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.
Lake trout are the dominant cold-water fish in Cayuga Lake and they run large here. Cayuga Lake is one of the best lake trout lakes in the northeastern United States. Fish typically average 4 to 8lbs, with plenty of larger fish available. Overall lakers fight well and taste very good. The best early season fishing is in the northern part of this lake, north of Long Point. Nice lakers can be found pretty much from end-to-end of Cayuga Lake (with the exception of the northern six miles of the lake) year-round, but most fish concentrate between Long Point and Levanna from December through mid-May.
Gear and fly-fishing for Landlocked Atlantic salmon is typically 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, but has not been good over the past couple of years. We caught/saw very few salmon out here in 2023 and I am not optimistic about salmon fishing on Cayuga Lake in 2024. If you want landlocked Atlantic salmon, Seneca Lake is the place to be.
Rainbow trout numbers are excellent in Cayuga Lake at present. We never encountered as many rainbows out in the lake jigging as we did from 2020 through 2022. All of these years featured well above average rainbow trout fishing. 2023 has been no different – rainbows are thriving on Cayuga Lake.
Brown trout numbers have been down a bit over the past two years when compared to the past two decades, but they still provided better action than on any of the other Finger Lakes. Numbers of young browns as of this writing in January of 2024 are looking fair to good. We’ll see how the fishing turns out. 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 four years. This was mainly due to my busy guiding schedule and numerous tournaments that make recreational bass fishing a hassle and a challenge at times. Prior recent years were excellent for largemouth bass and slow to fair at best for smallmouths. Largemouth fishing started out good in 2023 then really slowed in August due to a sharp decline in vegetation. It bounced back a bit in October. A friend of mine is keeping his bass boat at a marina on the north end of this lake and will be fishing it for bass on a weekly basis, so I should have a better idea of what’s going on here in 2024.
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! 2022 saw the catch and release of the new New York State record smallmouth bass out of Cayuga Lake! It was actually caught and released at least twice during the course of the season and was caught and released AGAIN in 2023, by the SAME angler! Smallmouth bass numbers remain down in this lake, although one of my contacts that does extensive bed-fishing here for them told me that numbers of younger fish were up this year. I think smallmouths are going to have a tough time bouncing back here with the massive goby numbers, tournaments and catch and release fishing that takes place during the vulnerable spawning phase.
Pike fishing was poor here in 2023 -at least in the southern portions of the lake. I believe more have been taken on the north end where vegetation tends to be better. 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!
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, bowfin, 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.
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.