Great walleye fishing isn’t hard to find in New York. With hundreds of miles of rivers and dozens of prime walleye lakes, including two of the Great Lakes, walleye anglers in the Empire State have plenty of options.
New York’s walleye season kicks off the first Saturday in May, and runs until March 15 of the following year. It’s only closed from mid-March to early May to protect the fish while they spawn.
Walleye anglers in New York usually spend April getting their gear ready, stocking up on lures and tying worm harness rigs. When the season opener comes around, they’re ready to hit the water with a vengeance.
The couple of weeks right after the season opens typically offer the best opportunities to catch walleye in shallow water—even from shore in some waters—but these fish can be caught year-round.
Walleye usually retreat to deep water in summer before returning to the relative shallows in fall.
How to Catch Walleye
Numerous tactics can be used to catch walleye in New York, many of which we’ll cover in specific locations mentioned below.
In general, it’s best to remember that walleye typically stay close to the bottom, and you’ll have the best chance of success if your bait does the same.
Walleye also avoid harsh sunlight because of their sensitive eyes, but they have excellent vision in low light conditions. They’re hard to catch in midday except in deep or turbid water.
The best fishing in most of these lakes and rivers is around dawn and dusk, and there’s often an excellent night bite for walleye as well.
For much more information to help you catch these popular and great-eating fish, check out our complete guide to walleye fishing techniques and tips.
Best Walleye Lakes in New York
There’s almost no competition for the crown when it comes to New York’s best walleye lake. It has to be Lake Erie.
Lake Erie spans 9,940 square miles, and its shoreline real estate is shared among four U.S. states and one Canadian province. This lake grows walleyes like no place else in the Northeast. That being said, fishing here isn’t always easy.
Walleye are tremendously abundant in Lake Erie, but the size and depth of the lake has an effect on their behavior patterns.
Even in spring and fall, seasons when anglers traditionally have the best luck in shallow water, the real bite is usually much deeper.
In spring, expect to find walleye in rocky areas between 15 and 30 feet of water, especially rocky points and drop-offs adjacent to spawning areas. Hair jigs and jigging spoons are great this time of year.
Peak walleye fishing usually occurs in June, by which time the bite will have shifted down to the 25- to 40-foot range. Slowly trolling with worm harnesses on bottom-bouncer rigs is the leading tactic this time of year.
In spring, catching 25-plus fish in a day is common, and you may well find yourself tangling with walleye in the 10- to 15-pound range. Sturdy deep-water gear, tackle and tactics are essential.
By mid-summer, anglers are often forced to focus on depths of 60 feet or more to find walleye in Lake Erie.
When the lake stratifies, try trolling in or right above the thermocline, and keep an eye on your depth finder to pinpoint areas where the thermocline meets the bottom structure.
Lake Erie is loaded with prime walleye structure, including rocky shelves, points and humps.
If you’re launching from Buffalo, point your boat westward to find some of the best water. You’ll know you’re in the right area when you see the wind farm onshore.
It’s worth mentioning that Lake Erie has been overrun with invasive round gobies.
These small, bottom-dwelling fish have a habit of nibbling the worms right off your hook. If that starts to become an issue, adjust your presentation so your bait is 1.5 to 2 feet off the bottom.
Walleye often live 10 years or more in Lake Erie, which is plenty of time for them to pass the 30-inch mark.
Solid year classes almost every year since 2015 have ensured that the walleye fishery in this lake—sustained entirely through natural reproduction—will continue to thrive.
Lake Erie also is among the best lakes in New York for smallmouth bass fishing, and walleye anglers will sometimes find themselves tangling with an angry, red-eyed bass on their crankbait or worm rig.
Located right smack in the middle of Central New York, Oneida Lake has long been known as one of the state’s great walleye factories. Outside of the Great Lakes, no other place in New York cranks out more walleye.
Oneida Lake is also a bit more approachable and easy to fish than Lake Erie, in large part due to its smaller size (if a 50,894-acre natural lake can be called “small”) and abundance of public access.
It also doesn’t get nearly as rough as Erie, making it more friendly toward smaller craft.
