Located in the western region of New York State, Schuyler County offers a well-rounded getaway destination for the traveler who wants it all — scenic vistas, hiking trails, arts and culture, wining and dining, racing, and recreational fishing. With its small population (it is, in fact, the second least populated county in New York State), the county has an intimate small-town feel despite its many tourist draws.
One of Schuyler County’s claims to fame is the Watkins Glen International, a premier racing facility and the home of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the state. American road racing enthusiasts might know that Watkins Glen, the county seat, is the birthplace of road racing in the country. Today, the county still celebrates this heritage. Here you’ll find one of the few research facilities dedicated to motor racing, the International Motor Racing Research Center. You can also have an opportunity to drive on the original Grand Prix Circuit or the famous Watkins Glen International track as part of the Drive the Glen Experience.
But if you’re not into high-octane racing, Schuyler still has plenty to offer you. North of the county, you will find a section of the stunningly beautiful Finger Lakes National Forest. The rest of the county is dotted with state parks and trails such as the Watkins Glen State Park, the Catherine Valley Trail, the Sugar Hill State Forest, and more. These lush locations are not just beautiful to walk through. They offer a number of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and even horseback riding.
Apart from its state parks, Schuyler County is filled with plenty of freshwater bodies, offering some of the best year-round fishing on this side of New York State. The combination of scenic views and productive waters makes Schuyler County an unforgettable fishing destination you’ll want to keep all to yourself.
Schuyler County boasts of many lakes, ponds, and streams that are productive nearly all year round. It is primarily known, like the rest of the Finger Lakes region, for its productive bass fishing, but because of many shallow and heavily vegetated waters, the county attracts many more fish species, particularly warm-water ones.
One of the most excellent bodies of water in the county is Cayuta Lake. It is in the southeastern portion of Schuyler County and offers productive warm-water fishing. Largemouth bass and chain pickerel are the most common fish species in the lake, followed by walleye. However, due to the growing alewife population in the water, trophy walleye are hard to come by. Panfish such as bluegill, crappie, and yellow perch are quite abundant in the lake as well. Other fish species you might find in the lake include pumpkinseed, rock bass, white sucker, common carp, and brown bullhead. When fishing for bass or panfish, you’ll do well near structure and vegetation. If you’re keen on catching walleye, it's best to come here during spring. Anglers report catching them while drifting or trolling. Ice fishing can be quite productive in the lake as well. Do note that most of the lake’s shoreline is privately owned, but there is a public boat launch north of the lake, which offers a concrete ramp, a canoe/kayak boat launch, a seasonal dock, and parking for 15 trailers and cars.
Waneta-Lamoka Lakes are two separate lakes that are interconnected by a 0.7-mile canal. Both are shallow and highly productive bodies of water. Both lakes tend to be very shallow, especially around summer, so boaters need to be careful especially along the shorelines. The bigger of the two, Waneta Lake, is located northwest of the county. Just like Cayuta Lake, its shorelines are predominantly privately-owned with many cottages and homes, both seasonally occupied and year-round. Anglers can access it via the state boat launch on the south end of the lake. This is quite fortunate, as the southern part of the lake is quite productive. Anglers can catch an ample number of largemouth bass and chain pickerel here. Sometimes, some smallmouth bass can appear, though they are better targeted in Lamoka Lake. Apart from bass, anglers can expect to catch muskellunge in Waneta Lake as the lake receives an annual stocking of the fish species. They are best targeted along the weed edges. Panfish such as yellow perch, crappie, and bluegill are abundant in the lake as well, particularly along the weed lines and anywhere with submerged structures.
Reach Lamoka Lake from Waneta via the canal which you can navigate with a medium-sized boat. You can also launch a boat on the state boat launch on the northern side of the lake. Lamoka Lake is quite similar to Waneta in terms of catch. The only minor difference is that it attracts more smallmouth bass compared to Waneta, particularly around the gravel areas on the northeast portion of the lake. Largemouth bass, though, are still the more common bass species in the lake. Chain pickerel and panfish tend to be more productive here as well. You’ll find crappie in the shallow bays and other panfish such as bluegill and bullhead in the weed lines and structure.
If you want to keep your fishing within the county seat, you’ll find the southern tip of the great Seneca Lake in the middle of Watkins Glen. Anglers can easily access the lake via the canal portion of Catherine Creek off Route 414. The area has surface ramps and parking for 60 cars at most. Another great way to access the lake is via the town of Hector at the Smith Memorial Park. This park offers a dirt and gravel launch for anglers. Boat launching is not recommended here, though. Some of the lake’s most common catch include lake trout, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass. Other fish species you might find in the lake include brown trout, rainbow trout, some landlocked Atlantic salmon, largemouth bass, and northern pike. The rainbow trout in Catherine Creek and its tributaries are largely naturally produced.
For families eager to get their children into fishing, the Finger Lakes Preserve is the most ideal place to be. It is particularly suited for learning fly fishing. The ponds at the preserve offer productive rainbow trout fishing. The institution encourages catch-and-release, though anglers can keep one rainbow trout catch for free.
The top 10 fish species to target in Schuyler County, NY include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, chain pickerel, crappie, muskellunge, lake trout, Atlantic salmon, northern pike, and rainbow trout.