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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thousand Islands perfect for bass fishing

The sun settled low in the sky over Wellesley Island, casting a reddish glow along the western horizon and its reflection on the river. A few herons flew to their evening hunting spots while the osprey hovered above the water looking for one last fish before heading home for the night. A few fishing boats headed to the docks where only a few short hours before the river had been busy with fishermen and other boating activity.
This was the scene most nights for the past couple weeks as we camped along the St. Lawrence River. We usually spend a week or two at this time of year in the Thousand Islands, coinciding with the opening of bass season.
The opening of bass season is still a big deal in the north country, including the St. Lawrence River where pre-season catch and release is not allowed.
Smallmouth bass are the premier attraction and they did not disappoint us. Hard fights, spectacular leaps and good-sized fish were the rule when we found them. The smallmouths had finished spawning and moved off the shallow areas into deeper water. Due to the early spring and warmer water, even the males had moved away from the spawning beds.
We found the larger females in slightly deeper water or stronger current. Drifting live minnows proved to be the most productive method although jigs or spoons also worked. One day I fished down river near Ogdensburg with my friend Mike Seymour and we caught some really impressive fish in swifter current. Mike explained that it is important to use enough split shot when drifting to get the minnow straight down so you can feel when a bass hits it.
On some days I fished from my kayak in some of the shallower coves along the river for largemouth bass.
These are also great fun and some hefty ones put up a great fight. My best largemouth was just under six pounds.
The biggest problem in these waters is the weed growth, particularly the cursed Eurasian milfoil. Although some of the tournament anglers and top notch fishermen like Ted Dobs or Billy Alexander do well fishing drop-shot rigs in milfoil, most of us spend most of the time removing the weeds from our lures.
Generally, fishing the slightly deeper weeds at the edge of the milfoil growth worked best for me. Using Senkos or sinking worms, I was able to put the lures in front of enough bass without being constantly snagged on weeds.
Northern pike have moved into deeper water although some of the other anglers targeted them with various jigs and were rewarded with some good sized fish. Crappies were apparently spawning in shallow water and one day we hit a nice school along some shallow rocky structure.
The weather was generally warm and sunny and some days it was too hot to fish, as well as being unproductive in many areas. On days like those it was a cool and relaxing break to go kayaking. One of our favorite trips involves going along the north shore of Wellesley Island near the State Park and traveling down the “Lost Channel” around the Canadian Islands.
In addition to evenings around the campfire by the riverbank, we visited with friends, and occasionally dined at some of our favorite restaurants. Visits to local wineries like Thousand Islands Winery or Coyote Moon are a great experience. The Thousand Islands have held a special place in my heart ever since my childhood and the days there pass all too quickly.
Fishing in the Thousand Islands region can be great but the river is difficult and can be hazardous if you are not familiar with the many shoals, etc. Your best bet is to hire a guide. Contact 1000 Islands Fishing Charters at (315) 686-2381 or Captain Mike Seymour for Ogdensburg at (315) 379-0235 for more information on charters.
If you are looking for a vacation, extended weekend or a short get-away, consider Clayton and the Thousand Islands region. The scenery is beautiful, there is a variety of accommodations and there are many things to do. Contact the Clayton-1000 Islands Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-252-9806 or e-mail
Experience the area for yourself and you will see why the Iroquois Indians called the area the “Garden of the Great Spirit.”
NEW STATE RECORD BROOK TROUT: For the seventh time in eight years, the record for catching the largest brook trout in New York state has been broken, state DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced recently. William Altman caught a five pound, 14 ounce brook trout from the West Canada Wilderness Area in Hamilton County on May 5. This surpasses the previous record by six ounces.
The record breaking fish was stocked as a fingerling by DEC’s Rome Fish Hatchery and is considered a Temiscamie hybrid, a cross between a domestic brook trout and a wild Temiscamie (Canadian-strain) brook trout. These hybrids are stocked because they have a better survival rate than other strains of brook trout in some of the more acidic waters of the Adirondacks.
Altman submitted details of his winning fish as part of DEC’s Angler Achievement Awards Program, which tracks state record fish. A photograph of Altman and his catch can be found on the DEC website at
DEC verifies potential brook trout state records by ensuring the fish is not caught from brood stock, which is large stocked fish, or splake waters, which are ineligible.