Most years, there’s great walleye action on Oneida Lake from the season opener in early May right through June. Expect to see a second peak in fall, lasting right up until the lake freezes.
From the start of the season onward, walleye in Oneida Lake will be in the process of gradually transitioning from the gravel bars and shallow flats where they spawned toward deeper summer haunts.
The best place to fish is usually right around the first major drop-off in 10 to 20 feet of water. Drift-fishing with a black and purple bucktail jig tipped with a piece of nightcrawler is a favorite tactic among local walleye veterans.
One of the best areas to target in spring is the area offshore from the mouth of Scriba Creek. The creek is the location of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) state walleye hatchery, and also a major spawning ground for adult walleyes.
Shackleton Shoal, a six-mile-long shallow area in the center of the lake, is also an incredible spot to target spring walleye. Another is the spot just southeast of buoy 109 that locals simply call “the hump.”
Expect a lot of 19-inch walleye with the occasional giant pushing 10 pounds at Oneida Lake.
If you’re shore fishing, try the canal wall at Sylvan Beach, or the public fishing access area in Brewerton right around the I-81 overpass.
Dawn and dusk are the best times to target walleye in shallow water, and Original Floating Rapalas in classic black/silver and perch patterns are great lures. Wear waders if you’re fishing from shore; the bank is often messy this time of year.
These walleye lures also may pick up some big bass, and Oneida Lake is ranked among the best largemouth bass fishing lakes in New York.
For many years, Western New York’s Chautauqua Lake was known as a great bass lake and one of the top muskie fisheries in the state, but only a so-so walleye lake.
But this 13,156-acre lake has changed a lot in recent years.
The DEC ramped up its stocking efforts in response to low walleye numbers in the early aughts. Numbers have been steadily increasing since 2012, and recent year classes have been some of the strongest ever recorded.
In a sense, Chautauqua Lake is really two lakes. It has a deep northern basin and a much shallower southern basin, connected near the lake’s midpoint by a fairly narrow channel of water.
Both basins can be productive in springtime. But by summer, the southern basin becomes extremely warm and choked with weeds, so it’s better to set your sights northward.
Keying in on aquatic vegetation is crucial to catching walleye in this lake, and some of the most successful local anglers have learned to fish tight to the weed edges. If you’re trolling, good boat control can make or break your day on the water.
In May, when the water is cool, walleye may be in 8 to 12 feet of water. In summer, 15- to 25-foot depths are likely more productive.
In either season, finding weed edges at the appropriate depth is key. Early in the season, look for weeds near creek mouths in particular.
A classic worm harness rig with a silver or firetiger blade is often the most productive trolling lure. For casting, try plastic worms, Rapalas and Mister Twisters.
Prime areas for walleye fishing include Prendergast Bay, Dewittville Bay, and the area just off Goose Creek. Long Point State Park and the state boat ramp at Bemus Point are popular launch sites, both near the midpoint of the lake.
Chautauqua Lake is more of a numbers lake than a trophy walleye fishery, but fish in the 4- to 7-pound range are abundant. If you’re planning a fish fry, this is also a great place to catch perfect table-size ‘eyes.
This all-around fishing lake also has some of the best muskie fishing in New York, among other game fish.
Almost all of New York’s eleven Finger Lakes support at least some walleye. But Otisco Lake, the easternmost of the chain, is arguably the best walleye fishery of the lot.
Though it’s relatively small at 1,877 acres, surveys show a walleye population numbering in the thousands here.
A lot of these fish grow to 10 pounds or more gobbling up Otisco Lake’s bountiful alewives. When schools of these baitfish bunch up in shallow water to spawn in springtime, walleye follow.
May and June are prime months for shallow walleye on Otisco Lake.
Use narrow silver spoons (like a Michigan Stinger) and stickbaits (like a floating Rapala) that mimic alewives. Trolling parallel to the bank is a great tactic, but shore anglers also have a great shot at catching walleye in springtime.
