Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

2018 Warmwater Fishing Forecast

Recommendations for Walleye, Muskellunge, 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. Historically, walleye inhabited waters only in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and Allegheny River watersheds in New York. 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.

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. Be sure the check the special regulations by county (leaving DEC website to official Fishing Regulations Guide vendor website).

Walleye in Lake Erie and Oneida Lake
Processing a walleye for management purposes.

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. Walleye angler catch rates in Lake Erie have remained above average for 12 of the last 13 years. The highest catch rates recorded in the 30-year angler survey occurred in 2017. Lake Erie has been in a period of above average walleye hatching success for over a decade. It saw exceptional walleye hatches in 2003, 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2016. Due to this extended period of spawning success, the outlook remains excellent for Lake Erie walleye anglers in 2018 and for several years to come. Walleye from the exceptional 2003 year class are also still hanging around. This gives anglers a chance to catch trophy size walleye, with some exceeding 30 inches.

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 at around 400,000 adult fish in recent years, from relatively low levels in the mid to late 1990s. Round goby were first observed in Oneida Lake in 2013 and are now abundant throughout the lake. Angler catch rates of walleye can be impacted by round gobies, both because of their availability as a forage item and their habit of interfering with baits rigged for walleye. The traditional worm harness or worm-tipped jigs are becoming less effective presentations because of this. Anglers are adjusting by using un-baited artificial lures more often.

For further information on ongoing monitoring programs in these waters, go to DEC's Fisheries Management and Reports webpage.

Walleye on Long Island
A nice Long Island walleye being released back into the water.

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.

Walleye in Southeastern New York

In Southeastern New York, try Swinging Bridge Reservoir and Rio Reservoir in Sullivan County. Walleye may also be found in nearby White Lake and Toronto Reservoir, as well as Greenwood Lake (Orange County) and throughout the Delaware River (see Border Water Regulations - leaving DEC website to official Fishing Regulations Guide vendor website). 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. Otsego has not been stocked since 2014 and now supports a wild self-sustaining population. Although adult walleye remain abundant in Canadarago Lake, recruitment problems continue as limited survival of year classes produced from 2008 - 2017 have been documented. Fingerling walleye were stocked from 2011 - 2017, and will continue to be stocked to help maintain the fishery in this lake. The recruitment failure is likely caused by a persistent invasive population of alewife in the lake. They feed extensively on newly hatched walleye (and yellow perch) fry that suspend in the water column for 6-8 weeks before swimming to the bottom. East Sidney Reservoir has also been stocked with walleye since 2015. Success of this new fisheries is unknown, but some juvenile walleye have been caught in the past two summers.

Walleye in Northern and Central New York
A very nice walleye from the Black River.

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, Harris Lake, Black Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Saratoga Lake, Great Sacandaga Lake, Delta Lake, Whitney Point Reservoir, and Otisco Lake. Otisco Lake's walleye population continues to expand following several years of excellent survival of stocked walleye fingerlings, along with some unexpected natural reproduction during several years when walleye were not stocked. Angler diary cooperators on Otisco reported decent walleye catch rates in 2017. Regional managers expect as good or better fishing in 2018. 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

In western New York, (DEC regions 8 and 9), anglers will find good walleye fishing in Chautauqua Lake, Silver Lake, Cuba Lake, Rushford Lake, Conesus Lake, and Honeoye Lake. The Chautauqua Lake walleye population has increased over the last 10 years, which has coincided with a stocking program that was initiated in 2003. The status of the Chautauqua Lake walleye population was fully assessed in 2016 and shows promising signs for the future. Extremely abundant year classes in 2014 and 2015 boosted the population. Those fish are now reaching legal size (15 inches), which should result in excellent fishing opportunities over the next several years. Good numbers of trophy size walleye also still exist in Chautauqua Lake.

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, Oswegatchie, the Hudson River estuary below the Troy Dam, and most of the main stem of the Mohawk/Barge Canal. There have been good numbers of young of the year walleye captured during several Susquehanna River surveys conducted since 2012, and 2016 abundance was particularly high at the single site sampled. This should translate into continued good walleye fishing in the Susquehanna and other southern tier rivers, like the Tioughnioga and Chenango, for the foreseeable future. Two lower Hudson River tributaries in Ulster County - the Wallkill River and Rondout Creek - were part of previous 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.


Good muskie fishing can be found in the northeastern, western and south-central parts of the state. The St. Lawrence River and its major tributaries, the upper and lower Niagara River and Buffalo Harbor support naturally reproducing muskellunge fisheries. The minimum size limit on these waters is 54 inches and all of these waters have the potential to produce muskies that size or larger. Western New York boasts several lakes and rivers with stocked muskellunge fisheries. Chautauqua Lake, Bear Lake, Findley Lake, the Cassadaga Lakes, Waneta Lake, Allegany River and Conewango Creek are all stocked annually with muskellunge. Chautauqua Lake is the source of muskellunge eggs for New York's stocking program and the brood stock netting program has produced record high catch rates and numerous fish over 50 inches in recent years. The smaller lakes in western New York tend to have high numbers of fish but trophy sized muskies are less common. These lakes are a great place for anglers seeking to catch their first muskellunge. In south-central New York, the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers support self-sustaining muskie populations. Fish in the 40-50 inch size range are commonly landed.

