15 Best Brown Trout Fishing Rivers & Lakes in New York (2022)

If you want a fun campfire debate, bat the question of which state has the best brown trout fishing it the Lower 48 around for a while, and good luck leaving New York out of the conversation.

When it comes to legendary brown trout water, we’ll concede that Montana with the Bighorn, the Gallatin, and the Missouri rivers in one state, or Arkansas and the White River’s enormous trout, and certainly Michigan’s renowned Au Sable, are all hallowed ground.

Those rivers also have gotten lots of press. After all, a near-world-record brown came from Arkansas, Ernest Hemingway wrote lovingly about Michigan’s trout streams, and Montana played backdrop for Brad Pitt shadowcasting in “A River Runs Through It.”

But we will make a case with the incredible waters on this list that New York has some of, if not the best, brown trout fishing in the Continental U.S.

At the very least, the 15 bodies of water we highlight in this article are easily some of the best fishing spots in the Northeast, and each is well worth your time if you’re chasing brown trout.

Southern New York

Delaware River

Hancock and Deposit are two of the most famous trout towns in New York. Each sits on the Delaware River. The east branch runs through Hancock, and the West Branch runs through Deposit.

Street parking is available as the river runs through these towns, but note that during the spring and summer seasons, parking can be hard to find.

River Road in Deposit runs along the West Branch of the river. In peak spring season, it’s first-come, first-served to find an open spot. However, the fall season typically doesn’t see quite the push of anglers like the spring.

One positive element about the Delaware is that you’ve got both wild brown trout and rainbow trout, and the fish are good size.

In a 2019 sampling, the state found that 70 percent of the brown trout and 60 percent of the rainbow trout were larger than 12 inches.

Those are pretty good odds for the average angler, especially considering that 26 percent of the browns were better than 16 inches.

As September turns into October, fishing on the stream can heat up drastically, with blue-wing olives producing exceptionally well for fly fishermen.

The rainbows spawn in the spring, but brown trout are a fall-spawning fish, meaning they’ll be moving upriver and attacking anything along the way at a time when fewer anglers are on the water.

The weeks in late September and early October can be fantastic for targeting browns on the Delaware River.

The Blue Wing Olive is always a popular fly pattern on the river, but in the fall, streamers are going to be your best friend as a fly fisherman. Large, articulated versions of this fly can be especially effective on brown trout pushing 20 inches.

White is another popular color in the fall.

The Isonychia hatch (isonychia bicolor) occurs throughout the summer months and into the end of October, and this large mayfly can be a brown trout favorite right through Halloween.

Conventional fishermen will have luck with like the Acme Phoebe lure, a classic fish-shaped spoon. Its odd bent and light weight cause it to fall through the water column in an irresistible way to many trout.

A Phoebe is shaped in such a way that an angler has to impart little or no action for it to be enticing. Simply letting it fall through the water column or retrieving it upstream is deadly.

Silver Phoebes work phenomenally well in low, clear water, and gold versions are a great bet when you’ve got higher water or stained water, such as after heavy rain.

Phoebe wobblers will work well for all trout species throughout the year.

Don’t discount bigger baits in the Delaware River, especially in the fall, because they produce massive trout every year.

Stickbaits in the 3- to 7-inch range, normally reserved for bass, can trigger violent strikes from spawning brown trout. Work these lures by jerking with a slashing motion for full effect.

Beaverkill River

In this Delaware River tributary, you’ve got another world-famous trout stream in the Beaverkill.

The Beaverkill (a.k.a. Beaver Kill), which runs through Livingston Manor, is a slightly smaller stream than the East Branch of Delaware it joins downstream. But this stream offers shots at trout every bit as large.

The upper Beaverkill is rarely wider than 50 feet, but it does grow wider and deeper as it gets closer to its confluence with Willowemoc Creek, which also happens to be the next stream on our list.

Just as they are on the Delaware, blue-wing olives are a popular fly during late September and early October on the Beaverkill.

Big streamers are another popular option here, and anglers can trigger violent strikes by throwing them at the banks.

Perhaps the most famous area on the Beaverkll is the Junction Pool, where this stream meets the Willowemoc. This pool in Roscoe attracts a host of fly fishermen on nearly any given day.

In an instance of one legendary trout stream flowing into another one, the Beaverkill connects to the fabled Willowemoc.

Willowemoc Creek

There aren’t many trout streams in the Northeast where you can wade down the stream, step out, and check out a museum dedicated to the sport you’re practicing, but the Willowemoc is one.

The Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum sits right along the famed Willowemoc. The center offers anglers fly-tying classes, casting lessons, and screenings of films dedicated to the sport and its beloved practitioners in the region.

The Willowemoc is a smaller stream than the Beaverkill or the Delaware. It is stocked with both brown and rainbow trout.

This creek also offers anglers a slightly better chance than the bigger rivers at catching a wild brook trout, which, unlike the other two trout, are native to the region.

Neversink River

Another incredible river in Southern New York, which flows through Sullivan County, is the Neversink River.

The Neversink is a coldwater fishery that, thanks to dam releases, offers anglers a year-round shot at brown, brook, and rainbow trout. Trout fishing tends to hold up even through summer when nearby streams and rivers have become too warm for much success.

The Neversink flows out of the reservoir with the same name in Neversink, down to its confluence with the Delaware River in Matamoras, New York.

The colder water ensures that trout make up a majority of the river’s fish population, compared with mixed-species populations in other Catskill streams. Also note that insect hatches can be a week or two later than they might be on nearby streams, also thanks to lower average temperatures.

The Neversink Unique Area is a state-protected park along the banks of a portion of the river. It features catch-and-release-only, and artificial-lure-only fishing, ensuring that your shots at decent fish are better than they might be elsewhere on the stream.

The park covers the towns of Forestburgh and Thompson in Sullivan County.

If you’re looking for spectacular scenery to accompany world-renowned fishing, the Neversink is worth your while. Denton Falls, Mullet Brook Falls, and High Falls are breathtaking waterfalls that earned the area the Nature Conservancy’s designation as one of the “Last Great Places” in the United States.

It’s not surprising, we think, that the Neversink and the other tributaries and mainstem of the Delaware in this region also made our list of all-around trout fishing rivers and creeks in New York.

Central New York

As you get farther north in New York State, you’ll find less fabled but still incredible fishing spots for brown, as well as other species of trout.

Ninemile Creek

One stream that does not get near as much credit as it deserves in the lore of New York trout rivers (admittedly because of incredible competition) is Ninemile creek near Syracuse.

Ninemile, which connects Onondaga and Otisco lakes, can produce spawning browns stretching the tape at more than 25 inches in the fall.

The stream, which is stocked with more fish than any other in Onondaga County, has incredible fishing in the spring. That’s when anglers are most likely to catch good numbers of stocked browns and also will have their best shot at stocked brook trout.

During summer months, the fishing slows when water temperatures rise and stream levels drop, but angling reliably picks back up in September and October.

The upper portions of Ninemile Creek are faster, shallower, and colder, and more likely to contain brook trout.

However, it’s the lower portions of the stream farther east where you’ll have your best shot at catching spawning brown trout in the fall.

Where the stream leaves Onondaga Lake, near Syracuse, and upstream along that stretch, there are designated angler pull-offs where you can wade and fish from shore.

One endearing element about Ninemile is that it is one of the most heavily stocked streams in the region, meaning that even if you don’t encounter the 20-inch trout of your dreams, you still have a reasonably good shot at catching a decent fish in the 10- to 15-inch range.

And knowing that those 20-plus-inch browns are in the stream at any given time is part of what keeps the affair so interesting on every outing.

Streamers like a black or olive wooly bugger are a consistent favorite for fly anglers.

For conventional anglers, it’s tough to beat a Phoebe lure.

However, if you’re strictly targeting larger fish, consider casting a small stickbait like a Rapala in a brown trout pattern. Those lures that imitate small fish will be more likely to elicit vicious strikes from larger fish, although you’ll catch fewer fish overall.

Beaver dams, great blue herons, and a healthy whitetail deer population make fishing Ninemile Creek a beautiful experience on any given outing.

Oriskany Creek

Another Central New York favorite that offers consistent shots at browns 15 inches or larger is Oriskany Creek, a tributary of the Mohawk River flowing through Oneida and Madison counties.

The Oriskany has long been a Central New York favorite, and for good reason. Besides being home to brown trout as large as 20 inches, much of the creek is easily wadeable and fun to fish.

The Oriskany fishes best for brown trout in the spring when freshly stocked fish are eager to take a lure or fly.

The creek features deeply undercut banks that offer fish cooler holding spots as water temperatures rise in May and June.