The best place to cast from the bank is the rip-rap shoreline near the dam at the north end of the lake. Like all the Finger Lakes, Otisco is a natural lake, but it was enlarged with the construction of the dam many years ago.
Another great spot is around the causeway that divides Otisco Lake into two basins near the south end of the lake. The causeway is no longer an active roadway but is open to shore fishing.
You can launch at Otisco Lake Marina, located just north of the causeway, or at the DEC boat ramp, located just south of the causeway in the lower basin. The lower basin, being very shallow, doesn’t offer much for walleye anglers.
Walleye mostly head deeper in summer, but there’s also a great fall bite in shallow water. Fishing with a stickbait after dark in autumn is often very productive.
Walleye populations in Otisco Lake tend to rise and fall depending on the success of a particular year’s spawn. Even so, there are solid fishing opportunities here even during a so-called “bad” year.
Most years, fish in the 20- to 25-inch range are about average.
Allegheny Reservoir was created in 1965 with the construction of the Kinzua Dam.
A lot of local anglers refer to the reservoir itself as “Kinzua,” and it’s one of Western New York’s great warm water fisheries, with populations of bass, pike, muskellunge, and some very large walleye.
New York doesn’t have a lot of big, sprawling reservoirs. Chalk it up to the state’s abundance of natural lakes, but Allegheny Reservoir, a long, meandering impoundment in the Allegheny River, is an outlier.
Allegheny Reservoir is massive, and it spills across the border from New York into Pennsylvania. Former state record walleye for both states have been caught here, so it’s no surprise it’s also on our list of best walleye fishing lakes in Pennsylvania.
As with many lakes in this part of the country, May and June are the prime walleye months.
New York’s 40-some mile stretch of the lakeshore represents the upper end of Allegheny Reservoir, and lots of walleye head this way in spring to spawn in the river.
By the time the season opens in spring, they’ll be on their way back. Look for walleye 5 to 15 feet deep, right around the mouth of the river during the first week or two of May. Focus on the area from Friends Boat Launch up to the I-86 bridge.
Later in the season, walleye will transition toward rocky flats, humps and points at 15- to 20-foot depths. Trolling with a worm harness on a bottom bouncer rig is often effective, and jigs tipped with nightcrawlers are also popular.
Water level and clarity are two major variables on Allegheny Reservoir. When the river is muddy—as it often is in springtime—the upper end of the reservoir will be muddy too. This is a good time for a worm harness with some good flash to it.
Summertime often sees water levels that are well below the springtime highs, and walleye retreat to deeper haunts. Locals catch a few summertime giants trolling deep structures with planer boards.
The New York section of Allegheny Reservoir is bordered by the Seneca Indian Reservation, with a portion of the lake accessible through Allegheny State Park.
Fishing in the reservation requires a special Seneca Nation of Indians fishing license, which is available at many local convenience stores.
Best Walleye Rivers in New York
St. Lawrence River
The St. Lawrence River is unquestionably one of the best walleye fishing spots in New York, and also one of the most challenging. It’s a vast, broad river with 250-foot depths, strong currents and many hidden hazards.
But make no mistake, there are some serious walleye here.
A new state record weighing 18 pounds, 2 ounces was caught in the St. Lawrence River in 2018, and there’s no place in the state where you’re more likely to land a 10-pounder, with the possible exception of Lake Erie.
So… where to begin? Experienced local anglers troll deep ledges and shoals using downriggers and lead core line. Some of the biggest fish are caught at night, and you’re likely to get strikes on a variety of diving plugs and stickbaits.
One thing that makes walleye so challenging in the St. Lawrence River is that schools of these fish are often on the move. Groups of walleye are highly localized, often following baitfish from day to day.
The upshot of that is that finding a good spot is no guarantee of success. They might be somewhere else within a few days.
The most predictable time to find walleyes is the month of May, when they head toward tributaries that feed the St. Lawrence. The Ogdensburg area, where the Oswegatchie River empties into the St. Lawrence, is fairly reliable this month.
Once the calendar turns to summer, many walleye head upriver (i.e. toward Lake Ontario). Focus on shoals, mainland points and island points, especially in and around Chippewa Bay, and off Chippewa Point.
