brown trout can be caught in the spring by trolling. Tiger musky provide a unique trophy and Otisco Lake may well be one of the best waters in the state for this fish. Tiger's are most often caught in the weedbeds at the north and south ends. The north end usually freezes over most winters and offers good ice fishing. For current fishing information visit the Central New York Fishing Hotline online or by calling (607) 753-1551.

Fishing Regulations

Special fishing regulations apply.

Fisheries Management

Gamefish present include brown trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye and tiger musky. Panfish include pumpkinseed, bluegill, white perch, crappie, yellow perch, rock bass and bullhead. Carp are also found in the lake. Main forage fish are alewives, yellow perch and white perch. Otisco Lake is stocked yearly with about 3,500 brown trout, 45,000 walleye and 7,500 tiger musky. For fishing regulations refer to the Finger Lakes and Tributary regulations in the fishing guide. An ongoing angler diary cooperator program for gamefish provides DEC fisheries staff with useful data on population trends. Information on the angler diary program and recent reports can be viewed at Angler Diary Cooperator Program. We are always looking for new cooperators, so if you are interested please contact the Region 7 office at (607) 753-3095 ext. 213 or online at

2015 Otisco Lake Angler Diary Report (PDF) (535 KB)

Otisco Lake Contour Map (PDF) (217 KB)

Fish Survey Report (2013)

Fall night electrofishing was conducted along 3.7 miles of the Otisco Lake shoreline to determine the relative success of the 2013 stocking of 44,000 50-day walleye fingerlings. First year survival of the stocked walleye is assessed by night electrofishing in the fall. In 2013, 94 Young-of-Year (YOY) walleye were captured along with 18 older (up to age 8) walleye. Length of the older walleye ranged from 12.1 to 22.7 inches. The YOY walleye showed good growth rates with an average length of 7 inches. All were caught south of the causeway, where the majority of the stocked walleye have been planted since 2002. Of the 44,000 fingerlings stocked in June 2013, approximately 33,000 were stocked south of the causeway and 11,000 north of the causeway.

Using Serns' 1982 formula for estimating numbers of YOY walleye provides a population estimate of 3,908 in the south end of the lake below the causeway. If accurate, this estimate represents a 12% survival rate (based on the 33,000 stocked south of the causeway). The 12% estimated survival rate is the highest yet during this five year experiment at Otisco Lake. Previous survival estimates for 50-day walleye in Otisco range from 0.05 to 3% but it should be noted that our ability to sample was hampered by mechanical issues during 2009 and 2011, and by extremely low water levels in 2012. For perspective, the broad range of survival for these 50-day walleye is similar to what we observed previously from stocked "pond fingerling" walleyes. Further evaluation of the 50-day walleye stocking experiment for Otisco Lake will be undertaken during the summer and fall of 2014.

Gamefish were the target species and in addition to walleye, 16 tiger musky (8.3-31.2 inches), 37 smallmouth bass (6.2-17.3 inches), 29 largemouth bass (5.3-16.9 inches), and one brown trout (15.7 inches) were also collected.