VERNON NATIONAL SHOOTING PRESERVE EVENTS: July 13-14 – “Shotguns & Sheilas”, Wine and Cheese Tasting, Instructor Auction, –Comedy Show on Sat., Lobster dinner and more. You must pre-register.
July 15 – Three Bird Shoot.
July 28 – Sporting Clays Clinic. The morning session will be "Target Reading", from 9-12:30, and the afternoon will be "The Mental Game", from 1:00-4:00 Pre-Registration is required. Call Tom Fiumarello at 845-625-3151 to register.
July 29 – 2nd Annual “Bust a Clay For Breast Cancer. Funds raised stay local.
For more information call 315-982-7045, visit or contact
SPEY NATION: The popular “Spey Nation” day featuring two-handed rods returns to the Salmon River on July 14. It will be 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. and feature 15 Spey Rod Manufacturers, more than 30 companies on display and a free barbecue. This offers the unique opportunity for enthusiasts and manufacturers of two-handed rods to gather in a streamside setting at the Pineville Boat Launch on the Salmon River.
Spey Nation features a full BBQ, raffles, "On the water" demonstrations and interaction with some of the biggest names in two-handed casting. Anglers have the opportunity to learn techniques from the experts, try specialized equipment on the water and talk with other fishermen. The proceeds to the raffle will be donated to the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club, dedicated to restoring runs of native Atlantic Salmon to Fish Creek.
REDUCE LINE SNARLS: Line snarls, twists and “birdnests” are a common malady when fishing. If you are using a spinning reel, there are easy ways to reduce the loops, twists and birdnests when casting. After casting your bait or lure, close the bail by hand instead of by turning the reel handle. Grasp the line ahead of the bail and pull it snug. This eliminates loose coils on the reel which can lead to troublesome snarls when reeling in or casting.
FUR RONDY: The Summer Trapper’s Rendezvous (i.e.. “Summer Rondy”) sponsored by the Independent Fur Harvesters of Central NY will be held July 6 and 7 at Nichols Pond. There will be vendors, instruction and fun. Call Al LaFrance (682-2050) for more information. There is a Trapper Training Class scheduled for July 7.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bass fishing tips for central New York

It is no secret that bass is the most popular fish species in New York State. This Saturday is the third big opener of the fishing season with the opening of bass season. From the St. Lawrence River to the Hudson River anglers will be out in force after either smallmouth or largemouth bass.
It is not quite such a big deal as it used to be before regulation allowing the catch and release before the season, but it is still a day that anglers look forward to. Jefferson, St. Lawrence and some Adirondack counties do not allow pre-season catch and release so the opening is still a major event for many anglers on eastern Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and much of the Adirondacks.
Locally, Oneida Lake is one of the top spots for smallmouth bass and with the changing ecology and weed growth the largemouth population has become a major attraction for anglers. I was talking to Ted Dobs about the opening of bass season on Oneida Lake and he was eagerly looking forward to it. Dobs recommends drifting with minnows until the algae gets thick in mid-July.
Don’t buy crayfish since they won’t be a significant part of the bass menu until late July or August. Bass are feeding on minnows now.
Later on your best bet might be using a drop shot rig. He recommends six pound fluorocarbon line, size 1 drop shot hook in black nickel finish, and one-quarter ounce weight depending on wind, etc. Use any fluorocarbon knot and run the tag end back through the hook. Dobs recommends using three-inch Berkley Gulp minnows in smelt, emerald shiner or black shad patterns.
Those who prefer smaller waters have no shortage in central New York. Some of the popular spots include DeRuyter Reservoir, Cazenovia Lake, Eatonbrook Reservoir, Redfield Reservoir, Lake Delta, Canadarago Lake or Whitney Point Reservoir. Those who prefer stream or river fishing should consider lower Chenango River, Mohawk River, lower Fish Creek, Oswego River, Black River or the estuary of the Salmon River.
One of the most popular spots for bass fishermen will be the St. Lawrence River. Even though the shallow weedy bays provide good fishing for largemouths, it is the smallmouth bass that will attract the most attention. Anglers come from all over the state and even other states for the great fishing that the St. Lawrence has to offer.
