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Onondaga Lake

Onondaga Lake is a large lake located in Onondaga County in the city of Syracuse. Onondaga Lake has a checkered past as one of the most polluted lakes in the country, but in recent years, as the lake has become cleaner and fish habitat has improved, it has also become a very popular fishing location for black bass and carp anglers.

Physical Features

Elevation: 400 feet
Area: 2,944 acres
Length: 4.7 miles
Maximum Depth: 60 feet

Plant Life

Photo of 21.5 inch Largemouth Bass
21.5" Largemouth Bass caught and
released from Onondaga Lake

Good rooted aquatic vegetation growth can be found around the entire lake from shore out to about 10 feet of water.

Public Access Sites

Onondaga Lake Park. Concrete ramp. Parking for 40 cars and trailers. Fee.
Good shore access around much of the lake through Onondaga Lake Park.

Proposed new boat launch

Fish Species

Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, tiger musky, northern pike, walleye, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill, black crappie, rock bass, yellow perch, white perch, channel catfish, brown bullhead, bowfin, round goby, and gizzard shad.

General Fishing Information

Onondaga Lake has a surprising number of fish species present, and you never know what species you may end up catching next. The most popular gamefish are the largemouth and smallmouth bass and common carp. Largemouth bass grow large in the lake and can be found around the abundant shallow vegetation. One thing to keep in mind when fishing this lake is that largemouth bass can be found very shallow throughout much of the year. Smallmouth bass prefer the deeper water and often congregate around the mouth of Nine Mile and Onondaga Creeks when gizzard shad schools form there in mid-summer. Onondaga Lake often suffers from low dissolved oxygen (D.O.) in its deeper depths during late summer. By viewing the Onondaga Lake contour map (283 kb PDF), anglers can better determine the depths of water that should hold fish. Fishing the lake outlet in late summer can often produce good catches of both largemouth and smallmouth bass as they seek more favorable D.O. levels. Common carp are numerous, grow large, and can be found throughout the lake. Good baits are corn, dough balls and worms.

Fisheries Management

Onondaga Lake is not stocked but is a highly studied water body. Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection (OCDWEP) monitors the lake and also maintains an Angler Diary Cooperator program. To volunteer for the diary program, contact OCDWEP Angler Diary (link available in right column). The State University of New York's Environmental Science and Forestry School (ESF) also does numerous research projects on the lake, and it's not uncommon to catch a fish that has been tagged by either OCDWEP or ESF. If you catch a tagged fish, write down the tag number, species, length of the fish, location where it was caught, and call the contact phone number on the tag to report it.

Photo of Tagged Largemouth Bass
Tagged largemouth bass

Health advisories on eating fish exist for Onondaga Lake and can be found in your Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide.

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