Cayuga Lake is what I consider my home lake. I do most of my guiding here. This lake provides good to excellent year round open water fishing for both warm and cold-water species.
Gear and fly-fishing for Landlocked Atlantic salmon is available from January through May and again in November and December. This fishing is concentrated in the southern third of the lake. It varies year by year. My expectations for the winter/spring going into 2022 are not optimistic. As of this writing towards the end of January our nearshore and shoreline casting indicates very modest numbers of salmon available. This could change at any time – stay tuned to my reports for updates as I get them.
Rainbow trout numbers are excellent in Cayuga Lake at present. We never encountered as many rainbows out in the lake jigging as we did in 2020, and 2021 was also well above average rainbow trout fishing. Brown trout numbers were down a bit from the past two decades, but they still provided better action than on any of the other Finger Lakes. Lamprey control is the key to the trout/salmon fisheries here and DEC has done a great job controlling them. Having a fish ladder on Cayuga Inlet – their main spawning stream has been pivotal in keeping their numbers down.
"Dapper" Dan with a nice wild Cayuga Lake trout
Mark with a solid Cayuga Pike!
I did very little bass fishing here over the past two years. This was mainly due to my busy guiding schedule. Prior recent years were excellent for largemouth bass and slow to fair at best for smallmouths. Largemouth fishing started out good in 2020 then really slowed in September for some reason. I heard varying reports on the largemouth bass fishing in 2021. We haven’t seen any truly great smallmouth bass fishing here since 2007 or 2008, however with the presence of round goby, the smallmouth here are reaching trophy sizes! Fish well over 7lbs are taken here annually.
Pike fishing should be fair here in 2022. We had good spawning conditions for them a few years ago, so we are optimistic that their population will expand. Pickerel are found lake-wide but are particularly abundant at Cayuga’s north end and provide good sport throughout the late spring and summer. With the rampant goby population to feed upon, pickerel in this lake are getting bigger and bigger. My buddy Eric landed one in 2018 while fishing with me that was close to being a record fish. It was probably well over 7lbs! Don’t be surprised if the next state record chain pickerel comes out of Cayuga Lake!
Lake trout are the dominant cold water fish in Cayuga Lake and they run large here. Fish typically average 4 to 8lbs, with plenty of larger fish available. The jigging used to start off at the lake’s northern basin then move south but the goby invasion has completely changed the distribution patterns of lake trout on this lake. They are pretty much found lake wide throughout the winter with most fish concentrated from around Levanna south to Ithaca. Mid to south lake areas offer solid winter action. A few roam further north during the winter. Overall lakers fight hard and taste very good. Lake trout fishing has been some of the best found in the northeastern United States here over the past couple decades. I love fishing lakers on Cayuga Lake!
Longnose Gar are available on Cayuga Lake from June though August. They provide an excellent fly-fishing opportunity. Gar run from 30″ up to around 37″ typically, though on occasion larger fish can be caught. Hot, windless days are best for gar fishing. I am not currently guiding gar on Cayuga Lake. They can be tough to locate consistently and the size oftentimes lacks.
Bluegills and sunfish nearly 8″ long can be taken readily from late April through June on Cayuga Lake. These panfish are a blast and taste great! There are plenty of big rockbass around too – some real trophies!
Solid late fall brown trout caught by Ron
Fat Goby-Fed Smallmouth caught by Edward
This lake is absolutely loaded with yellow perch. The numbers are fantastic and they probably average from 8″ to 11″ long, with enough 12″ers to keep things fun. Yellow perch have been taken in Cayuga Lake upwards of 18″ long and 3lbs. The presence of tremendous numbers of gobies will help perch grow faster. Many perch fishermen I’ve taked to on Cayuga Lake have noticed that the average size of the perch is going up.
Crappie fishing has slowly been on the rebound in Cayuga Lake. I haven’t had a chance to target them over the past 10 years or so, but I have been seeing more of them caught incidentally.
Other species found on Cayuga include freshwater drum, channel catfish, bullheads, white perch, lake sturgeon and carp. Cayuga Lake has around 55 to 60 species of freshwater fish in it. It is the most diverse of the Finger Lakes “fish-wise”. I look at Cayuga as the Finger Lake’s version of Lake Champlain. Round gobies were found in Cayuga Lake during the summer of 2013. The lake is currently loaded with them. Most species are now eating the gobies including lake trout, brown trout, landlocked salmon, bass, pickerel and yellow perch.
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.
The ubiquitous lowly rockbass. Is there any fish that anglers catch in freshwater that gets less respect? I shall think not.