Small spoons, again including the Phoebe, green and black streamers, and Blue Wing Olives will all work well on the Oriskany.

West Canada Creek

Perhaps one of the most beloved trout streams south of Adirondack Park in Central New York is West Canada Creek, which produces browns pushing, and at times exceeding, 20 inches every year.

The West Canada flows out of the West Canada Mountain Primitive Area in the Adirondacks. It then flows through Hinckley and Prospect reservoirs before draining into the Erie Canal.

Your best bet for reliable brown trout fishing on West Canada Creek is south of Hinckley Reservoir. Along Route 28, through towns like Poland, there are angler pull-offs to provide access.

You can wade the stream in the drier months of June and September. You can still fish from shore when water releases from the dams or recent rains have it running too high to wade.

It’s not uncommon to see a host of fishermen on the West Canada on a June or September Saturday, as it’s one of the most popular trout fisheries in the central part of the state.

They’re there with good reason.

As of this writing, the stream from the bridge in Trenton Falls down to the Comstock bridge was open year-round for catch-and-release-only fishing, provided you’re using artificial lures.

Elk hair caddis is a popular choice for fly anglers, especially in the fall. Phoebe Wobblers and small stickbaits in a brown trout pattern are a reliable bet for conventional anglers.

Chittenango Creek

Another incredible fishery and particularly beautiful stream in central New York that can yield good brown trout for three-quarters of the year is Chittenango Creek. This stream flows out of Oneida Lake and into Nelson Swamp.

Aside from producing browns as large as 20 inches every year, one particularly noteworthy point of interest if you visit Chittenango Creek is the Chittenango Falls area.

Chittenango Falls State Parkoffers walkways and viewing areas of the 167-foot waterfall, which is simply stunning to behold in any season. It’s worth noting that fishing directly above or below the falls is not allowed.

Adirondack Mountains

Ausable River

No list of New York brown trout waters would be complete without the famed Ausable River that flows out of Lake Champlain and into the Adirondack Mountains.

While the river, one of the larger ones on our list, offers more than 35 miles of shoreline, five miles are designated for catch-and-release fishing.

The allure of fishing the Ausable is that you’re in a park that could fit Yosemite, the Everglades, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Grand Canyon National Park inside its borders and still have room to spare.

The Adirondacks are genuinely one of the great protected natural wonders left in the lower 48, and the Ausable river is one of the park’s most beautiful areas for anglers.

The river has special regulations which pertain to when anglers can keep fish, and how many, which you can check out here.

The stretch from the posted D.E.C. sign 2.2 miles downstream of Monument Falls to the river’s confluence with Holcomb Pond Outlet is open all year, provided you are using artificial lures and releasing your catch.

Caddis, mayfly, and stonefly hatches are the best bet for fly fishing from early autumn and into October.

Conventional anglers will have luck with spoons like the Phoebe and smaller, brown-trout patterned stickbaits like the Rapala F-07. The latter lure runs at depths between 3 and 5 feet, so it’s not likely to get hung up on the bottom. This lure imitates a young-of-the-year brown trout, which are prevalent in the late fall.

While the state stocks rainbow, brown and brook trout in the Ausable, one enticement for traveling anglers is that the river offers shots at wild fish, too.

This is more of an attraction to anglers willing to detour from their pursuit of brown trout to try their hand at catching brookies. A wild Adirondacks brook trout is an experience you’ll not soon forget, so this is a worthy side angle for anyone fishing the Ausable.

Western New York

Salmon River

Although it is primarily known for its gigantic runs of Chinook salmon and steelhead (rainbow trout), the Salmon River that flows into Lake Ontario offers anglers a shot at gigantic brown trout every fall.

The browns will be running the river from late September through early November, feeding on the salmon eggs from those spawning fish.

Although salmon and steelhead steal the spotlight, you will see some absolutely enormous brown trout in this river. These fish spend most of the year in Lake Ontario, which has bigger browns than any other body of water in the state.

Your absolute best bet, if you’re targeting browns in the fall, will be egg sacks, or egg imitation lures or flies.

Because spawning salmon are running up the river, and steelhead behind them, there’s no guarantee what you’ll hook with an egg imitation lure or fly.

However, the size of the brown trout taken out of the Salmon River every year make it a spot we simply couldn’t leave off this list.

Cayuga Lake

Cayuga is the longest of the Finger Lakes, at 39 miles, and it has a maximum depth of 435 feet. Regardless of the season, there’s a place where brown trout can find optimal temperature ranges and plentiful forage.

