This lake provides excellent year round open water fishing for both warm and cold water species.
Gear and fly-fishing for Landlocked Atlantic salmon is available from January through May and again in November and December. This fishing is concentrated in the southern third of the lake. It varies year by year. Over the past couple years, the number of predatory lamprey eels have been up in this lake and it has adversely affected the fishing for salmonids.
The largemouth bass fishing has been very good over the past few seasons with large fish and numbers showing a rebound. Tournaments recorded good weights with many 20lb+ bags for 5 fish limits. Smallmouth bass numbers are down, but starting to rebound with encouraging numbers of young fish around. But for now, if you're after smallies, you may want to fish a different lake - like Skaneateles or Canandaigua/Keuka until Cayuga rebounds.
Cayuga's pike fishing has been fair to good over recent years. It's a great lake for catching 27" to 36" pike. Spawning success doesn't appear to have been very good over the past few years; we're not seeing fish less than 25" long and overall numbers are down. Low lake levels that help keep lampreys from swimming over the lowhead dam at Cayuga Inlet likely also hurt pike spawning success. If you want a shot at a northern over 32" long, Cayuga offers good chances. Pickerel are found lake-wide but are particularly abundant at Cayuga's north end and provide good sport throughout the late spring and summer.
Lake trout are the dominant cold water fish in Cayuga Lake and they run large here. Fish typically average 4 to 8lbs, with plenty of larger fish available, though in 2013 we saw the average laker size drop down to 3 to 5lbs. The jigging typically starts off at the lake's northern basin then moves south. These fish fight hard and taste very good. I love fishing lakers on Cayuga Lake!
Longnose Gar are available on Cayuga Lake from June though August. They provide an excellent fly-fishing opportunity. Gar run from 30" up to around 37" typically, though on occasion larger fish can be caught. Hot, windless days are best for gar fishing.
Bluegills and sunfish averaging 8" long can be taken readily from late April through June on Cayuga Lake. These panfish are a blast and taste great! There are plenty of big rockbass around too - some real trophies! I know people that make special trips to Cayuga just for the rockies - fun fish to catch and great eating.
This lake is absolutely loaded with yellow perch. The numbers are fantastic and they probably average from 8" to 11" long, with enough 12"ers to keep things fun. Cayuga has trophy perch running upwards of 18" long (if you don't believe me, check the photos next to the fish tank at Bass Pro Shops and you'll see my friend's wife's grandfather holding one alongside some 14"ers!) I think the smaller perch are so much easier to catch here, that most people stick with them rather than searching for schools of larger fish (that are likely deeper.)
At one point in time during the 1980s and early 1990s Cayuga was the site of a "Crappiethon" tournament. Cayuga's crappie population is a mystery - they are clearly in a downward cycle and have been fairly scarce for a decade now. There doesn't seem to be many around, though they turn up on occasion. Most are taken near the far north end of the lake, and the river still has plenty. The lake is clearer than is was during their heyday - maybe they are more nocturnal now, but again - I don't think there are many around.
Other species found on Cayuga include freshwater drum, channel catfish, bullheads, white perch, lake sturgeon and carp. Cayuga Lake has around 55 to 60 species of freshwater fish in it. It is the most diverse of the Finger Lakes "fish-wise". I look at Cayuga as the Finger Lake's version of Lake Champlain. Round gobies were found in Cayuga Lake during the summer of 2013. Their impacts have not been noticeable yet. Stay tuned.
The launch at Taughannock Park is bubbled and kept free of ice in the winter, so launching of boats is available year round. Cayuga’s winding basin helps keep waves at a manageable level in many parts of the lake during windy days. Ice fishing is available at the north end of the lake during most years.