Please recall that the statewide muskellunge fishing regulations changed in 2015. The minimum size limit is now 40 inches and opening day was moved up to the last Saturday in May. These regulations apply to most muskellunge waters, with the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River being notable exceptions. On these waters the minimum size limit is 54 inches and the season opens on the 3rd Saturday of June. Additional exceptions to the statewide regulations exist, so anglers should be sure to review the 2018-19 Fishing Regulations Guide.

Learn more about fishing for muskellunge

Learn more about muskellunge management in NY

Northern Pike

A large northern pike caught while fishing for salmon with a yarn fly.

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 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, Conewango 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 lower Susquehanna rivers.

Tiger Muskellunge

An angler acheivement award winning tiger muskie

DEC has been raising and stocking tiger muskellunge, a sterile, yet fast-growing cross between northern pike and muskellunge, since 1968. 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 90,000 nine inch long tiger muskies. These fish are used to stock 35 waters throughout the state with most of these located in Regions 6 and 7. Otisco Lake, in Region 7, is perhaps the State's best tiger muskellunge fishery. Catch rates reported by anglers participating in the Otisco Lake diary cooperator program have been excellent for most of the past decade and 2017 followed suite with good numbers of legal size fish reported. Note that the legal minimum length limit for tigers is 36 inches on Otisco Lake, rather than the statewide limit of 30 inches that applies to most other waters where they are stocked. 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 2000s, when a reproducing population of pure muskellunge became firmly established. Because some old tiger muskies may still persist, the season for both muskellunge and tiger muskie in the Chenango, Tioughnioga and Susquehanna Rivers continues to open on the first Saturday in May to avoid confusion for anglers trying to distinguish between the two species. Please remember that the legal minimum length limit is 40 inches for both species in the Susquehanna, Chenango and Tioughnioga rivers. Another Region 7 lake to consider for trophy tiger muskie is Onondaga Lake. Fish moving from nearby stockings in Otisco Lake and the Seneca River have maintained a low level fishery in Onondaga Lake for years, but several stocking of surplus tigers in recent years seemed to have further increased the numbers present. In Region 6, 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 Region 4, Canadarago Lake once again stocked with tigers. Occasional trophies >30 lbs. are caught there each summer despite limited survival of stocked fish. 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

Small ponds and slow moving rivers can be a great place to catch chain pickerel.

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). In 2017, three of the ten New York State Catch and Release Awards for chain pickerel were from Long Island; in Suffolk county one each in Deep Pond (catch and release only) and Artist Lake, and one in Twin Ponds, Wantagh. Forge Pond on the Peconic River also provides excellent chain pickerel fishing. 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. There are also increasing populations of chain pickerel in the Eastern basin of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. 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 is also not uncommon for anglers to experience double-digit catches of large pickerel in just a few hours of fishing at Oneida. Some of the best pickerel fishing in Region 8 can be found at Hemlock and Canadice lakes.

Black Bass

A sportwoman with a catch and release award winning smallmouth bass.

New York offers some of the best bass fishing in the country. Lake Erie (#1), the St. Lawrence River/Thousand Islands (#3), Lake Champlain (#5), Cayuga Lake (#11), Oneida Lake (#12), and Chautauqua Lake (#21) were selected by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society as 6 of the top 25 bass waters in the northeast in 2017.

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 15 in 2018), with the regular, harvest permitted, season from June 16 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, or for the Hudson River downstream of Troy (including all the tributaries in this section to the first barrier impassable by fish). Other exceptions include Lake Champlain where the catch and release season runs until the second Saturday in June. There is also a year round catch and release section of the Hudson River from Bakers Falls to the Troy Dam, where the bass fishing can be great. Other waterbody-specific exceptions exist, particularly in Suffolk County. Anglers should check the Fishing Regulations 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, especially during springtime. Before the statewide opener for black bass season on June 16 and after the regular closure on November 30, anglers may take one bass of 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.


DEC's Fisheries Outreach staff holds a crappie during a fishing education program.

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. Recent fisheries surveys have also documented an expanding white crappie population on the southern end of Otisco Lake. 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, 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 (Putnam and Westchester counties) support good crappie populations. Black Crappie are common in many Long Island waters. A 2017 DEC survey of Blydenburgh Lake documented an abundant black crappie population with individuals up to 13.5 inches and a large number just under the 9 inch limit. These fish should all be legal size in 2018.

Learn more about Fishing for Crappie