North Sandy Creek Steelhead Fishing: (Sandy Creek NY)

North Sandy Creek Steelhead Fishing
The author holding a North Sandy Creek spring steelhead.

North Sandy Creek steelhead fishing is good from October until late April. Most fishing methods, such as fly fishing, casting lures, and float fishing, can be very effective. Steelhead on this river averages 5 to 7 pounds and they can be plentiful.

North Sandy Creek, also known as Sandy Creek, is a small to medium-sized tributary to Lake Ontario located in Jefferson County just north of the town of Ellisburg. Every year, it attracts impressive runs of steelhead and salmon. It has good access in the lower 5 miles with designated fishing areas.

North Sandy Creek Steelhead Fishing

The majority of the lower river is shallow with shale bottom and it can get quite low at times.

Low Water: When the creek is very low it can be difficult to find deep enough water to fish but with exploration and some walking, there are some depper pockets and pools the steelhead will hold in.

I fish the river from the small town of Adam to the Wildlife Managament area below route 3 near the mouth of the river.

High Water: Its the high water from October to April that bring in the steelhead from the lake. This is when the fishing is best, but the creek can get muddy and difficult to fish.

There are also plenty of ledges and steps that can be dangerous when the water is higher and dirty.

Most anglers agree that the best fishing and best access are in the lower five miles of the river.

This creek does not receive steelhead stocking but it gets stray steelhead from other nearby rivers such as the famous Salmon River.

Although North Sandy Creek is mostly known for its steelhead, other species of fish include chinook salmon, migratory brown trout, coho salmon, and possibly some Atlantic salmon.

Do not be fooled by the size of North Sandy Creek, as long as there are higher water levels, angler find some decent runs of steelhead. The creek and mouth area are known to provide some great steelhead fishing so we included it in our article, Best Steelhead Rivers In New York.

Best Time To Fish Steelhead On North Sandy Creek

There are certain times of the month, referred to as prime months when anglers will enjoy the most North Sandy steelhead fishing.  

Fall Steelhead Fishing On North Sandy Creek

Fall presents one of the best times for steelhead fishing North Sandy Creek, NY. This is when stray steelhead begin to enter the creek; from October through December. Typical of the fall season, steelhead during this time are very active and aggressive as a result of feeding in Lake Ontario. 

The most aggressive steelhead are usually the easiest to catch but make sure your fishing gear is up to the challenge, as any flaw in your gear will result in losing the fish.

For recommendations on steelhead fishing gear, check out my page on River Fishing Gear:

The big rains of September will start the steelhead entering the river but the steelhead runs are usually sporadic during early fall and will gradually get bigger as we approach the middle and end of October. Rains and higher water trigger the runs on this river.

Steelhead runs get better as November rains increase the water levels in the creek. I time the fishing to be on the water when the river begins to clear, and ensure I use the right techniques and baits for the off-colored water.

I discuss how to take advantage of the fall season to land more steelhead on my page: Fall Steelhead Fishing. I teach anglers how steelhead are affected by water temps from early fall to late fall, and how they changes in their holding spots, what they feed on and when they feed. All these conditions affect their feeding behaviour and which methods and baits are best.

North Sandy Creek Winter Steelhead Fishing

The winter season also presents one of the best times for fishing as long as the river is not frozen over, and provided that you know where to locate holding steelhead.

During this winter the steelhead migrations are usually stalled, and the odds that they will bite is less, however, I have some winter fishing tactics that keep me and my clientss catching steelhead all winter.

Temperatures and river conditions are are key factors during this time.

A major advantage of fishing in the winter is less fishing pressure, and this translates to a good steelhead fishing experience.

I look for stability in water and air temperature, keyinon times of the day when the water temperatures might actually increase a degree or two. It’s during these times when I will land some good steelhead.

I adapt and adjust my fishing methods and tactics to the cold conditions and winter steelhead behavior. I discuss this on my page: Winter Steelhead Fishing.

North Sandy Creek Spring Steelhead Fishing

The spring marks the end of the icy and plunging temperatures of winter, and the water gradually warms up. This is good news for anglers, as the previously sluggish steelhead begin to move into the river and will be willing to grab well presented baits..

Steelhead anglers are usually excited during this time, as it is another time when they can again target some big and aggressive steelhead to are willing to bite.

Bear in mind that this is the time when steelhead have the urge to spawn, which presents more fishing opportunities to anglers. However, to maximize my success, I am careful to use the right baits and tactics, as not all steelhead fishing methods will yield the same result during this time.

I discuss how to get the most out of spring steelhead fishing – the best baits and tactics on my page Spring Steelhead Fishing.

Best Methods For Fishing Steelhead On North Sandy Creek

There are many methods anglers use to fish for steelhead. Not all methods work for all rivers, streams, and creeks of New York. Some methods will obviously work better than others, below are some methods I recommend.

Bottom Bouncing

Bottom bouncing is a steelhead fishing method that gets the bait down to the bottom of the river without the use of a float. Similar to drift fishing where the line is cast out on the water the bait sinks with the help of a weight.

The bait bounces its way down the river and freely drifts along the bottom of the river, which is where the fishing method gets its name “bottom bouncing.”

Bottom bouncing is great for water bodies where float fishing is not so effective. Bottom Bouncing excels when fishing for steelhead in shallow water, fast moving water, pocket water, and when they are holding at the bottom of the river in deep holes.

To learn more check out my page: Bottom Bouncing: 5 Proven Tips for More Fish.

Float Fishing

Float fishing works well on all NY rivers, streams, and creeks. Float fishing is one of the most effective ways an angler can present a bait below a float in bigger and slower spots in the river. You can learn how to do this well by reading my page Float Fishing For Steelhead – How River Guides Do It

My favorite baits when float fishing and when bottom bouncing are usually those that work for all seasons. Bear in mind that some baits are effective in specific seasons. If you want to know how I make my choice of best baits, you can look at my page: Best Baits for Steelhead.

Float fishing can be done with the use of centerpin reels or spinning reels all known as float reels.

There are good reels and there are junk reels. If you are going to use centerpin reels, I discuss what makes a good centerpin reel and the best ones that I have used on my page: 5 Best Centerpin Reels of 2022.

If you prefer spinning reels when float fishing and when bottom bouncing, then check out Best Spinning Reels For Steelhead.

The secret of float fishing lies in knowing how to workthe float through the drift, controlling the speed of the bait, and making the right depth adjustments to the float. I discuss all these and more on my page: Float Fishing: Tips from a Pro River Guide.

Best Access Points

There are a number of public access points available for fishing for steelhead on North Sandy Creek. As mentioned before, the best access is in the 5 miles of the creek up from Lake Ontario with additional access on Lakeview Wildlife Management Area down-
stream of Route 3. 

For more on fishing areas, see Sandy Creek Publishing Fishing Rights Map.


When it comes to knowing the best time to fish, the streamflow and water levels are a big factor to consider because most steelhead will enter the river once it rises after rains or snowmelt.

As the creek clears enough for the steelhead to see the bait, the fishing can become fantastic. 

Your go-to resource for the current conditions of North Sandy Creek is the USGS stream gauge at Adams, NY. Be sure to look up the water levels and only step out when they are high enough.

Rules and Regulations

North Sandy Creek has fishing rules and regulations. It is important to check these state rules and regulations.

The state of New York requires people who are 16 years and above to have a valid fishing license, whether residents or non-residents.

There are also days that come with busier waters and special regulations.

Learn more about how to get started and can access the fishing rules and regulations of North Sandy Creek through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Tight Lines


Resources: Ellisburg NY.

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