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Lake Ontario Fishing: Small Waters, Big Catches

Lake Ontario Fishing: Small Waters, Big Catches
Published: Wednesday, February 17th, 2021
Updated on: Thursday, May 13th, 2021

The smallest of the great lakes, at 7500 square miles, Lake Ontario offers anglers a great fishing experience. Located on the United States and Canada border, the place is frequented by both American and Canadian anglers. 

More than 2.8 million people call the surrounding areas of Lake Ontario home. It serves as a boundary between Ontario in the north and New York to the south.  Aside from being a fishing destination, Lake Ontario's areas have other attractions, such as Fair Haven and Rochester in New York, and not to forget the lovely beaches in these areas.

Tourists also love the state park at Wellesley Island, known for its wildlife and nature center. For a historic trip, people visit the Sackets Harbor Battlefield for a historic trip where events happen all year round.

For thousands of years before the French reached the area and colonized it, the Iroquois tribe settled on Lake Ontario’s shores. After the French arrived, they began to displace the native Iroquois and settled here. Lake Ontario did not get its name from the city. It was the city named after Lake Ontario, as opposed to what many people previously thought. 

Lake Ontario Fishing


You can access Lake Ontario through Olcott, Oswego, Picton, Lewiston, and Clayton in New York. One thing to note is that you will be required to have a New York fishing license and a Canadian one if you will be accessing the Canadian area of the lake. It is recommended that you go with an experienced guide if this is your first time angling there. 

Lake Ontario during Winter

Lake Ontario offers a wide variety of fish for anglers of all ages and skills. For all its varied species, what attracts anglers from all over the world are the salmon. There are also the brown trout and lake trout biting and the steelhead during winter. Walleye and northern pike are available all year round, while smallmouth and largemouth bass can keep anglers busy throughout the summer. 

The most popular method of angling in the area is via a chartered boat so you can head into the deeper parts of the lake. Or, you can sit back and relax as you fish by the lake’s shores and do shore fishing. Sure, the catch won't be as many, but this form of fishing is the most relaxing if you want to have fun while enjoying the lake’s beauty. 

Finally, ice fishing is always an option for those who want to fish during winter. Since the lake is huge, not all of it is completely frozen over. If you stick to the shorelines, you can find a spot for ice fishing and catch some northern pike, walleye, and perch. Ice fishing is an enjoyable method of fishing that entails cutting holes on frozen surfaces and fishing from there.  

Lake Ontario Pier

One of the main attractions of Lake Ontario is the abundance of king salmon or chinook salmon.  Although the lake offers different species of salmon for anglers, the chinook or king salmon are the most sought after. These salmon will congregate in its western waters in spring, but as the water’s temperature rises, they’ll move to deeper and colder waters. In these cold waters, they will stay until late August or September until they venture out once again in the Lake’s tributaries to spawn. These times are the perfect time to catch them, as they are aggressive and hungry. Oswego and Pulaski in Upstate New York are good places to go if you want to have a piece of the action during the salmon run. 

Another fish you can catch here is the steelhead. These can often be found on the lake’s tributaries and offer a good fight that attracts anglers looking for a challenge. There are two types of steelhead in Lake Ontario: Washington and Skamania. The difference between the two is that Washingtons is most common in winter, while Skamania is most common during summer. You can use floats and drift trips and fly fishing and spin fishing to catch them. Crankbaits and spinners are good bait for them, but you can also try roe bags.

Lake Ontario is home to the walleye. They travel in large groups and are available all year round, although the best time to catch them is winter. Most walleye caught here ranged from 1-3 lbs, but 10-lb ones aren’t unheard of either. This fish prefers lowlight areas, so vertical jigging, trolling after dark are advised for anglers who wish to catch them. If you catch one, you can place a marker on it so it can lead you to more, as they travel in large groups.    

Top 10 Fish Species in Lake Ontario, New York

The top 10 fish species in Lake Ontario are the chinook salmon, coho salmon, Atlantic salmon, brown trout, lake trout, steelhead, walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass.

Lake Ontario Fishing: Small Waters, Big Catches Fish species
Smallmouth Bass 
Smallmouth Bass  fish

Habitat: Lake, River

Weight: 1 - 4 Pounds

Length: 12" - 27"

Largemouth Bass
Largemouth Bass fish

Habitat: Lake, Pond, Rivers

Weight: 2 - 22 Pounds

Length: 15" - 32"

Coho Salmon 
Coho Salmon  fish

Habitat: Lake, River, Onshore, Nearshore

Weight: 8 - 12 Pounds

Length: 24" - 43"

Chinook Salmon
Chinook Salmon fish

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, River, Lake

Weight: 10 - 50 Pounds

Length: 30" - 59"

Atlantic Salmon 
Atlantic Salmon  fish

Habitat: Onshore, Lake, River

Weight: 8 - 12 Pounds

Length: 24" - 32"

Lake Trout 
Lake Trout  fish

Habitat: Lake

Weight: 5 - 15 Pounds

Length: 25" - 59"

Brown Trout
Brown Trout fish

Habitat: Lake, River

Weight: 2 - 40 Pounds

Length: 13" - 39"

Steelhead Trout
Steelhead Trout fish

Habitat: Coastal, rivers

Weight: 2 - 35 Pounds

Length: 12" - 46"

Seasonal Fishing in Lake Ontario, New York

Fishing in February won’t yield you any salmon, but you will find walleye and pike if you go ice fishing. You can try jigging for trout at the streams and smaller creeks as well. Generally, the best months to go fishing in Lake Ontario are May through October. The vast majority of the game fish anglers seek are available in October. 


Things To Do in Lake Ontario, New York


Rochester, Lake Ontario, NY

1. Fishing Charters

There are several fishing charters if you want to experience the waters of Lake Ontario. These charters offer a wide range of services, from day fishing to night fishing. So whether you’re a new angler testing yourself for the first time or an experienced one, there are always these fishing charters available.


2. Visit Selkirk Shores State Park

Want to relax or do something else after a day of fishing? Selkirk Shores State Park is the perfect place to go. The park offers a wide range of activities for its visitors - from swimming, bird watching, and even hunting for those who want to bag a land trophy. If you want to rest for the day there, the park allows visitors to camp on its grounds. The park is also a prime fishing spot, so if you want to go fishing again, you don’t need to go far.


3. Traveling to Rochester, New York

New York’s third-largest city, Rochester, is a great place to enjoy the arts and entertainment after angling in Lake Ontario. Visitors go to Rochester’s Ontario Beach Park for a day of fun in the sun or visit the 1905 Dentzel Menagerie Carousel. While there, you can take a stroll at the historic Erie Canal and visit the Genesee Beer Brewery. 


4. Traveling to Fair Haven, New York

If you want to avoid the noise and crowds in New York, you can head down to Fair Haven and experience Lake Ontario without the large crowds. It is a quaint little town with a few restaurants and shops. But hidden here is Fair Haven Beach Park, the most picturesque beach in New York. The words New York and Beach don’t seem to mix but rest assured you'll find it here. The Beach Park offers a hiking trail to those who want to try hiking. There are rental cabins and a campsite if you want to spend some time here.

Fishing Techniques
Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing
Heavy Tackle Fishing
Heavy Tackle Fishing
Light Tackle
Light Tackle
Ice Fishing