In fall, walleye gather in larger schools, shifting to deep water adjacent to summer structures. This is a great season to find large numbers of fish grouped together, but finding them is still no small feat.
The St. Lawrence River offers rewards that are proportional to its challenges. This is a great place to go out with a guide if it’s your first visit, and there are numerous local experts who offer guided walleye trips.
Other great fisheries exist here for northern pike, muskie and both species of bass.
One of the largest tributaries that feeds Lake Ontario, the Oswego River hosts an epic walleye run every spring. Some walleye inhabit the river year-round, but the big ones—monsters in the 8- to 12-pound range—come from the lake.
The best fishing is right in Downtown Oswego. The Varick power dam, which controls the river’s flow and blocks upward progress just a mile upriver from its mouth, is as far as migrating walleye can get.
Some stack up below the dam, and some spawn in the harbor right around the mouth of the river. In either case, there’s excellent walleye fishing in May and June, from boats as well as from shore.
Walkways in East and West Linear Park, which parallel the lower Oswego River, provide amazing access, and the fishing is often shoulder to shoulder on opening weekend. It resembles the fall salmon run, which is also a big event here.
Suffice to say, you’ll want to visit on a weekday if you have any intention of beating the crowds. Casting is effective with bucktail jigs, bottom-bouncing worm rigs and stickbaits.
Nibbling gobies often cause headaches for anglers using live nightcrawlers. Bring some Gulp! Worms or switch to a curlytail grub if the bait-stealers become too much of a problem.
Lots of walleye are caught right around dawn and dusk, but night fishing is also very good this time of year. Some locals swear the best time to be out there is from midnight to dawn.
Trolling can also be excellent after nightfall, and the lures of choice include #18 Rapalas and Cotton Cordell Wally Divers.
A state boat ramp and several marinas are located on Lake Ontario just west of the mouth of the river.
Originating as the outlet of Lake Otsego in Cooperstown, the Susquehanna River flows 444 miles to reach the Chesapeake Bay. That makes it the longest Atlantic Ocean tributary in the United States.
Most anglers know the Susquehanna as a great smallmouth river. But it’s also an outstanding walleye fishery, one that routinely kicks out fish weighing over 10 pounds.
Walleye are one of the dominant species in the upper Susquehanna River, from Cooperstown down to where the river crosses the Pennsylvania state line. The DEC provides seven access sites in this section.
Farther downriver, the fishery becomes more diverse. Catfish, muskellunge and other species become more common as the river loops through Pennsylvania, re-enters New York, and then cuts through PA again.
There are excellent walleye fishing opportunities throughout most of the river, but the upper portion is most approachable for newcomers looking to catch some hefty ‘eyes.
Access sites in Windsor, Nineveh and Afton are all great places to launch a boat, wade or fish the bank.
Walleye are available to anglers year-round. A few hardy anglers catch some big ones in deep holes in February and March before the season closes for the spawn.
But the best fishing, as per usual, is May and June, when walleye are active and hungry after spawning.
Fall offers solid fishing too, lasting from September until the river starts to freeze. Relatively mild currents make fall a great time to fish from a small boat.
The upper Susquehanna River has a lot of classic riffle, pool and run configurations. For the most part, walleye inhabit deeper pools during the day and emerge to feed in riffles and runs at night.
Jigs tipped with minnows are local anglers’ baits of choice, but nightcrawlers are also excellent.
It’s common to catch a mixed bag of walleye and smallmouths, and you may even find a hefty channel cat on your line, especially when fishing after dark.
Looking for more places to catch walleye in New York? Luckily, there are a lot of them. These additional lakes, bays, and reservoirs offer some truly excellent walleye fishing.
Irondequoit Bay (Lake Ontario)
Much of Lake Ontario’s best walleye fishing isn’t in the main lake itself, where fishing for trophy trout and salmon tends to rule, but rather in the many large bays that punctuate its shoreline. Irondequoit Bay, which spans 1,660 acres just east of Rochester, is one of the best.
