Our Best Family Fishing Vacations

You don't have to leave home to find some great outdoor getaways this summer. Here's a look at where to go for some great family fishing vacation fun in New York.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

It can be tough to find a vacation destination that makes everyone in the family jump for joy. Good fishing holes aren't always found near the shopping, amusement parks and educational exhibits the rest of the family might prefer.

Fortunately, a trip to New York can resolve that fishing vacation tug-of-war.

New York has more than 7,500 lakes and ponds, 50,000 miles of rivers and streams and hundreds of miles of coastline, making it one of the Northeast's premier fishing vacation destinations. World-class angling for a wide variety of coldwater, warmwater and saltwater species is just a stone's throw away throughout the state. Luckily, so are all the amenities and attractions that the rest of the family enjoys. From haunted houses to historic battlefields, hot air balloon rides to railroad excursions, New York State has it all.

So, if you're thinking about Lake Erie smallmouth bass, brook trout from Adirondack Lake, Pacific salmon from Lake Ontario, stripers on the Hudson or browns on the Beaver Kill, take heart -- you're going fishing!

Here are a few family-friendly ideas to help you on your way.

ADIRONDACKS

Families can't go wrong if they choose to head to the northern reaches of this rugged mountain region. State parks, private campgrounds and some excellent fishing can be found minutes from the villages of Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

There's no shortage of places to wet a line. Wilderness ponds, big lakes and roaring rivers are home to hungry trout, bass, northern pike, yellow perch, bullheads, pickerel and more. Lake Placid and nearby Mirror Lake are both known for their plentiful rainbow trout, lake trout and smallmouth bass.

Probably the best-known fishery in the region is the West Branch Ausable River, which is four miles outside Lake Placid. The West Branch has a five-mile catch-and-release zone that is popular with locals and visiting anglers. Fishing in the rest of the river, which has one of the highest growth rates of any river in the state, is just as productive.

The Saranac, Bouquet, Salmon and the East Branch Ausable are also first-class places to try your luck. In fact, within an hour's drive of Lake Placid, anglers can find several other rivers, and Lake Champlain. This watery border between New York and Vermont is known for excellent trout fishing, as well as good runs of landlocked salmon in the spring and fall.

Fish Creek Pond State Campground in Saranac Lake has 355 campsites, a boat launch and boat rentals to help anglers get out on the nearby creek and lake, a playground and swimming area.

Saranac Lake Islands Campground is spread across a combination of Lower and Middle Saranac lakes and offers miles of great boating and access to four other lakes through a set of locks. Camping is available on 87 sites on selected islands. There is a boat launch, and motorboats, rowboats, canoes and water skiing are allowed. Anglers can expect to hook largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, bullheads and pickerel here.

While in this region, sportsmen will want to see the landlocked Atlantic salmon at the Adirondack Fish Hatchery. Call (518) 891-3358 for information.

Another stop on any outdoor enthusiast's list will be Jones Outfitters Ltd. in Lake Placid. This has been the Adirondack's Orvis outlet since 1958 and is a full-service fly-fishing shop. Jones also has spinning tackle, a guide service, equipment rentals and even tips on training hunting hounds. For more information, call (518) 523-3468.

Show the kids some real stuffed animals at the Charles Dickert Wildlife Museum in Saranac Lake. The museum highlights the work of the master taxidermist, who was a Saranac native. For more information, call (518) 891-4190.

Dave's Taxidermy and Wildlife Museum to the north in Malone, has over 100 mounted animals on display, along with antique traps and hunting and fishing collectibles.

A visit to Lake Placid would not be complete without seeing the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame. Exhibits include video highlights, old uniforms and equipment. Call (800) 462-6236.

While on an Olympics kick, stop by the Lake Placid Olympic Facilities to see, and even use, some of the venues used in the 1980 competitions. Tours include the Whiteface Memorial Highway, the Olympic Jumping Complex, the tower, bobsled and luge runs, a trolley tour and the Whiteface Mt. Chairlift skyride. Call (800) 462-6236 for details.

The souvenir seekers in the family will want to see the Adirondack Craft Center, where the creations of over 300 artisans are on display. Visit

www.adirondackcraftcenter.com for more information.

The region may be viewed by airplane, helicopter or train. There are several flying services in the area, as well as the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and the Union Depot, built in 1904 and listed in the National Historic Registry. Call (518) 891-0111 for details.

For information about any of New York's campgrounds, visit

www.dec.state.ny.us/website/do/camping or call (800) 456-2267. For information on other accommodations and activities in the northern Adirondacks, call the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at (800) 347-1992 or check out

www.saranaclake.com.

