NORTHERN NEW YORK
Like most DEC biologists, Rich Preall is an avid sportsman, and last summer Preall had the special pleasure of doing a scientific sampling of Middle Saranac Lake. It so happens that Preall, a senior aquatic biologist for Region 5 in Ray Brook, lives in the village of Saranac Lake. Middle Saranac, one of Preall’s favorite fishing spots, is part of the Saranac Chain of Lakes in Franklin County. It’s a short walk and a 45-minute boat ride from his house, via two locks.
Preall and a couple of Region 5 fish and wildlife technicians studied Middle Saranac for two reasons. First, they wanted to evaluate its suitability for walleye stocking; and second, they needed to collect mercury-level readings as part of a more comprehensive analysis of mercury levels in Adirondack fisheries.
The fish population in Middle Saranac Lake is so impressive that Preall dropped a tentative proposal for walleye stocking. Although the habitat is good, any juvenile walleyes put in the lake would find the swimming to be extremely risky, since the place is “loaded” with predators already.
“The biggest surprise was the yellow perch,” Preall said. Perch of 12- to 14 inches were thriving. And smallmouth bass were “abundant” at every netting site visited by the DEC boats. The bronzebacks averaged about a pound and a half, or about 14 to 15 inches.
“I think any walleyes we put in there would be consumed before too long,” Preall concluded.
Another interesting investigation is considering the impact of tournament bass fishing on one of Northern New York’s most popular angling destinations. The “Lake Champlain Bass Tournament Dispersal Study” is designed to answer the query so often uttered at tourney weigh-in sites: “Where do the bass go after they’re set free?”
The study is proceeding under the auspices of the Lake Champlain Research Institute and Lake Champlain Sea Grant at SUNY Plattsburgh, with cooperation and support from the DEC. It involves the marking of approximately 1,600 bass with external plastic tags at tourney weigh-ins held in Plattsburgh during 2011 and 2012. Another 50 bass are to be implanted with radio transmitters to help researchers track their post-weigh-in wandering.
Preliminary data gleaned from the capture of 21 tagged bass by anglers indicates a majority have not strayed far from tournament weigh stations. Most tagged fish caught to date were hooked in Cumberland Bay, off Plattsburgh.
Northern New York boasts dozens of lakes and rivers worthy of any bass angler’s attention. In addition to the Saranac chain and Lake Champlain, the region’s better spots include the upper St. Lawrence River, Lake George and Tupper Lake.
SOUTHEASTERN NEW YORK
One measure of the sport that’s available to anglers in the Catskills and metro New York City regions is the annual Southern New York Fishing Derby, whose winners and runners-up put one impressive fish statistic after another on the scoreboard maintained by contest coordinator Jack Stewart of Carmel.
Merely to qualify for a monthly prize, a largemouth bass entered in the event must be at least 20 inches long, and the minimum for a smallmouth is 18 inches. Minimums for trout and panfish are jaw-droppers, too, but that’s fodder for another story.
Some of the state’s most challenging yet rewarding bass fishing awaits anglers on Long Island. Yes, island fisheries are crowded and access can be difficult in some cases. However, who wouldn’t go the extra mile or two on the Long Island Expressway to have a crack at a 5- or 6-pound bucketmouth?
Chart Guthrie, the DEC’s Long Island fisheries boss, has tinkered with regulations in recent years to give maximum sporting opportunities and necessary protection to the area’s heavily pressured lakes and ponds. Last year, for example, he did away with a special 15-inch minimum creel length for bass in Fort Pond and Lake Ronkonkoma, and put both bodies of water under the island-wide standards, including a 12-inch minimum length and catch-and-release fishing from Dec. 1 through April 30.
Guthrie rates Forge Pond, an impoundment on the Peconic River, as Long Island’s top bass fishery.
“Overall, bass fishing on the island is really quite good,” he said.