The 9 Best Lakes for Ice Fishing in New York

New York is colder than most states in the Union. While you probably won’t appreciate that on your commute, it does mean that there are plenty of ice fishing opportunities. There are several lakes in the state that offer trout, bass, and other popular fish for fishermen to catch.

There are many different lakes to choose from – each with its own benefits and draw. Let’s take a look at each in turn so you can choose your must-see lakes this ice fishing season in New York.

1. Lake Champlain

Much of this lake is within Vermont. However, Vermont and New York share this lake by allowing each state’s anglers to fish on it. Therefore, most anglers in New York can fish the majority of the lake. While some spots are off-limits, this lake is so large that you probably won’t even notice.

On top of its size, this lake is well-known for being populated by a range of different species. For instance, you can find lake trout, landlocked salmon, perch, pike, walleyes, and smelts. You can also find brown trout, muskellunge, panfish, and rainbow trout. Out of all the lakes on this list, this one likely has the biggest variety of species available.

One popular fish to catch on this lake is smelt, which have no daily limit on this lake. Therefore, fishermen are known to catch dozens of smelt, which are often deep-fried as a treat. Smelt travel in large school in this lake, and predatory fish usually aren’t too far behind them.

There are many different ecosystems on Lake Champlain. You can find smelt and predatory fish, as we discussed above. However, you can also fish near the lake’s shoals for perch and walleyes. The weedlines near the shore are often home to panfish, pike, and pickerel.

There are some special regulations regarding this lake, though. Therefore, we highly recommend reading these special rules before deciding to fish there. The sharing of Lake Champlain between two states tends to complicate things a bit.

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You can reach the ice via many different marinas and parks around the lake. Much of the area around it is publicly owned. Therefore, finding your way onto the ice shouldn’t be challenging.

Ice fishing on Lake Champlain.
Lake Champlain is shared by both Vermont and New York and has a range of different fish species making ice fishing a popular winter activity.

©iStock.com/Wanda Jewell

2. Fourth Lake

The Fourth Lake is in the Fulton Chain of Lakes, which may be the cause of its strange name. This lake provides a great home for trout and landlocked salmon, making it a popular spot for fishermen interested in these species. The best places to catch these species are over sandbars – and there are many sandbars in the lake.

Other species may roam in the deeper waters. If you venture out a bit further, you may find salmon, perch, and rainbow trout. You can load your tip-ups with up to five minnows to catch these species.

The village of Inlet has a public launch, which allows for easy access to the lake.

Fulton Chain of Lakes, New York
Fourth Lake is one of eight lakes in the Fulton Chain of Lakes located in Adirondack Park, upstate New York.

©iStock.com/Wirestock

3. Oneida Lake

Oneida Lake is popular for fishing at any time of the year. You’ll find many fishermen on the ice (and at the lake during other seasons, too). Therefore, while this lake is popular for a reason, it isn’t the best for those looking for solitude.

Most fish are caught around the bars, drop-offs, and shoals. There are many different species in this lake, but walleyes tend to be the most sought-after. However, this species has been over-fished to some extent.

You can also find perch and panfish in decent numbers. Therefore, this lake could be recommended for those lookin for these species, too.

As a popular lake, access is simple. There are many different marinas and similar locations that allow for direct access to the ice.

Frozen Oneida Lake New York
Oneida Lake is popular for fishing at any time of the year as it is a well-known spot for catching walleye.

©iStock.com/M. Suhail

4. Honeoye Lake

Honeoye Lake is one of the shallowest lakes on this list. Therefore, it is home to many weedbeds. This environment supports a flourishing bluegill, perch, and walleye population. Furthermore, recent local efforts have raised the walleye population further. However, this has led to some extra regulations. Therefore, be sure to check before you head to the ice.

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Mostly, fishermen flock to the weedlines, where perch and walleyes can be caught. There are also hand-sized bluegills, which are equally as popular.

In total, this lake is about five miles long. There are several launch sites where you can access the lake, so access typically isn’t a problem.

A view of Honeoye Lake, New York in the winter
Honeoye Lake is one of the Finger Lakes in New York, a popular fishing spot for catching perch and walleye.

©Visit Finger Lakes / Flickr – License

5. Lake Erie

You can access Lake Erie easily through Sturgeon Point. At this point, there is pretty easy access to the public. You can find many perch in this area, as well as the occasional walleye.

Fishing in Lake Erie can be pretty productive. However, you do have to hike a couple of miles off the shore to the correct depths to find perch. Therefore, you typically need to bring a snowmobile or something similar.

Typically, perch are found in the same areas of the lake as they are found during the fall and spring. Therefore, experts recommend fishing in the same areas that perch can be found during the warmer months.

This area is a bit more dangerous than other areas, though. For instance, the ice can be treacherous due to river currents in the area. Therefore, large chunks of ice can break off and move. We recommend extreme caution and carefully keeping up with ice conditions.

Lake Erie offers ice fishing opportunities for perch
Lake Erie provides opportunities to ice fish for perch, but fishermen will need to travel a couple miles off the shore to reach them.

©iStock.com/Miklmar

6. Saratoga Lake

Saratoga lake can be a great option. However, many fishermen report it as a mixed bag. There are lots of weedy shallow areas, making it a good option for crappies, bluegills, and pike. However, if you head into the deeper areas, you can find perch and walleyes.

You can find easy access just south of the lake in Saratoga Springs. There are many different roads along the western shoreline. There are several boat launches, as well, which allow for easy access to the ice.

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7. St. Lawrence River

This river is quite large and works well for ice fishing. In fact, it is one of the most popular ice fishing spots in the state. The whole river is shallow and full of weeds. Therefore, there is practically no current, either. Sunfish, crappies, and bluegills love this environment, so this spot is great if that’s what you’re looking for.

However, because this area is so popular, it tends to be extremely crowded. Therefore, you should expect plenty of company while fishing. However, that does mean you may be able to find previously used holes without having to drill your own.

Fishing here is a winter tradition for many families. However, fishermen have diminished in the previous years.

A view of the St. Lawrence River from Wellesley Island State Park
St. Lawrence River is one of the most popular ice fishing spots in New York state.

©iStock.com/Eric Bardo

8. Cayuga Lake

The Cayuga lake is extremely deep at around 400 feet deep in most areas. Therefore, these areas never freeze over. However, there are a few miles of the lake on the northern end where the water is less than 15 feet deep. There are plenty of weeds and debris in this area, making it a great environment for perch and panfish.

There is a boating channel through the middle of this shallow area. Most of the fish tend to hangout in this area, making it a perfect spot for fishing. However, the bluegills tend to be along the weedy edge of the lake.

9. Chautauqua Lake

This lake is a very popular ice fishing location in the area. It is found on practically every ice fishing list out there. Walleyes are one of the most popular species in this area. There are lots of deep waters and plenty of environmental diversity. Therefore, you can find lots of other fish in the area, too.

There are several access sites up and down the lake. Therefore, finding a way onto the ice isn’t usually an issue. However, you should be prepared for plenty of company. This area is one of the most popular for a reason.

Ice fishing on Chautauqua Lake, New York
Ice fishing is very popular on Chautauqua Lake, New York offering a variety of fish to catch.

©Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons – License

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