Musky, Pike, Tiger Musky And Pickerel Fishing Opportunities
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.
The statewide minimum size limit for muskellunge is 40 inches and the season opens on June 1. 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 June 15. Additional exceptions to the statewide regulations exist, so anglers should be sure to review the Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide.
Learn more about fishing for muskellunge
Learn more about muskellunge management in NY
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.
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" its own tiger muskies, but fry are now obtained from Pennsylvania. From these fry, DEC's Oneida Hatchery plans to raise 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. 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.
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 stockings of surplus tigers in recent years seemed to have further increased the numbers present.
In Region 4, Canadarago Lake is 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 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 Region 1 Deep Pond, Artist Lake, Twin Ponds and Forge Pond on the Peconic River all provide 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, Upper Little York 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.