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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Anglers eagerly await bass season opener

Some of my friends used to say that the third Saturday in June should be declared a holiday. That is the opener of the bass season and many anglers have had it marked on their calendar for months. Saturday, June 20, marks the opener of bass season and from the St. Lawrence River to the Hudson River anglers will be out in force after either smallmouth or largemouth bass. It has lost some of the drama since many areas of the state now allow catch and release fishing for bass before the season opens. However the counties on the eastern end of Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and some of the Adirondacks do not allow any bass fishing until the season opener to protect spawning bass or those fish guarding the nests.
Locally, Oneida Lake is one of the top spots for smallmouth bass and with the changing ecology and weed growth the largemouth population has also become a major attraction for anglers. Ted Dobs is one of the local anglers who regularly has had success fishing for bass on Oneida Lake for many years.
Ted often suggests dragging green pumpkin tube jigs over rockpiles since the smallmouth are often in deeper areas adjacent to the shallow spawning areas. If they are chasing schools of baitfish 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. Ted recommends using Berkley Gulp minnows in three inch size in smelt, emerald shiner or black shad patterns for your drop shot rig.
You might also try drifting the rocky drop-offs or deeper points with live shiners. Don’t buy crayfish since they won’t be a significant part of the bass menu until July. Bass are feeding on minnows at this time of year.
Those anglers who prefer smaller waters have no shortage in Central New York. Some of the popular waters in the area 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.
Normally by opening weekend the bass will have spawned but still be in shallow water. However this year with the cold winter and cold spring, the waters of the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario are still in the upper 50 degree range so bass in these areas will not have spawned yet.
My friend and fishing partner Mike Seymour, who regularly guides on the St. Lawrence River, said that bass will likely be in their pre-spawn mode. This means that large females are more likely to be caught so he strongly encourages catch and release during the next few weeks to allow the bass to spawn. Bass will probably be near their traditional spawning habitat but will be found in somewhat deeper water than in years with a more normal water temperature.
Inland lakes even in the north country should have more normal water temperatures so bass should be in a spawning mode with the males guarding the nests. Heavy rains last weekend caused turbulent conditions but if there isn’t a lot more rain, the conditions should improve by this weekend.
The St. Lawrence offers great fishing but can be confusing or intimidating finding good spots in all that water. For information on guiding services contact Al Benas (686-3030), Myrle Bauer (686-2122) or Mike Seymour (379-0235).
In the Adirondacks the water is colder and in most waters the bass will have not yet spawned. You probably will do well to search for them in areas adjacent to the shallow spawning areas. Water levels were low from the abnormally dry spring, but recent rains have caused lake levels to rise to near normal levels.
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, Oseetah Lakes and Raquette and Simon Ponds. Blue Mountain Lake and its connecting lakes of Eagle and Utowanah have both smallmouth and largemouth.
Those anglers targeting largemouth bass will typically fish the shallow waters, especially the edges of weed cover. Plastic worms, spinner baits, jigs or crankbaits worked along cover usually produces action.
Wherever you fish, my advice would be to start in the northwest corner of the lake because 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. Plastic lizards often work well because bass hate them as nest raiders.
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.
But even if the fish don’t cooperate this weekend, remember that it is a long season and we have more places to go than we can possible fish in one season.
Inlet Bass Derby: The Town of Inlet will hold a Bass Derby on Sunday, June 28. Contestants will fish the waters of the Fulton Chain from Fifth Lake to Old Forge Pond for eight hours. Boats will depart after a livewell inspection from the Inlet town dock in numerical order of their registration. Winning will be based on total weight of five legal bass. Only two anglers per boat are permitted and only artificial baits can be used.
Each boat must have some form of livewell and no contestant is allowed to pre-fish the waters after Wednesday, June 25. The public is invited to watch activities from the town beach. Reservations will be accepted by mail until June 20. For more information, email:
Free Fishing Days: The weekend of June 27–28 is designated as Free Fishing Weekend in New York State. Anyone can fish the state’s waters without a license, giving everyone the opportunity to sample the fishing and introduce, or renew the experience, of the fun of fishing. It is the perfect time to introduce a friend or relative to the sport.
Golden Park Program: If you are a NYS resident 62 or older, on any weekday (except holidays) you can obtain free vehicle access to state parks and arboreteums. Simply present your current valid NYS Driver’s License. This policy applies both to Office of Parks and Recreation and DEC facilities.
Free Guided Adirondack Hikes: The Town of Long Lake is offering free guided hiking trips throughout the summer based from Long Lake. Participants will be taken by shuttlebus from Long Lake to the various trailheads. The hikes will be led by NYS certified and experienced guides Spencer Morrissey and Joan Collins who always provide excellent trips and interesting facts along the way. Register now since these popular trips will fill up fast. The dates, itineraries, and descriptions of the distance, etc. can be found on the website: There is also a general list of what to wear and what to bring. Here is a chance to have some great adventures of varying distances and different points of interest.


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