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Oswego River

The Oswego River, located in Central New York in Oswego County, is formed by the joining of the Oneida River and the Seneca River. The Oswego River is approximately 23 miles long from its beginning at Three Rivers to the City of Oswego where it empties into Lake Ontario. The river provides a route from the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario and there are eight locks and six dams along its length.

The Oswego River offers a year-round diverse fishery from Chinook salmon in the fall to smallmouth bass in the summer.

There is a Mandatory Personal Flotation Device (PFD) zone on the Oswego River below the Varick Dam. For more information, see the Oswego County Tourism web site (leaves DEC website)

Public Access

There are no official NYS boat launch sites along the river. Boat access is good thanks to ample town and city maintained launch sites as well as private marinas along the river. A few of these launch sites include:

City of Fulton - Town park east side of river, Route 481. Hard surface ramp.
Linear Park - City of Oswego. Shore access to west side of river. Wheelchair accessible.
Wrights Landing - West Lake Street City of Oswego. Hard surface ramp. Fee.

For more information on these launches including Google Maps driving directions, visit the Boat Launch Sites for Oswego County page.

Fish Species

Walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, Chinook salmon, coho salmon, rainbow trout (steelhead), brown trout, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill, yellow perch, white perch, black crappie, brown bullhead, channel catfish, freshwater drum, bowfin, common carp, alewives, round goby and gizzard shad.

General Fishing Information

John Rudisill with a 35 pound 1 ounce chinook-coho salmon hybrid
John Rudisill, Danbury CT., with a 35 pound 1 ounce
Chinook-coho salmon hybrid. Caught aboard the
Bandito III with Captain Tony Buffa.

The main forage fish below Varick Street dam are alewives and round goby, and above the dam, gizzard shad.

In the spring, steelhead can be caught on egg sacs, egg imitating plastics, worms, flies, and plugs. Brown trout concentrate at the mouth of the river in early spring and can be caught by trolling stickbaits or casting with spoons.

Walleye fishing after dark during May and June can be incredible, with 8-10 pound fish being common. Fishing from shore along Linear Park produces some nice fish for fishermen jigging with bucktail jigs, bottom bouncing bait rigs, or casting large stickbaits. Trolling in the river with big #18 Rapalas is another popular method of catching big walleyes.

Catfish and sheepshead can be caught on baits like worms, cut-bait, or dead minnows. Yellow perch and bluegills, commonly found around the Marine Museum and Wrights Landing, can be caught on small minnows and spikes.

During the summer months, smallmouth and largemouth bass can be caught throughout the river. Fishing below dams and around shoreline structure is productive for bass. They can be caught on artificial lures such as spinnerbaits, crankbaits, topwaters, and plastic baits. Good live baits include worms, crayfish and minnows.

During the fall, large schools of trophy Chinook salmon begin staging at the river mouth and can be caught trolling with J-plugs, flies and flashers, and cut-bait. As the water cools, salmon begin to enter the river and make their way to the impassible Varick Street dam. Fishing with egg sacs, skein, egg imitating plastics, and plugs works well for salmon.

Steelhead and brown trout begin to enter the river shortly after the salmon. Both brown trout and steelhead can be caught on egg sacs and egg imitating flies and plastics. Some steelhead will remain in the river over the winter. Try bottom bouncing egg sacs in the deeper holes or slack water areas for these hold over fish. Fishing during mid day after a few days of mild weather can often produce more action during the cold winter months.

Angler with a large rainbow trout

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

Fisheries Management

The Oswego River is stocked annually with 140,000 Chinook salmon and 20,000 rainbow trout (steelhead). A large percentage of these fish are pen stocked. Pen stocking is a cooperative effort between DEC and area sportsman groups. Pen stocking allows recently stocked fish a chance to acclimate to their new surroundings and offers some protection from predators.

Fish and feed are provided by DEC's Salmon River Fish Hatchery while the Oswego County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs builds and maintains the pens, then feeds and takes care of the fish for approximately 3 weeks. The fish are subsequently released into the Oswego River. This pen stocking program has been very successful.

Fishing Regulations

Lake Ontario and Tributaries Fishing Regulations apply from Varick Street dam to Lake Ontario.

Statewide Fishing Regulations apply from the Varick Street dam upstream.

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