I was talking to Captain Al Benas of Thousand Islands Charters earlier this week and he said that the bass in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence have spawned and moved off the beds. Anglers fishing for pike have found smallmouth bass as deep as 20 feet. Since post spawn smallmouths often are not actively moving about, Benas likes to drift with live minnows parallel to rocky shorelines and thus cover a lot of territory.
Further downriver, near Ogdensburg Mike Seymour guides for bass, pike and muskie. Last summer when I fished with him we caught lots of smallmouth 2–4 pounds using live bait. Seymour explained that it was important to use enough weight to get the minnow down near the bottom and take the slack out of your line so you could feel the bass hit in the strong current.
The St. Lawrence offers great fishing but it can be confusing or intimidating finding good spots in all that water. For information on guiding services contact Benas at 686-3030, Myrle Bauer at 686-2122 or Seymour at 379-0235.
In the Adirondacks, the water is colder and in some waters the bass may have not yet spawned. You probably will do well to search for them in areas adjacent to the shallow spawning areas. Work your way into deeper water using plastic lizards, jigs, crankbaits and Mepps spinners. 
Some of the top Adirondack bass waters include the Fulton Chain with largemouths in First and Second Lakes and smallmouths in Third, Fourth, Seventh, and Eighth Lake. Indian Lake, Long Lake, Tupper and Saranac Chain all provide excellent smallmouth fishing. Largemouths are found in Lows Lake, Durant, Abanakee, and Oseetah. Blue Mountain Lake and its connecting lakes of Eagle and Utowanah have both smallmouth and largemouth.
In the northern lakes, my advice is to start in the northwest corner since that is where bass usually spawn. Work the shallow areas and gradually fish deeper until you find fish. You might start looking for aggressive fish with spinners or small crankbaits but if the action is slow try a slower approach with jigs and curly tails or plastic worms.
Bass throughout the central New York have spawned a while ago due to the warmer water temperatures. If you are fishing big waters you might want to drift and cover more territory while casting or using live minnows. In small ponds, look for areas where two types of cover converge (e.g. weeds and tree tops). If the grass or weed growth is significant try Senko worms rigged wacky style.
In waters where there are both largemouth and smallmouth they will usually be found in different cover and habitat, especially as the season progresses. They are different and call for different tactics particularly later in the season but the one thing they have in common is they are great fun to catch.
FRIENDS OF NRA BANQUET: Don’t forget the Friends of NRA Banquet tonight at the Rusty Rail. There will be raffles, silent auctions and auctions for all types of sporting equipment in addition to a great meal. Friends of NRA is the organization that funds local projects such as equipment or range improvement for local rod and gun clubs, youth activities, teaching sporting clays for women and more. Enjoy an evening with fellow sportsmen and support a good cause.
X-BOW BILL IN TROUBLE: The latest word from several people who have been in contact with legislators is that the crossbow bill many sportsmen have been hoping for is in trouble. Assemblyman Sweeney, chair of the Conservation Committee has sponsored a different bill (A10583) that would basically extend the present useless bill with even more restrictions. His office is essentially following the line of New York Bowhunters, Inc.
Bill A9682 would mirror the Senate version which would allow use of crossbows in archery season but it may not be acted on. There are other assemblymen on the committee so if you want to see it passed, you need to contact as many of them as possible immediately.
VNSP EVENTS: Vernon National Shooting Preserve continues its full slate of activities such as its Tuesday and Thursday shoots and dinners. In addition, they have lots of special events including Sunday’s Strawberry Blast NSCA Shoot. July 8 is a benefit for the Hunt of a Lifetime program, and July 13 and 14 is the Shotguns & Sheilas Event. Contact Bonny  for details at 982-7045 or
FREE FISHING DAYS: June 23–24 is designated “Free Fishing Weekend” where anyone can fish NYS waters without a license. It is designed to give people the opportunity to sample the fantastic fishing the state has available. Since no license is required it is the perfect time to introduce a friend to fishing or parents to go out with their kids and enjoy a family outing that hopefully will continue as a lifelong sport.