The DEC has been aggressively stocking walleye in Irondequoit Bay (and nearby Sodus Bay, also a good spot) since the ‘90s, and around 75,000 walleye fingerlings are currently stocked every other year.
In May, the best tactic is trolling along weed lines in 10 to 15 feet of water as walleye make their way back from spawning in Irondequoit Creek.
Yellow perch are abundant, and worm harnesses often yield a mixed bag of walleye and perch.
Spring and fall offer excellent walleye fishing, but this bay can get very congested with boat traffic in summer, especially on weekends.
Irondequoit Bay State Marine Park is arguably the best public boat launch and access.
Ice fishing on Irondequoit Bay is also very popular. Anglers target walleye, northern pike and yellow perch during years when safe ice forms, usually starting in early January.
The Black River is a 125-mile waterway that begins in the Adirondack Mountains and meanders across a long stretch of the North Country until it empties into Eastern Lake Ontario. It gets its name from the tannins that give the river a tea-like color.
A healthy population of walleye make their home in the Black River year-round. Anglers catch them right after the spring spawning run, and the occasional summer giant is pulled in after dark from various riverside parks above and below Watertown.
But the real bonanza is near the mouth of the river in May, when spawned-out walleye return to Lake Ontario. Just downriver from the village of Dexter, the Black River widens to form a marshy delta as it enters the lake through Black River Bay.
Walleye that weigh in at double digits are caught here every spring. The best fishing is right around the mouth of the river in early May, gradually transitioning down along the length of the bay toward the lake as the season progresses.
The sheltered waters of the Black River Bay make it a great option for smaller boats that might have a hard time on the main lake, or on some of Lake Ontario’s larger bays. Small boats can be launched at the Dexter Marsh Public Boat Ramp.
Renowned for its bass and panfish, Black Lake doesn’t often get its due credit as a walleye lake. That’s partly because walleye populations in this 7,593-acre St. Lawrence County lake crashed in the 1970s as weed beds proliferated and crappie populations exploded.
Black Lake’s reputation as a walleye lake never recovered, but walleye populations have, at least to some extent, rebounded. It may not be as good as it once was, but it’s still a great place to catch 18-inch fish for the table, along with the occasional 5-pound-plus walleye.
Black Lake’s max depth is about 40 feet, but most of the lake is very shallow—just 8 feet on average—which limits walleye’s preferred habitat and eliminates a lot of water for anglers.
The southernmost end of Black Lake is traditionally considered the best area for walleye fishing. Grindstone Bay, around the area where the Indian River flows out of the lake, is the top spot. There’s a solid spring spawning run in the Indian River.
Target weed edges in and around Grindstone Bay using stickbaits, nightcrawlers on worm harness rigs, and jigs tipped with either a live minnow or a curlytail grub.
The area between Fish Creek and Big Island can also be productive.
Besides the other game fish discussed already, Oneida Lake is among the better catfish fishing lakes in New York, and aggressive channel catfish will sometimes grab your lure or worm rig.
Another great option in the Finger Lakes, Honeoye Lake is an excellent bass and panfish lake that is also managed as a walleye fishery. The DEC stocks over 8 million walleye fry here every year.
It’s fair to say that a lot of those fry end up in the bellies of Honeoye Lake’s abundant largemouth bass; but not all. The lake supports excellent numbers of adult walleye in the 16- to 20-inch range.
This is definitely a good lake to focus on numbers rather than size, and a perfect spot to catch a mess of walleye for the table in May. This time of the year, the best tactics are trolling deep weed lines during the day or running shallow stickbaits close to the bank after dark.
At 1,772 acres and 30 feet deep, Honeoye Lake is the shallowest and second-smallest of the Finger Lakes. Most of the lake is less than a mile wide, making it perfect for small craft trollers and kayak anglers.
Weed growth is rampant in summer, and walleye are mostly restricted to the deepest part of the lake once the water warms up.
You have a shot at catching them closer to the bank again in fall, and many local anglers also drop Jigging Rapalas and Swedish Pimples through the ice for walleye in winter.
