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Otisco Lake

Otisco Lake is the most easterly of the eleven Finger Lakes and is eighth in size. It lies wholly within Onondaga county near the city of Syracuse. Otisco Lake is unique, as far as Finger Lakes go, as it's 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: 1,877 acres
Shoreline Length: 15 miles
Length: 5.4 miles
Maximum Width: 0.75 miles
Maximum Depth: 76 feet
Mean Depth: 34 feet (north of causeway) and 6 feet (south of causeway)
Towns: Marcellus, Spafford

Aquatic 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.


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.

Fish Species:

Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, tiger musky, brown trout, bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, black crappie, white crappie, yellow perch, white perch, channel catfish, brown bullhead, yellow bullhead, common carp, white sucker, golden shiner, and alewives.


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 stickbaits often works well for walleye in the fall. 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 destination for bluegills and pumpkinseeds.

For current fishing information visit the Central New York Fishing Hotline online or by calling (607) 753-1551.


Special fishing regulations apply (leaving DEC website to official Fishing Regulations Guide vendor website)

Fisheries Management:

Otisco Lake is stocked yearly by DEC with 11,000 tiger musky and biannually with 44,000 walleye. When surplus walleye are available, they are stocked on the off years. Since the biannual policy started in 2014 the lake has received a walleye stocking in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Additionally, around 2,500 brown trout are stocked each year by Onondaga Counties Carpenter's Brook Fish Hatchery. 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

2018 Otisco Lake Angler Diary Report (PDF)

Otisco Lake Contour Map (PDF)

2014 Otisco Lake Fish Community Report

Otisco Lake is a 1,877 acre eutrophic lake lying wholly within Onondaga County, near the city of Syracuse. It is the most easterly of the eleven Finger Lakes and is eighth in size. A Fish Community Survey was conducted on Otisco Lake during the summer and fall of 2014. Multiple sampling gears consisting of fyke nets, standard inland gill-nets, bag seine and boat electrofishing were used during the survey. The purpose of the survey was to develop an overall picture of the fish community, to monitor the stocking program for tiger musky walleye and brown trout. The survey was part of the rotational sampling for the Finger Lakes.

Overall, 2,335 fish were caught, representing 23 identified species. Yellow bullhead was the only new species to be collected in 2014. Bluegill were the most numerous species with 667 caught, 29% of catch. Next most numerous species was white perch (n= 335, 14% of catch), followed by smallmouth bass (n=161, 8% of catch) and yellow perch (n=145, 6 % of catch). Besides smallmouth bass, the other popular gamefish catch was comprised of largemouth bass (n=92, 4% of catch), walleye, (n=71, 3% of catch), tiger musky, (n=12, 1% of catch) and brown trout (n=1, 0.04% of catch).

Walleye gill net and electrofishing catch per unit effort (CPUE) was 5.9/net night and 4.8/hour. These CPUE's would suggest that Otisco Lake has a moderate to abundant walleye population. Walleye showed good growth rates with walleye reaching the legal size of 18-inches between age-3 and age-4. Age-7 walleye were the most frequent collected. This 2007 year class of fish are believed to be from natural production, as no walleye were stocked by the department in 2007. The twelve tiger musky caught ranged in length from 7.5 to 35.3 inches, with a mean length of 22.1 inches. Tiger musky tend to be difficult to collect with the gears used, so are most likely underrepresented in this survey.

Only one brown trout was caught during the survey, a 16.1 in fish which was caught during the August gill netting. The late-August water chemistry survey indicated there was only a very narrow band of water where temperatures were less than 65 F and DO levels were at or above 4 ppm, considered the maximum temp and minimum DO for brown trout survival; 2014 was most likely another difficult year for brown trout survival on the lake.

Though bluegill were the most abundant species sampled, there is some concern that only 7 of the 667 collected were of the "preferred" length of 8 inches. Angler harvest is the most likely cause for the lack of larger fish as growth rates were average indicating that "stunting" is not an issue. This pattern was also seen with some of the other panfish species such as pumpkinseed and yellow perch.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF)