Brutal Cold Weather Has the Oswego Bite the Best In 20 Years

By Kevin Davis | 03/18/2014

Fishing was off and on the last few weeks on the Oswego River here in Upstate New York. However, in the last week the water has come up and the motherlode of browns, steelhead and trout came up with it.


For March, this is the best fishing I’ve ever seen it. Usually in March when you catch a dozen you’ve had a great day, but we are doing much better than that. Normally, this time of year a lot of them are spawning and they can be tough to catch. And, with the water so cold we don’t get a lot of biters, but this year is different. The cold weather and long winter has pushed the fish into the slow water and they’ve become easier to catch.


The water is so cold that 80 percent of the river is too cold to hold fish. So there’s 20 percent of the river holding all the fish. They are all in the slower water right now.

I think they’ll be in this holding pattern for a few more weeks. Right now the water is fluctuating from 33 to 32 degrees and until it goes up to the forties they aren’t going to spawn. I haven’t seen any fish spawning yet. Meanwhile, when they do we can see them. By this time last year they were all spawners, but the males aren’t even milking right now. We are way behind schedule.


There’s no real warm weather in the forecast, which means this is going to go at least another few weeks. There will be steelhead through April this year, which for this river is rare. In the Salmon River I’m guessing there will be fish into mid May. I’ve never seen it like this. I can go look out on Lake Ontario and there’s ice as far as you can see. I’ve been doing this 20 years and never seen this, but what that ice is going to do is allow us to steelhead and brown trout fishing longer.


I’m getting a mix right now. The higher up I fish the more steelhead there are. In fact, I’d say 99 percent of the bites I get on the upper end are steelhead and then from the flats to the harbor it’s a mix of browns, rainbows and steelhead.


The quality of the browns is good. There are some real beauties out there. There’s a ton of them in eight to 12 pound range right now. These are holdovers that have been sitting there since the fall. The steelhead are running about five to 10 pounds. I’m getting some chromers, but most of them are fish that have been in the system. We are seeing three to four fresh fish a day, however, so there’s still fresh fish coming in and there’s going to be lots more. When the water warms up there’s going to be even more fish coming in.


I’m getting them mostly on eggs, but I’m getting some with jigs and some with beads, but I’d say 80 percent on bait. I’m running Natural BorX O Fire cured brown trout eggs and steelhead scrape with every color spawn netting. There’s so many fish in these spots right now that I’m switching netting colors after I get bit and once you switch you’ll get another one.


Editor’s Note: Kevin Davis operates Catch The Drift out of Oswego, New York. To earn more about this steelhead, brown trout and rainbow trout trips please visit: