2013 Warmwater Fishing Forecast
Recommendations for Walleye, Northern Pike, Chain Pickerel, Bass and Crappie
The walleye, the largest member of the perch family, is one of New York's most highly sought after and valued sportfish. It has the capacity to reach a considerable size, presents a challenging fishing experience to anglers, and offers exceptional quality at the table. Historically, walleyes in New York likely inhabited waters only in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and Allegheny River watersheds. Today, primarily due to stocking and other DEC management efforts, walleye are found in over 140 waters from all of the major watersheds of the State. For advice on catching walleye see Fishing for Walleye.
Walleye in Lake Erie and Oneida Lake
While New York boasts many highly productive walleye waters throughout the State, Lake Erie and Oneida Lake have long been recognized as the premier walleye fisheries. Lake Erie is considered the top walleye destination in western New York. Lake Erie waters off of New York have seen average to good walleye hatches in 2005 through 2008, and an especially good hatch in 2010. Due to this recent spawning success, the outlook remains very good for early season walleye anglers fishing the near shore reef areas at night. Some walleye from the exceptional 2003 year class are also still hanging around, giving anglers a chance to catch trophy size walleye between 24-27 inches long. The walleye population in Oneida Lake has been monitored for over 50 years and has experienced significant fluctuations over that period of time. The current population has expanded and stabilized from relatively low levels in the mid to late 1990's. For further information on ongoing monitoring programs in these waters go to DEC's Biologists Reports webpage.
Walleye on Long Island
On Long Island two excellent walleye fisheries have been established in Lake Ronkonkoma and Fort Pond as a result of successful DEC stocking programs. Recent surveys of these waters showed strong populations in both waters with good angling opportunities. Anglers fishing these two lakes are encouraged to become angler diary cooperators. Angler cooperators keep track of their catches in diaries provided by DEC and this information is analyzed to assess the current status of the fisheries in these waters. Diaries are returned to the anglers along with a summary report, after the data has been analyzed. Interested anglers should contact the Region 1 office at (631) 444-0280.
Walleye in Southeastern New York
In Southeastern New York, dam repair on Swinging Bridge Reservoir in Sullivan County is complete and walleye fishing there should be worth the trip. Walleye can also be found in East Branch, Bog Brook, Diverting, and Boyd Corners reservoirs in Putnam County. All four of these waters are New York City water supply reservoirs and require a free New York City Public Access Permit (see link to the right).
Walleye in East-Central New York
In Otsego County, Canadarago and Otsego lakes are good bets for walleye. Although adult walleye remain abundant in Canadarago Lake, recruitment problems have been documented with little or no survival of year classes produced from 2008 - 2011. Fingerling walleye were stocked in 2011 and 2012, and will be annually stocked through 2015 to help maintain the fishery in this lake. The recruitment failure is blamed on the growing population of alewife in the lake which feed extensively on the newly hatched walleye fry that are suspended in the water column for 6 to 8 weeks before swimming to the bottom.
Walleye in Northern and Central New York
DEC Regions 5, 6, and 7 (northern and central New York) contain about 80 percent of the state's walleye waters. These Regions support some of the most productive walleye fisheries in the state, including Tupper Lake, Union Falls Flow, Horseshoe Lake, Saratoga Lake, Great Sacandaga Lake, Delta Lake, Whitney Point Reservoir, and Otisco Lake. A 2011 gillnetting survey on Whitney Point Reservoir indicated there were good numbers of 15 to 17 inch walleye and these should be at or above legal length (18 inches) this year. Otisco Lake's walleye population continues to expand following several years of excellent survival of stocked walleye fingerlings. Angler diary cooperators on Otisco reported good walleye catch rates in 2012 and fishing is expected to remain good for at least the next few years, based on recent stocking success. Lake Ontario also provides good walleye fishing in its eastern basin, particularly Henderson Harbor, Black River, and Chaumont and Mud bays. Good walleye populations can also be found in Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, Braddocks Bay, Oswego Harbor, North Sandy Pond and Port Bay.
