How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Friday, May 05, 2006

New York's 2006 Fishing Calendar

Great fishing opportunities abound in New York year 'round. Here's a sampling of 36 great trips for you to consider as you plan your 2006 angling getaways.(February 2006)

By J. Michael Kelly

As the new year begins, the question for New York's anglers is how to make the most of their fishing vacation planning. Pre-planning enables time-strapped fishermen to make the most of the available opportunities.

New York anglers have a dizzying array of fishing holes to choose from in every corner of the state. Our dilemma is deciding which water and what species of fish deserve our attention on a given day.

To maximize your 2006 rod-and-reel potential, draw up a calendar and list upon it any excursions you plan (or hope for) in the coming months. Perhaps our dream itinerary, outlined below, will help you in determining your own fishing plans for 2006.

Northern Pike
Perch Lake
Closed for decades, Perch Lake in Jefferson County was re-opened to the public in 1994 for ice-fishing only. A stampede of anglers hauled in hundreds of nice northern pike that first winter. The traffic has slowed considerably since, but prospects for 3- to 8-pound pike are still excellent.

Perch Lake is usually fishable by early January. It is northwest of Watertown off Perch Lake Road.

Lake George
Though it is justly famous for its lake trout, landlocked salmon and bass, dedicated ice-anglers mine Lake George for its plentiful panfish each winter.

Lake Trout
Lake Champlain
The deep bay at Westport is one of many places on Lake Champlain where lakers averaging 3 to 6 pounds can be caught through the ice.

Yellow Perch
Seneca Lake
The deepest of the Finger Lakes at 618 feet, Seneca Lake never freezes over. As a result, ice-fishermen don't get a crack at its perch, but anglers who fish it from shore or, better yet, an outboard-powered boat, can catch limits of genuine jumbos all winter long. Foot-long jacks are common, and egg-laden 16-inch hens that top the 2-pound mark are reeled in every year. Cranefly larvae, sold locally as "oak leaf grubs," are deadly on Seneca perch.

Good winter shore-fishing spots include the marina boat slips at Watkins Glen and Sampson State Park, on the south and east shores, respectively, while boaters do especially well off Dresden on the west side of the lake.

Oneida Lake
If the previous summer is any indication, ice-fishing for walleyes should be better than usual this winter because the open-water action was consistently good throughout the 2005 season. Look for schools of 18- to 21-inch walleyes on deep-water flats off Cleveland on the north shore and out from Chapman Park on the south side.

Lake Trout
Upper Chateaugay Lake
One of the best-kept local secrets in the Adirondacks is the togue fishery in Upper Chateaugay Lake in western Clinton County. The lakers are small but plentiful and limit catches through the ice are common.

Northern Pike
Tupper Lake
Possibly the best pike hole in northern New York, Tupper Lake is full of 22- to 30-inch northerns, but much bigger specimens are available, too. State fisheries biologists have measured 40-inchers during their periodic netting surveys.

Among the best (and most convenient) spots to tie into a whopper is the water around the state boat launch on Route 30, which divides the main body of the lake from its east arm, shown on the map as Simon Pond.

Genesee River
Although it doesn't get the press coverage accorded the famous Salmon River, the Genesee in downtown Rochester grows steelhead every bit as big. If you go, be sure to don some type of cleated wading sandals to safely negotiate the swift holes.

Connetquot River
Spring comes early on Long Island, and dedicated trout anglers in the New York metro area take advantage by booking half-day, for-fee fishing sessions on the namesake stream in Connetquot River State Park.

Catharine Creek
Many fishing families in the Finger Lakes region would not think of opening the trout season anywhere but Catharine Creek, which flows into the south end of Seneca Lake at Watkins Glen. On April Fool's Day, the creek will be populated by hundreds or even thousands of 2- to 8-pound rainbow trout, and those fish must run a shoulder-to-shoulder gauntlet of anglers to get to their spawning beds.

If the circus atmosphere is not for you, try getting away from the hordes by poking around tributaries of the main stream, and take your trip a week or two later in the season, when there are fewer anglers but still plenty of trout in the creek's deep pools.

Brown Trout
Schoharie Creek
Overlooked by most of the anglers who make quasi-religious pilgrimages to other Catskill streams, Schoharie Creek in Greene County is heavily stocked and has impressive mayfly hatches, starting with Quill Gordons and Hendricksons in late April.

After a few April showers, bullheads make their annual spawning runs into shallow bays and creek mouths throughout the state. All you need to gather a bullhead dinner is a can of worms or leeches and a working rod and reel.

Striped Bass
Hudson River
Seven hundred fifty thousand? A cool million? Nobody knows for sure how many stripers leave the salt to spawn in the Hudson each spring, but biologists believe recent runs have set records. Forty-pounders are caught annually, both from shore and by boating anglers.

A few of the better spots along the river include Newburgh Bay, the mouth of Esopus Creek in Saugerties and, later in May, the water below the Troy Dam.

Black River Bay
During the most recent pro walleye tour stop in the northeast corner of Lake Ontario, the winning stringer of fish averaged 8 pounds. Such specimens are run-of-the-mill in Black River Bay, where a major spawning-feeding run occurs each spring.

West River
On their way down Route 245 to fish for Naples Creek rainbows, unknowing anglers bypass the bluegill-rich boat channel leading to the West River in the Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area.

Lake Erie
As far as Lake Erie's early bass season is concerned, I've been there, done that, and am looking forward to a repeat as soon as possible. Where else but on Lake Erie between the first Saturday in May and the opening of the statewide bass season in mid-June can one confidently hope for a 5-pound bronzeback on any given day? New York's state-record smallmouth, an 8-pound, 4-ounce monster, came from Erie, but with the lake's bass now waxing fat on gobies, that record may not stand much longer.

Buffalo Harbor
Some years are better than others, of course, but the opening of the muskie season on the third Saturday in June brings a flurry of trophy action in Buffalo Harbor, which sits near the junction of Lake Erie and the upper Niagara River.

Lake Placid
The last week of June marks the start of the famous Hexagenia mayfly hatch on Lake Placid in Essex County. Rainbow trout, as well as smallmouth bass, gorge on the fluttering bugs and artfully presented imitations.

Lake Ontario
Spring salmon fishing in Lake Ontario is iffy, depending on wind, weather and what port you launch from, but by Independence Day or shortly after, 20-pound kings begin slamming lures from the Niagara Bar to upper Mexico Bay.

Most years, the July hit parade is focused in deep water as much as eight or nine miles offshore in the Oswego area, but the scorching summer of 2005 saw intense action in 100-foot depths, close enough to shore for small-boat owners to share in the fun. Any lure seemed to work, as long as it was green.

West Branch Delaware
When other rivers in the Catskills are low, clear and seasonably warm, the West Branch Delaware River is gushing with cold-water releases from the base of the Cannonsville Reservoir dam. Despite the chilly water temperatures, West Branch browns rise steadily to hatches of sulfur and olive-bodied mayflies.

January February March April May June
Perch Lake Seneca Lake Tupper Lake Catharine Creek Hudson River Lake Erie
Tips: Perch Lake is shallow and is hit hard by winter anglers. Use thin wire lenders and fresh, lively baits. Tips: Boat control is the key to success on windy winter days. Use a dependable trolling motor to reach the hotspots. Tips: Pike season ends March 15 when egg-laden hens and aggressive males move to shore. Concentrate on shallow, weedy bays. Tips: Thousands of anglers line the creek on April 1. Visit the creek later when the crowds have thinned out and post-spawn rainbows are biting. Tips: If the traditional cut herring and bloodworms don't produce, try stickbaits, spoons or plugs. Tips: Erie bronzebacks spawn later and in deeper water, so don't expect to find them in the shallows. Look for them near structure in 15 to 20 feet of water.
Lake George Oneida Lake Genesse River Schoharie Creek Black River Bay Buffalo Harbor
Lake Champlain Chateaugay Lake Connetquot River Statewide West River Mirror Lake
July August September October November December
Lake Ontario Otisco Lake Salmon River Wilson Harbor 1000 Islands Watkins Glen Pier
Tips: Great Lakes salmon may be miles offshore in July. Use a seaworthy boat and take motion-sickness pills just in case! Tips: Most anglers use sucker minnows and bobbers, but try downriggers near deep points with a steel leader and mono shock tippet. Tips: Get out early or stay late for the best action. Migrating or spawning chinooks are most active at dawn or dusk. Tips: Shore-fishing prospects are good using noodle rods for distance. Use dime-sized egg sacs or garden worms. Tips: Muskies can be taken throughout the day. Fish hard all day and don't give up. Tips: Expected to handle numerous pike during a long day on the water. Use needle-nosed pliers to unhook fish or risk painful cuts from these toothy fish.
Delaware River Sodus Bay Ausable River Oswego River Chautauqua Creek Susquehanna River
St. Lawrence River Conesus Lake Lake Lila Cayuga Inlet Seneca River Skaneateles Lake

St. Lawrence River
The two-man team that won the World Carp Fishing Championship last June on the St. Lawrence near Waddington caught nearly 1,600 pounds of carp in four days. They didn't make a dent in the resource!

