New York’s Finger Lakes are known for a number of things, and fishing is surely high on the list. Carved out by glaciers two million years ago, these lakes contain enough bass, trout and pike to keep you fishing for the rest of your life. The eastern half of the chain contains the three largest Finger Lakes – Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka – but don’t forget about the smaller lakes. Owasco, Otisco and Skaneateles lakes offer plenty of fishing of their own.
Keuka Lake is the third largest Finger Lake. Y-shaped and with a surface area of 11,600 acres, Keuka is clean and clear, with a depth of 183 feet. The lake is best known for its lake trout and smallmouth bass, but also contains substantial populations of northern pike, black crappie, yellow perch and largemouth bass. Weed beds at the south end and in both of the northern forks offer some of the best fishing, along with rocky slopes, reefs and rock piles.
Seneca is both the largest Finger Lake and the deepest, with a surface area of 43,343 acres and a depth of 618 feet. That much water can be daunting, but the fish-catching potential at Seneca Lake is almost endless. Access areas in Geneva, Watkins Glen, Seneca Lake State Park and Sampson State Park are good places to start. Seneca offers great perch fishing, especially through the ice and right after the spring thaw. Northern pike, largemouth bass, lake trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon also tempt anglers from spring through fall.
Though it is only second-largest among the Finger Lakes, Cayuga is actually the longest at 38 miles. Cayuga Lake lies across 42,956 acres of Central New York, with a depth of 435 feet. Anglers have success trolling for pike, trout and landlocked salmon at the south end of the lake in spring. Weed beds toward the north end harbor bass and panfish all through summer. Boat launch facilities and shore access are available at Taughannock State Park and Cayuga Lake State Park.
Though considerably smaller than its western neighbors, 6,665-acre Owasco Lake still offers a number of fishing opportunities. Rocky structure at the lake’s south end is productive for pike, panfish and smallmouth bass. Trout fishing is especially productive during May, June and September; and ice fishermen regularly go home with trout, panfish and pike in January and February. Walleye near the north end of the lake typically fall for stickbaits trolled around rocks during spring and early summer.
Clean and clear, Skaneateles Lake is a source of drinking water for several nearby communities. Trout are plentiful in this 8,960-acre lake, though they may not grow as large as they do in other Finger Lakes. Aquatic vegetation is limited in Skaneateles Lake, but the south end has the most substantial weed growth and harbors perch, pickerel and bullhead. Smallmouth bass fishing is available throughout the lake. Access and launch ramps are available in Skaneateles Park, in the village of Skaneateles, and at the DEC launch site on the western shore.
The easternmost of the Finger Lakes and the smallest in the eastern half of the chain, Otisco Lake is 76 feet deep and covers 2,200 acres. Arguably, the north end of the lake offers the best fishing. Panfish are abundant around weedy areas, and largemouth bass of 20 inches or more regularly turn up in electrofishing surveys. Tiger muskellunge also offer a unique challenge for anglers, and Otisco Lake may be one of the best waters in the state for these fish. The area around the causeway which crosses the lake above its southern basin offers good walleye fishing as well.