Smelt are abundant in Cayuga Lake, and when you’re trying to match the hatch for browns, they’re a good bet for a baitfish imitation.

Minnow plugs trolled between 10 and 20 feet deep in the summer, and shallower as the water cools in the fall will attract browns that can easily push 20 inches and 5 pounds.

Cayuga Lake also landed a spot on the best overall trout fishing lakes in New York.

Lake Ontario

While some rivers and streams on this list are fabled and noteworthy, and some are beautiful, there is no place in the state, and perhaps the lower 48, where you have a chance at a bigger brown trout than you do in Lake Ontario.

The most popular method of fishing Ontario for browns is going to be trolling. The trick is finding the depth where water temperatures are holding at between 58 and 62 degrees, the optimal temperature for browns.

You can find the thermocline, a band of water where temperatures drop from the warmer, sun-warmed surface temperatures, by looking for a fuzzy line on your depth finder.

There are a variety of methods to get a lure down to the thermocline.

Downriggers are the most effective and popular choice. Planer boards are diving plates that pull your lure deeper based on speed, while diving minnow plugs have a lip that drags them into mid-range depths.

Spring is a fantastic time for big browns. Some of the fish that you see caught in April will look almost like footballs because they’ll be so full of alewives or rainbow smelt. It’s almost humorous how rotund these fish are.

The fish will be staging to spawn in the fall, so shallower areas near river mouths will be a more popular bet.

Lake Erie

It’s easy to assume that Lake Ontario is the better option for Great Lakes fishing in New York, simply because it’s larger, but to rush that decision might be unwise.

Consider that Lake Erie had held the state record brown trout for both Pennsylvania and Ohio at one point. How many lakes can claim to hold a species that breaks multiple state records?

Because Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, anglers have a smaller zone in which to target browns than they’ll have to work with on Lake Ontario.

During the summer months, fish will hold between 50 and 60 feet deep. As the water cools in the fall, they’ll come shallower.

Rapala floating minnows in silver and black, the Bomber Long A, and the Rebel Minnow are all classic trolling choices for Erie trout anglers.

If you’re exclusively targeting browns, you can go as light as a 10-pound test with your monofilament, which will get you more hits than the salmon guys who are inevitably trolling with heavier stuff.

Of course, Lake Erie is a multi-species fishery also known for smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and perhaps most famously, excellent walleye fishing.

Eastern New York

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain is celebrated for its population of Atlantic salmon and lake trout, but brown trout fishing shouldn’t be overlooked.

This 120-mile-long lake that sits on the border of Vermont and New York has seventy-one islands, 587 miles of shoreline, and reaches depths of 400 feet.

Jigging the deeper holes during the summer with soft-plastic paddletails in a brown/chartreuse combination can be effective for browns pushing 5 pounds.

Because these fish feed heavily on smelt, which is the predominant forage in Champlain, narrow spoons that imitate this silvery baitfish can also be a great option.

Target shelves and deep drop-offs as fall months get colder. Also work areas around creek mouths as the days grow shorter and nights get colder, as these fish will be staging to spawn.

Battenkill River

Flowing all the way from Manchester, Vermont, into the Hudson River is the Battenkill River, another prized waterway that has long been beloved, especially by fly fishers.

How significant of a trout stream is the Battenkill? Well, a guy named Charles Orvis opened his first store along its banks more than 150 years ago, and his company is naming reels after the river to this day.

The Batten Kill State Forest, including the stretch of the river between the Vermont border and the Eagleville covered bridge, allows year-round catch-and-release fishing for trout. You must use artificial lures or flies in this section.

Route 313 runs through the state forest and connects to Eagleville Road, which will bring you right to the stream itself.

Panther Martin and Rooster Tail spinners can be successful lure choices for the conventional anglers plying the waters of the Battenkill, and pheasant tail nymphs are a popular choice for the fly sect.

Not surprisingly, the Battenkill River also made our list of best trout fishing spots in Vermont.

Summary

We’ve taken you to the Adirondacks, where you can catch trophy trout within one of the largest national parks in the U.S. We’ve shown you one of the most storied Great Lake tributaries where brown trout grow the size of the salmon. And we’ve taken you to some of the most fabled trout waters in the world clustered in the Catskills.

Is there little doubt that New York state is a prime destination for catching brown trout year-round?

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