My overall take on Canandaigua Lake is this: The lake is one of the most beautiful in the state and the views of the topography from the south end of this lake are unparalleled. The fishing here is generally good. It’s arguably the best Finger Lake for rainbow trout, but for all the other species, there’s probably better fishing elsewhere. Boat traffic at the north end of this lake is very heavy in the summertime. There are huge palatial estates on this lake. Many of the most successful business owners in the state have places on this lake. It’s a great lake to fish and vacation on and I enjoy fishing it on occasion, although it’s a good ride from where I live.
Smallmouth bass fishing has reportedly been tough here since a major fish kill a few years ago. Numbers of young smallmouths are very encouraging here now. Rainbow trout and lake trout fishing has been good to excellent. Brown trout fishing has been decent too from what I’ve heard anecdotally. It is a favorite lake for Rochester-based anglers to target perch in. This might be the only Finger Lake that still has a few burbot in it, although they never turn up in DEC nets, one large specimen was caught here in 2012 by a former client of mine. Another one of my former clients that used to fish this lake a lot, told me he saw a few of them on one spring day in a little stream that feeds the lake, right by the roadside. This was back in the early 2000s, so there are likely a few still around. Think bowfin numbers on Cayuga Lake or something like that. Rare, but likely still present. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, this lake was a trophy walleye lake.
A couple typical Canandaigua Lake lakers from October 2022
The State boat launch at the north end of the lake can get extremely busy on a hot weekend day during the summer or even on a nice weeknight. That being said, the southern end of the lake generally features lighter boat traffic. If you fish this lake in the summer, it’s best to start early in the morning. The same can be said for the other Western Finger Lakes – especially Honeoye and Conesus Lakes. They have wall-to-wall cottages and plenty of jetskiis and other pleasure boaters.
The lake trout in this lake average around 18″ to 20″. There are decent numbers of bigger fish around and a 30″+ laker isn’t out of the question. Most lake trout in this lake are hatchery fish – approximately 85%. A 29lb. monster lake trout was trolled up here, maybe 2 years ago during the annual derby that takes place here the weekend after Memorial Day.
The water quality of this lake is kept top-notch and it shows in the taste of the fish. The lake trout here are just superb eating – as good as they get. There is a very proactive lake association and the water quality here is amongst the best in the Finger Lakes.
Many area bass fishermen had considered this lake to be their favorite or at least in their top 2 or 3 for smallmouths. I’ve seen some big smallies cruising around the shallows in the summertime. Smallmouths relate to typical smallmouth habitat here, as well as largemouth habitat. Some of the big smallmouths suspend out in open water, chasing bait fish. In the fall, the jerkbait bite can be a lot of fun here. Again – we’ll see what happens in light of the fish kill from a couple years ago here.
A house along the cliffs of this lake
White Perch are common in Otisco Lake and uncommon in Cayuga Lake. They can be a lot of fun to catch and are good to eat.
Freshwater Drum are the most underrated gamefish in freshwater. They check all of the boxes any gamefish would.
Black Crappie are the most common crappie species in the Finger Lakes. A few white crappie can be found in Otisco Lake. They are most often targeted in the spring and through the ice.
Is it a pike or is it a pickerel? It's both! Hybrid pike/pickerel show up on occasion in Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka Lakes. They are a gorgeous fish.
Longnose Gar are one of my favorite fish to chase on a fly-rod. The have been around for millions of years!
Chain pickerel are common in Cayuga, Canandaigua, Honeoye, and Keuka Lakes. They are also found in Seneca, Canadice, Hemlock and Skaneateles Lake.
Tiger Muskies are the sterile hybrid of a pure-strain musky and a northern pike. Occasionally they are called "norlunge" as well.
I think fishermen take carp for granted. They are so abundant in the area (and throughout the country) that many people don't value them.
Channel Catfish are found in pockets throughout the region. To the best of my knowledge, none of the Fingerlakes have large populations of them.
Walleyes are common in Conesus and and uncommon in Owasco Lake. Other Finger Lakes having populations of them include Honeoye and Otisco Lakes.