Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Lake Erie Fishing Hotline

February 16 to February 24, 2017

Free Fishing Weekend February 18-19, 2017

President's Day weekend (February 18-19, 2017) has been designated as a free fishing weekend in New York. Residents and visitors of all ages will be able to fish the waters of New York State without a license, providing great opportunity to try this popular activity. The intent of having a free fishing weekend in winter is to encourage people to try ice fishing, unfortunately there is very little safe ice in the region. Any safe ice won't last long with temps in the 40s and even 50s forecasted for much of the coming week. See below for some open water fishing opportunities.

Lake Erie Tributaries

A man holding up a large crappie
Near-record crappie caught through ice at
Chautauqua Lake on jig with 1" plastic minnow.

Cattaraugus Creek is getting close to fishable condition, but will surely be on the rise again this weekend due to snowmelt. All other tributaries in Erie and Chautauqua Counties are in great shape today with moderate flow and ideal color. Look for snowmelt to sustain flows through the weekend. Anglers are seeing some smaller fresh steelhead in the lower sections of streams. In the mid to upper sections, catches are of mostly darker steelhead, with some large fish mixed in. Egg sacs, egg flies, nymph patterns, trout beads and small jigs tipped with a waxworm (fished under a float) are good offerings. Live or salted shiners are also a good bait in the lower sections. For those new to steelhead fishing, see the Steelhead Fishing in Lake Erie Tributaries page for information on steelhead fishing equipment, locations and links to stream maps.

Lake Erie Harbors

Barcelona and Dunkirk Harbors are ice-free. Trout sometimes show in those harbors at this time of year. Most of Buffalo inner harbor is ice covered, but the ice should be considered unsafe. Anglers have good opportunity to catch yellow perch in the open water sections near the tip and outside of the inner breakwall.

Upper Niagara River

Water clarity has improved, but floating ice chunks prevent fishing at most shore sites along the upper river. However, anglers can target yellow perch in the swifter water at Broderick Park and in open water sections of harbors and marinas around the upper river. Live emerald shiners are the top perch bait.

Chautauqua Lake

There has been some ice fishing activity in parts of the north basin on marginal ice. However, ice should be considered unsafe and will only get worse when the warming trend starts on Saturday. There are limited open water fishing opportunities in the south basin and in some canals.

Inland Trout Streams

The statewide trout season is closed from October 15 to April 1 (Great Lakes tributaries excluded). However, there are a number of inland streams in western New York that are open to trout fishing all year. Check the Special Regulations by County to see what streams are currently open to trout fishing. All of the inland trout streams are ice-free. Some of the larger streams are running a bit high, while smaller streams are in great shape. In winter, trout are tight to the bottom and won't move very far to take food items. Drifted flies or baits need to be slow and low. Nymphs are a good choice for fly anglers, and good baits include wax worms, spikes or small minnows.

If you need more fishing information or would like to contribute to the fishing report, please call or e-mail Mike Todd (716-851-7010; michael.todd@dec.ny.gov). Good Luck Fishing!

The fishing hotline can also be heard at (716) 679-ERIE or (716) 855-FISH.