PORT HENRY

Port Henry, along the narrows of Lake Champlain, offers access to some of the best fishing in the state. After all, Champlain is legend for its unsurpassed fishing for lake trout, salmon, bass and northern pike and walleyes.

Port Henry has two municipally operated campgrounds with 300 lakeshore sites suitable for tents and RVs. Bulwagga Bay Park has 175 sites, a boat launch, boat rentals, a recreation building, a playground and a beach. There is a golf course nearby. Bulwagga is also within walking distance of Port Henry's eateries, shops, marina and Amtrak station.

Or consider a stay at Champ Beach Park, which offers more than 120 sites, some of which are on the lakeshore. The campground has a snack bar, playground, basketball court and beach. Champ Beach is adjacent to the state boat launch and the Port Henry Pi

er off Dock Street. It's a short stroll down the hill to Port Henry's business district, restaurants, shops and the Iron Center Museum. Exhibits focus on the region's railroad and iron mining history. Call (518) 546-3587 for museum details.

For more information about the campgrounds, e-mail camping@porthenry.com, or call (518) 546-7123.

There's no lack of family activities in the southeastern corner of the Adirondacks. South of Port Henry, in Lake George, where some fine deepwater trout fishing may be found, there's also more fun than a family could pack into one vacation. Check out the Alien Encounter for a trip through a state-of-the-art sci-fi adventure. Or tour the Futuristic Museum and visit the research center where guests participate in the hunt. Call (518) 668-5910 for details.

If aliens aren't your cup of tea, how about haunted houses and wax museums? Lake George has those, too. Dr. Morbid's Haunted House is good for a fright, or try the House of Frankenstein Wax Museum, where animated exhibits spring to life in dark hallways.

Try the Fun World Arcade for video and laser games, pinball and more. See a giant T-Rex at Gooney Golf/Haunted Castle, a fantasy theme course. Chill out at Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom, where the family can take on more than 125 rides, shows and attractions, including a full water park and six roller coasters. Call (518) 792-3500 for Great Escape information.

Lake George has batting cages, carriage rides, museums, steamboat cruises, trolley rides and more. Visit the local chamber of commerce at

www.lgchamber.org.

For more unique family fun, drive west from Port Henry to the Gore Mountain Farm in North Creek, where they raise alpacas and offer free tours to the public. Call (518) 251-3040 for tour information. While in North Creek, stop by the Gore Mountain Hike-Mountain Bike Gondola to access the tops of trails or just for the scenic ride. Call (518) 251-2411 for gondola information.

In nearby Pottersville, take the family exploring in the Natural Stone Bridge and caves. Self-guided trails lead you to caves, waterfalls, potholes and the massive bridge. There is a play area, museum and gift shop-snack bar on site. Call (518) 494-2283 for details.

LAKE ONTARIO

Lake Ontario has yielded state-record Atlantic salmon, coho salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout, making it an angler's paradise. The great lake is home to several other species, including steelhead trout, lake trout, Pacific salmon, walleyes, northern pike and smallmouth bass.

State parks dot the shores of Ontario. Burnham Point State Park in Cape Vincent is northeast of Lake Ontario on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Burnham is small and quiet with lightly wooded campsites. Boat up and down the river exploring towns and islands, or angle for bass, pike, muskellunge and walleyes.

Nearby Cedar Point State Park in Clayton has a sheltered, sandy beach, a playground and recreation programs, which make this a popular family destination. Docks and a fishing pier aid access to the St. Lawrence fisheries, and from the overlook area guests may watch ocean-bound freighters pass by.

There are several other state-run facilities in the northwestern corner of the state, including Grass Point State Park, Keewayden State Park and Wellesley Island State Park. For a complete listing of state parks, visit

http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks.

There's plenty more to do in the Thousand Islands region. Historic lighthouses may be found in Oswego, Port Ontario, Sackets Harbor, Cape Vincent and Ogdensburg. Battlefields that helped shape our nation's history await visitors at Fort Ontario, Little Sandy, Sackets Harbor and Ogdensburg.

Of the 1,860 islands along the St. Lawrence, many of the most interesting may be found near Alexandria Bay. Boldt Castle, reputedly built around a famous love story from the 1800s, sits on Heart Island. Downriver about 10 miles is the mysterious Singer Castle. Along that 10-mile stretch is Millionaire's Row, a string of island homes that exemplify the opulence of days gone by.


