The Best Trout Fishing in The Eastern Basin

Two angles posing with two trout caught while small stream trout fishing.
Bob and Tim Bruszuskiewicz enjoy small stream trout fishing in the Tug Hill area.

Lake Ontario Tributaries and Streams in New York State

All of us are aware of the great fishing in Lake Ontario’s Eastern Basin as Mother Nature ushers in the spring season.   It starts with the action offered by the near shore brown trout fishing, quickly followed by nice catches of coho and even Chinook salmon and an occasional steelhead and Atlantic salmon.  Attention is also given to the super steelhead fishing on the Salmon River until early May when rising water temperatures send the silver torpedoes back to the big lake. However, what may not be known is the “other” tremendous angling opportunities along the eastern basin; the endless miles of beautiful pristine streams offering brook, brown and rainbow trout.

Early Spring Trout Fishing in Lake Ontario’s Tributaries

The statewide April 1 trout opener is a really big deal in much of New York State.  Most anglers have been anticipating this date to shake off the winter blues like a kid waiting for Santa. But this is often not the case for eastern basin stream anglers who know streams can still be snowed in or mighty cold since many of these streams start high in the Tug Hill Region.  

Streams offer Fantastic Fishing

These anglers are more often tuned to the weather forecasts than the April 1 trout opening date, but when conditions are right this underutilized fishing resource is fantastic and remains fantastic throughout spring and summer.  If you are not familiar with this region and its many streams a couple items are a must, including a good map and the latest fishing regulations.   

Maps to Find the Best Fishing Streams

DeLorme’s New York State Atlas and Gazetteer is an excellent choice.  Their maps show your target fishing area with full page blowups that indicate all roads,  even seasonal, all streams identified, and most importantly bridges where parking and access is available.  Secondly, unless you are totally familiar with DEC fishing regulations, it is a good idea to have a copy and check daily creel and size limits since some streams have special regulations. 

Pay Attention to Water Temperatures

Another handy item is a thermometer because in early season angling the water is still quite cold. Water temperatures drop and warm quickly, monitoring for optimum stream temperatures could make all the difference. Checking quieter pools for even a couple degrees warmer water temperatures can make a big difference in trout fishing action. 

Stay Off the Beaten Path

Although the DEC stocks most eastern basin streams each year with brown, rainbow, and brook trout, you will find that fishing these streams away from bridges and easy access often offers some great native trout fishing. 

Trout Fishing Setup

I prefer to use my five foot Daiwa Eliminator ultra light rod with an Eagle Claw GF 10 reel loaded with two pound monofilament.  My son Jeff and I usually use nothing more than an assortment of 1/16 ounce colored jigs tipped with a small piece of nightcrawler or small twister tail. Occasionally we will use small Mepps or similar spinners if we hit the quieter water of a beaver pond where brook trout will attack these lures.

Using spinning lures makes it much easier to release a fish than with the jig and worm. However, we also enjoy a mess of tasty brookies or browns fried golden brown, hot from the frying pan.

The Best Streams and Tributaries 

The entire eastern basin is laced with countless creeks and rivers in Oswego, Jefferson and Oneida Counties, too numerous to list. But nearly all hold trout and are worth exploring. 

A few of our favorite streams for trout fishing that have continually produced good results over the years include FallBrook near Osceola, Fish Creek from Taberg to Swancott Mills (Tagasoke Reservoir), Point Rock Creek near Taberg, the East Branch of the Salmon River from Redfield to Osceola, and the West Branch of Fish Creek near Williamstown.  The Mohawk River near Northwestern can be great for rainbows this time of the year, and its tributary Lansing Creek can be accessed at Pixley Falls State Park.  The North Branch of the Salmon River off the Otto Mills Road or nearby Cold Brook are great for rainbow brook trout. 

Beware the Black Flies

Some of the best trout fishing occurs when the black flies emerge from these same cold, clear waters.  It is imperative to wear proper clothing such as long sleeve shirts and bring a proven type of bug spray.

Worth the Wait

While our fellow anglers in the Southern Tier and in western New York may be enjoying the long anticipated trout opener, those of us on the eastern end of the big lake know our time will come.  Meanwhile we will be catching fat brown trout and steelhead off Linear Park walkways on both sides of the Oswego River. And of course we can fish for steelhead in the Salmon River, Grindstone Creek,  Sandy Creek, and South Sandy Creek.

Enjoy the fabulous fishing. Please remember, if you carry it in carry it out.

Original Article By Doug Fuegel

About The Author

Doug Fuegel has written for New York Sportsman, Woods and Waters, New York Outdoor Times, the Palladium Times, Thousand Islands Sun, and Great Lakes Fisherman. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers’ Association of America, past president of the NYS Outdoor Writers’ Association, and president of the Eastern Lake Ontario Salmon & Trout Association. 

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