Walleye in Western New York
Walleye in New York's Large Rivers
Walleye populations are also thriving in a number of large river systems including the Allegheny, Black, Oswego, Chemung, Susquehanna, Tioga, Chenango, Tioughnioga, Unadilla, Oswegatchie, the Hudson downstream of the Troy Dam, and the Mohawk. There have been good numbers of young of the year walleye captured in several Susquehanna River surveys conducted since 2009. This should translate into continued good walleye fishing in the Susquehanna and other southern tier rivers, like the Tioughnioga and Chenango, for the next few years. Two lower Hudson River tributaries in Ulster County - the Wallkill River and Rondout Creek - have been included in recent DEC stocking efforts and angler reports indicate the successful establishment of walleye fisheries in these waters. The Delaware River is considered a productive walleye fishery, particularly the 50-mile section between Callicoon and Port Jervis. The St. Lawrence and lower Niagara rivers also both support high quality walleye fisheries.
Experimental "50-day Fingerling" Walleye Stocking Program
DEC is continuing an experimental walleye stocking program in 11 lakes throughout the northern, central and western regions of the State. Waters included in the stocking program are: Loon Lake in Region 5, Black, Red, and Payne lakes in Region 6, Otisco and Otter lakes in Region 7, and Chautauqua, Redhouse, and Upper, Middle and Lower Cassadaga lakes in Region 9. The Oneida Hatchery produces about 390,000 tank-raised, early stage (50 days old and about 1.5 inches long) fingerlings for the program. Historically, all the juvenile walleye at Oneida were raised to "advanced" fingerling size (5 inches) and stocked in late summer. However, raising walleye to this size inside a hatchery is difficult because many often die during a necessary diet conversion (from brine shrimp to a dry pellet feed) that takes place in June. By stocking fingerlings in June, prior to the conversion, we hope to better utilize the walleye we have on hand and ultimately stock more waters across the state. A primary reason why this was not tried before was because of a concern that the stress of handling and transporting the 50-day old walleye would result in significant mortality. However, the 2009-2012 fish were nearly as large as our normal "pond" fingerlings and survival to the stocking site and immediately after stocking was very high on all waters. The program's success will continue to be closely monitored by Regional Fisheries staffs on an annual basis for the next 2-4 years.
Anglers are reminded that the general statewide regulation for walleye is a 15-inch minimum length and a daily limit of 5 fish. However, many waters have special regulations where length and daily limits vary, so be sure the check the Freshwater Fishing Regulations.
Sauger Monitoring in Lake Champlain
Sauger are closely related to walleye and are similar in appearance and habits. They can be identified by the unique three to four saddle-shaped dark brown blotches on their sides, distinct black spots on the first dorsal (back) fin and the lack of a white tip on the lower lobe of the tail fin. New York is at the northeastern edge of its range and its historic distribution includes the Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain drainage basins. Sauger now only occur in Lake Champlain, but the status of this population is in doubt as only one sauger has been captured (in 2010) as part of a DEC sampling program in approximately 15 years. To help track the occurrence of sauger in Lake Champlain anglers are encouraged to report their catches to Rob Fiorentino at the DEC Region 5 office in Warrensburg at (518) 623-1264.
New York continues to be a priority destination for trophy pike anglers. High quality pike waters include many of the larger Adirondack lakes such as Tupper Lake, Schroon Lake, Lake George, the Saranac Lake Chain, Cranberry Lake, First through Fourth Lakes (Fulton Chain), Long Lake, Upper Chateaugay and the St. Regis Chain of Lakes. Great Sacandaga Lake regularly provides a trophy pike fishery for anglers with a number of 20 lb+ fish having been caught in recent years. To the north, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario embayments, and the Indian River Chain of Lakes provide quality fishing. Angler reports indicate that northern pike are increasingly abundant in northern portions of Lake Champlain, including the shallower, weedy areas from Point Au Rouche north to the border with Canada. Further south, good pike fishing can be found in Saratoga Lake and Round Lake in Saratoga County. Also northern pike abundance in the lower Mohawk River has increased from rare to common over the last two decades. They are most abundant in the 9.5 mile reach between Crescent Dam and Lock 7. Many of these fish are between 25 and 35 inches long with some 40-plus inch fish present.