The Tioughnioga River is a broad river in the Southern Tier that includes numerous deep holes along its 24-mile course. It offers a mix of warm and cold water species, with healthy populations of walleye, smallmouth bass and brown trout.
The typical May/June walleye season is always excellent, but the Tioughnioga River also fishes well in fall. Plenty of walleye are caught from September all the way to December, many of them weighing around 8 pounds.
Live shiners are popular baits in this river, along with typical walleye offerings like nightcrawlers on bucktail jigs and worm harness rigs. Walleye tend to inhabit the deepest pools in the river, which are typically 8 to 12 feet deep.
Focus on areas immediately below log jams, rocks, and other natural current breaks, especially in spring.
This is a great river for wading and bank fishing, and there are several publicly-accessible sections of the river in and around the town of Marathon.
The Tioughnioga River is also an ideal place to fish from a canoe or kayak, especially in fall, when the currents are less unpredictable.
The Tioughnioga is a tributary of the Chenango River (itself a tributary of the Susquehanna), which also provides some solid walleye fishing.
Chaumont Bay (Lake Ontario)
At 9,000 acres, Chaumont Bay is the largest freshwater bay in the world. If that weren’t impressive enough, this vast embayment at the easternmost tip of Lake Ontario offers some of the best fishing in New York.
Walleye are secondary to yellow perch here. Big perch are so common that the bay supports a modest commercial fishery for them. But the bay still offers impressive numbers of walleye and some truly massive fish.
Firetiger and perch patterns are often the best lure colors for walleye. Due to the bay’s abundance of yellow perch and, more recently, round gobies, the walleye here are well-fed, and often not as inclined to bite as one might hope.
Trolling is the best tactic throughout most of the year.
Chaumont Bay has several prominent shoals that are easy to spot on a depth map, and pulling worm harnesses and diving Rapalas over or alongside the shoals—shallow in spring, deep in summer—is often your best bet.
That being said, Chaumont has mostly made a name for itself as an ice fishing mecca. Thousands of anglers descend on the bay every winter, and walleye weighing over 12 pounds are often pulled through the ice.
Almost certainly the best walleye lake in the Capital District, Saratoga Lake is a 3,762-acre gem surrounded by rolling mountain scenery north of Albany.
With depths up to 90 feet, an abundance of rocky bottom structure and healthy weed beds, it has everything walleye need to stay happy.
It helps that the DEC stocks 8.6 million walleye fry in the lake every year. Anglers enjoy excellent catches in spring and fall, as well as through the ice in winter.
Walleye measuring around 20 inches are average here, and Saratoga Lake gives up solid numbers of 5-pounders. The night bite can be really excellent in this lake, and the best fishing tends to be from dusk until about 2 hours after dark.
Focus on weed lines, especially in late spring and in fall. Any spot where a depth change or bottom transition—say, a rocky area meets a muddy area—intersects with the edge of a weed bed is a perfect spot to find walleye.
Mannings Cove is a good place to start.
For ice anglers, the tactic of choice is bouncing live baits, jigging spoons and Jigging Rapalas just off bottom in 15 to 20 feet of water.
The most westerly of the Finger Lakes, 3,420-acre Conesus Lake is something of an enigma when it comes to walleye fishing. You could spend all day on the lake and not catch a single one… but if you do catch a walleye, it could easily top 10 pounds.
Conesus Lake supports some massive, torpedo-sized walleye that grow fat on the lake’s abundant alewives. But these fish seemingly vanish like ghosts throughout most of the year.
They are only occasionally caught during summer, usually by anglers trolling for pike and muskellunge. Your best shot is right after the season opener in May, when most of Conesus Lake’s walleyes will be concentrated at the south end of the lake.
Try trolling at dusk and after dark along the main drop-off. Walleye gather in this area this time of year because they’ve just finished spawning in the Conesus Lake Inlet.
The spawning event also provides a unique opportunity to view the fish from the bank as they make their way up the narrow stream as it winds through Conesus Lake Wildlife Management Area.
Visit in April, and any doubts you have about the size of Conesus Lake’s walleye will be put to rest.