Tiger Muskies
Otisco Lake
Tiger muskies, also known as norlunge, are a hybrid cross between purebred muskellunge and northern pike. They are easier to catch than true muskies but grow nearly as big, and the likeliest place in New York state to connect with a whopper is Otisco Lake.

In the summer heat, a big tiger is inclined to suspend off sloping points adjacent to deep-water weeds and wait for a passing trout or sucker that's barely small enough to cram into its toothy maw. Consequently, a trolled, jointed stick bait that's 7 to 9 inches long is deadly.

Otisco is on Route 174 in Onondaga County, south of the village of Marcellus.

Sodus Bay
One of the world's most under-rated game fish, longnose gar are vicious biters and prone to leap when hooked. Sodus Bay in Wayne County holds some 40-inchers.

Conesus Lake
Known for its out-sized pike and walleyes, Conesus Lake also happens to have some of the most consistent largemouth bass fishing in the Finger Lakes region.

Salmon River
Every fisherman should sample the king salmon spawning run in the Salmon River once. First-timers either love or hate the raucous scene. Fishermen who can ignore the mob scene and focus on their drift stand a good chance of hooking the trophy of a lifetime.

Although many rookies let a pro guide show them the ropes, finding your way around the Salmon River couldn't be easier. Route 13 runs parallel to it between Pulaski and Altmar, and most of the pools are posted with identifying signs.

West Branch Ausable
If God took up fly-fishing, he'd be a regular on Essex County's Ausable. Some rivers are more productive, but none on earth are prettier, especially when the autumn leaves are turning.

Lake Lila
Located in remote Franklin County, Lake Lila teems with 12- to 15-inch smallmouths. To fish it in a boat, you must portage over a 1,600-foot trail, downhill going in, uphill coming back.

Brown Trout
Wilson Harbor
Like salmon, brown trout stage off river mouths before running upstream to spawn. At Wilson in Niagara County, a pier at the mouth of Eighteenmile Creek provides easy access to browns that frequently weigh between 10 and 20 pounds. Spoons, egg sacs and garden worms all draw strikes at times.

Oswego River
The Oswego has gotten a bit of a bum rap over the years because of the rampant snagging that occurs during its salmon run. In fact, anglers who walk a few steps away from the crowds on the river's west wall can talk a big king into biting a yarn fly or a golf ball-sized egg sac.

Landlocked Salmon
Cayuga Inlet
Numbered in the hundreds rather than the thousands, the sleek Atlantics that run up Cayuga Lake tributaries in October and November are receptive to classic streamer patterns like the Black Ghost.

1,000 Islands
Despite a shocking die-off of dozens of big muskies last spring, St. Lawrence River guides are expecting a banner autumn in the 1,000 Islands region. The fish kill, blamed on a sudden warm-up after weeks of unseasonably cool weather, may have more impact on future seasons than this one, as many of the dead muskies were spawning hens.

November is prime time for St. Lawrence River trophies. Last year, many 50-inch-plus specimens were caught and released after leaf-fall. A good share of those fish fell victim to the Berger King, a rig consisting of a large spoon trailing behind an even bigger jointed plug.

Chautauqua Creek
Fishermen in the Westfield area needn't drive hours to the Salmon River for steelhead, for Chautauqua Creek has the highest steelhead catch rate in New York.

Seneca River
Weeks before the end of the statewide season, smallmouth bass in the Seneca River school up in deep pools where they are suckers for slowly retrieved tube jigs.

Northern Pike
Watkins Glen Pier
The pier at the south end of Seneca Lake stretches out to the edge of a steep dropoff. Consequently, it holds a smorgasbord of fish that changes constantly through the year. In December, the most dependable visitors are northern pike, most of them 4- to 8-pounders but some much larger. Toss red-and-white spoons or skinny stick baits if you like, but in the dead of winter you'll get a better response from a sucker minnow suspended beneath a slip-bobber.

Susquehanna River
When the Susquehanna River runs full after late-autumn rains, schools of walleyes spread out below the Rock Bottom dam in Binghamton.

Skaneateles Lake
Most of the hardy souls who cast for silvery rainbows from the pier and village park in the village of Skaneateles rely on an odd but effective bait combo to catch their fish: a worm sandwiched between two white cocktail marshmallows.


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