Numerous pike fishing opportunities also exist in western New York, including the Upper Niagara River, Silver Lake, Quaker Lake, Findley Lake, Cuba Lake, Allegheny River, Olean Creek, Conewago Creek and Tonawanda Creek. In central New York, anglers should try the north and south ends of Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco and Conesus lakes as well as the Tioughnioga, Chenango, and Susquehanna rivers.
DEC has been raising and stocking tiger muskellunge, a sterile, yet fast-growing cross between northern pike and muskellunge, since 1967. DEC used to "make" our own tiger muskies, but fry are now obtained from New Jersey's Hackettstown Fish Hatchery. From these fry, DEC's South Otselic Hatchery annually raises approximately 75,000 9 inch long tiger muskies. These fish are used to stock 36 waters throughout the state and most of these are in Regions 6 and 7. Otisco Lake, in Region 7, is perhaps the State's best tiger muskellunge fishery. The world ice fishing tip-up record tiger muskie, that weighed 27 pounds 5 ounces, was caught here in 2009. Also, catch rates reported by angler diary cooperators are relatively high and it appears that an angler who wants to catch a tiger muskie stands as good a chance as any by going to Otisco Lake. Just a reminder that the legal minimum length limit is now 36" on Otisco Lake. Several other waters in Region 7 also provide excellent fishing opportunities, including Lake Como, the Seneca River, and Long Pond. The Susquehanna River downstream of Binghamton was stocked with tigers up until the early 2000's when a reproducing population of pure muskellunge became firmly established as a result of stockings in Pennsylvania. Because some old tiger muskies may still persist both the season for muskellunge and tiger musky in the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers continues to open on May 5 (the general Statewide muskullenge opener is the 3rd Saturday in June) to avoid confusion for anglers trying to distinguish between the two species. Note that the legal minimum length limit is now 40" on the Susquehanna, Chenango and Tioughnioga rivers for both species. In Region 6, First through Fourth Lakes (Fulton Chain), Horseshoe Lake and Hyde Lake are good bets. Also, an often overlooked tiger muskie fishery is found in the Mohawk River/Barge Canal from Rome downstream to Lock 16. In the eastern half of the state, good tiger muskie waters include Middle Branch Reservoir, Greenwood Lake, Cossayuna Lake, and Lake Durant. To the west, Conesus and Lime Lake provide quality fisheries.
Chain pickerel are also very popular with a dedicated group of anglers seeking these toothy predators that typically inhabit shallow, weedy waters. Many of the best chain pickerel waters are in the southeastern part of the state (Regions 1 and 3). On Long Island, the Peconic River provides some of the finest chain pickerel fishing in the state. In Region 3 some good choices are Swinging Bridge Reservoir, Lake Superior and the Harriman Park Lakes. Other New York pickerel hotspots include Lake George, Brant Lake, Saratoga Lake and Lake Champlain in Region 5 and Black River in Region 6. In Region 7, the south end of Skaneateles Lake, the north end of Cayuga Lake, Madison Reservoir, Oneida Lake, and Tully Lake offer outstanding fishing for quality size pickerel. The Oneida Lake pickerel population appears to have increased significantly in recent years as aquatic weed beds have expanded and pickerel over 24 inches are often caught. It's also not uncommon for anglers to experience double-digit catches of large pickerel in just a few hours of fishing. Some of the best pickerel fishing in Region 8 can be found at Hemlock and Canadice lakes.
New York offers some of the best bass fishing in the country. The St. Lawrence River/Thousand Islands, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, Oneida Lake, and Cayuga Lake were recently selected by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society as 6 of their top 100 bass waters. Year-round black bass angling opportunities now exist for most waters in the State. The general Statewide regulations permit catch-and-release of black bass from Dec. 1 through the Friday preceding the third Saturday in June (June 14 in 2013), with the regular, harvest permitted, season from June 15 until November 30. Anglers should be aware that there are many exceptions to the general regulations, including catch and release only in Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, and Nassau counties. Also, there is no catch and release season in Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence counties. Other exceptions include Lake Champlain where the catch and release season runs until the second Saturday in June. Other lake-specific exceptions exist, particularly in Suffolk County, so anglers should check their Fishing Regulations Guide before hitting the water.
