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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

Ice Out - Come On Spring!

Ice fishing season is over on Oneida Lake as the ice melts.
Ice out on Oneida Lake.

It’s been quite some time again since my last post and my apologies for those who follow along and read. February and the first bit of March kept me busy ice fishing on Oneida Lake. Cold temperatures for a few weeks made fly fishing difficult as some streams locked up pretty good. Streams that remained in good shape and free of ice were difficult to fish with windy and cold temperatures. However, spring is in the air and the ice has disappeared, or is disappearing, from streams and lakes. After a fun, albeit short, ice fishing season and packing the gear away, my attention is back to fly fishing the streams. The ice is out.

My last ice fishing trip of 2021 on Oneida Lake.
The crew from the last ice trip of the season. It was cold and wet on this day, but extremely warm temperatures made the ice unfishable in the few days following this trip.

I just want to say a quick thanks to those reading who joined me on the ice this season. It was a pleasure meeting everyone and sharing time on the hard water. I look forward to seeing everyone again next season!

Locally, this stretch of 60-70 degree temperatures will melt any remaining snow and ice. Some local streams are in better shape than others, but none of them are in bad shape. When I was out yesterday, flows were excellent, water temperatures were in the low 40s and the water clarity was decent. The trout have not gotten the memo about spring quite yet. I anticipate some movement and activity in the coming days as the water temperatures continue to tick up a few degrees. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to break out the gear from its long winter nap and start getting everything ready to go for the season.

After a winter full of tying, you should have enough flies for the season, right? If you’re anything like me, that’s a big fat, “NO”. I procrastinate when it comes to tying. I always have a full box of 100+ flies, but I never tie as often or as many flies as I feel and think I should be. In any event, as we transition from winter patterns to spring patterns, have your fly box or boxes loaded with a little bit of everything. Trout can be a little finicky with the warm and cold weather patterns of early spring.

When it’s 65 degrees and sunny, we like to think trout should be out and actively eating bugs. But… we all know trout and humans don’t always have the same mindset and, most certainly, don’t always have the same agenda. While it might be balmy for you, the water might still be 40 degrees and the trout might still be locked tight into their winter holds. A thermometer is your friend on the river. Use it and learn how trout move and act with the temperatures on your home water. No stream or river is the same and fish act differently in each body of water. This can be said for all fish species, whether freshwater or saltwater. Water temperature is one of the most important drivers of fish activity.

a healthy wild brown trout caught fly fishing in Central New York
Jigged bugger eater. A healthy wild brown trout caught fly fishing in Central New York.

What’s my point? Carry all types of flies with you for an early spring outing. I carry jigged streamers, nymphs, eggs, stoneflies, mops, soft hackles, scuds, and a few dries with me on each early spring outing. Then, if you’re confident you’re over fish, keep changing things up until you find what works. As I said previously, just because we fly anglers think spring is in the air, that does not mean the trout are in spring feeding habits. Bring the winter patterns and don’t overlook the winter holds. There is a good chance the trout are still there. Also, water temperatures can and will fluctuate in the early season. Warm weather now will not last. After a few days of night temps well below freezing and highs back to being in the low 40s, expect to find lethargic fish again.

The New York State general trout season opens April 1st. However, many of the streams and rivers in the state are open to year-round fishing. Check the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation site for special regulations in your area. Also, stocking will be firing up soon if it already hasn’t. Stocking information can be found on the NYSDEC website as well.

Thanks for reading and check back here in a few days as I’ll have a few more tips and suggestions about preparing for the upcoming season. I look forward to seeing you on the water! Stay safe and enjoy the nice weather. It is not here to stay quite yet.


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