Black bass anglers are also reminded that a special black bass season has been in place for a number of years on Lake Erie to allow anglers to take advantage of the great fishing available for smallmouth bass during the early spring. From May 1 to the regular opener of the statewide black bass season on June 15, anglers may take one bass a minimum of 20 inches in length per day in Lake Erie and its tributaries. The use of natural baits is permitted during Lake Erie's early bass season. The spring is arguably the best time to fish for smallmouth bass in Lake Erie's near shore reefs, harbors and tributary streams. During the month of May, smallmouth bass fishing is very good in Lake Erie tributaries and harbors. From late May until the regular season opener in June, open lake fishing is great near reef and rocky structure in 15-20 feet of water. Bass in the two-to-five-pound range are abundant, with trophy bass of 6 pounds plus possible. More information on Lake Erie's outstanding smallmouth bass fishery is available.
Black Bass Research
Black bass are an important management focus for DEC and thus are the subject of several current studies. The Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University is conducting a statewide assessment of black bass populations to develop strategies to improve DEC's ability to manage these species. SUNY Plattsburgh researchers assessed post tournament bass condition and dispersal in Lake Champlain. Researchers at the Cornell Biological Field Station at Shackelton Point, Onieda Lake will be adding a nearshore black bass survey component to their long-term monitoring of Oneida Lake. Cornell and DEC recently completed a black bass angler survey (PDF) (1.34 MB). Also, DEC is initiating a study to track the seasonal distribution and habitat use of largemouth bass and walleye in the lower Hudson River. For more information on these studies please contact Jeff Loukmas at DEC's Central Office in Albany at (518) 402-8897.
Black and white crappie, members of the sunfish family, can primarily be found in shallow, weedy lakes and ponds and slow flowing rivers. Crappie are schooling fish and are most commonly caught during the spring when they move into shallow water to spawn. Black crappie can be found in most Central New York lakes and some of the more popular spring time locations are: Big Bay and Toad Harbor on Oneida Lake, Tully Lake, the numerous Madison County reservoirs, Lake Neatahwanta, and backwaters of the Seneca River. Whitney Point Reservoir is one of the few locations in the state that has a very good white crappie population and fish up to 14 inches are taken each year. Anglers in western New York should find good crappie fishing in Allegheny Reservoir, Alum Pond, West River and Chautauqua, Bear, Cassadaga, Findley, Honeoye, Waneta and Cuba lakes. To the north, Black Lake, Lake Champlain, Great Sacandaga Reservoir and Saratoga Lake are popular destinations for crappie. In the southeastern part of the state, many of the New York City Reservoirs in the Croton system support good crappie populations.
Fishing in New York City
New York City offers excellent catch and release fishing opportunities throughout its five boroughs. Largemouth bass are the most popular sportfish in the city's lakes and ponds and good fishing can be found in a number of them. Prospect Park Lake is one of the best bets in the city for largemouth bass and the early spring fishing has been good. Prospect may also be a good spot to try black crappie fishing, as recent surveys have documented an abundant population, with some good sized fish. Two other NYC waters to try for largemouth bass this season are the Harlem Meer in Central Park and Oakland Lake in Queens. Anglers fishing Oakland Lake may also catch pickerel, as a recent fish survey found several pickerel over 15 inches.
Staten Island has several fishable water bodies and less fishing pressure than lakes and ponds in the other boroughs so you may be more apt to get a bite there. Two to take note of this year are Ohrbach Lake at Pouch Camp and Willowbrook Lake. While Ohrbach Lake may offer less bass in terms of quantity, it is home to a good amount of quality-sized bass. Willowbrook Lake's largemouth bass population has shown improvement in sizes and numbers since 2010 and the large panfish population should make this lake a great place to take young first-time anglers. For more information on NYC's freshwater fisheries see Long Island/NYC Fishing.