New York has more than 7,500 lakes and ponds, 50,000 miles of rivers and streams and hundreds of miles of coastline, making it one of the Northeast's premier fishing vacation destinations.
 

There are eight golf courses within 15 miles of Alexandria's Bay. The deep waters and history of waterway commerce make this a popular site for scuba divers. Local outfitters will also hook you up with a whitewater rafting adventure. Visit the three observation decks of the 1000 Islands SkyDeck for breathtaking views, or give Champagne Balloon Adventures a call at (315) 482-9356 for more sky-high panoramas.

For an unusual challenge, go for a trek in Mazeland, a walk-through maze created of 250 fabric panels and 2,500 white cedar arbor vitae trees. The maze covers an acre and includes scavenger hunt challenges. Call (315) 482-2186 for information.

Go-carts, horseback riding, an Aqua Zoo, nature center, museums and more will keep the family educated and entertained when they're not fishing.

For more information about things to do in the Thousand Islands region, visit

www.alexbay.org.

THE CATSKILLS

There are eight state-run parks in the Catskill Forest Preserve. All of them put families within casting distance of some great fishing.

Woodland Valley State Park in Phoenicia has 72 tent-trailer sites near Woodland Valley Stream where anglers may hook brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout.

Hiking includes access to the trailhead for both the Slide-Wittenberg Trail and Valley-Denning Trail, which provide access to the Giant Ledge-Panther Mountain Trail.

While in Phoenicia, try tubing Esopus Creek, another famous trout hole. Take a ride on the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Visit the two local ski centers, Belleayre and Hunter, which have sky rides.

The nearby Kenneth L. Wilson campground in Mt. Tremper has 76 campsites, a sand beach, boat rentals and mountain bike and hiking trails. Anglers can expect to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, bullheads, and sunfish -- but only from non-motorized watercraft.

Bear Spring Mountain State Park is at the western end of the Catskills in Downsville. The park has 41 tent-trailer sites, a sand beach and trails to accommodate equestrians. Hikers and mountain bikers are also welcome on the trails. Nearby Launt Pond is stocked with brown trout, and the campground's stream also has some very good fishing holes.

Flyfishermen will have heard of the Beaver Kill. The state-run campground is on this famous trout stream, which is home to wild brookies and stocked and wild brown trout. The 1865 covered bridge that spans the stream is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The campground has 108 tent-trailer sites, and is within 15 miles of plenty of family fun, including the Catskill Fish Hatchery or the DeBruce Environmental Education Camp. Stop by the amusement park at Holiday Mountain or hit the Monticello Raceway.

For a bit of historic education, the D and H Canal Locks, Fort Delaware, Minisink Battleground Memorial Park, Stone Arch Bridge Historic Park and the Sullivan County Historical Museum, Art and Cultural Center are all within driving distance.

Little Pond campground in Livingston Manor has 67 campsites. This campground has hiking trails that lead to the ruins of an old farm and to scenic views on the peaks of the Touch Me Not Mountains. A Junior Naturalist Program is available. The 13-acre pond is full of panfish, and Little Pond is just minutes from the Beaver Kill and the Pepacton Reservoir.

A special permit, obtained from the City of New York Board of Water Supply, gives anglers access to record-sized brown trout and smallmouth bass in the reservoir.

Mongaup Pond, also in Livingston Manor, has 163 sites. The campground offers recreation programs over the summer, a sand beach and fishing on the largest lake in the Catskills other than the NYC reservoirs. Anglers may try their luck in non-motorized boats over 120 acres of water for a variety of species that includes brook trout, chain pickerel, pumpkinseed sunfish, smallmouth bass, tiger muskellunge, yellow bullheads and yellow perch.

Devil's Tombstone in Hunter has 24 campsites, a playground and plenty of hiking trails to explore. Serious hikers may want to give the Devil's Path, at the north end of the campground, a try.

Just eight miles away is the North-South Lake Campground, with 219 campsites spread over seven camping loops. This campground has two lakes and two beaches. Fish species include chain pickerel, brown bullheads, pumpkinseed sunfish, black crappies and largemouth bass.

Motorized boats are not permitted, but rowboats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats are allowed and available to rent. Recreational activities are offered daily during the summer months and include crafts, games, hikes and live entertainment.

Take the short hike to the site of the Catskill Mountain House. On a clear day the view encompasses five states. More experienced hikers will want to see Artist's Rock, Sunset Rock, Newman's Ledge, Boulder Rock, and the Kaaterskill Hotel and Laurel House sites. Kaaterskill Falls, just outside the campground, is the highest in the state.

Visitors will want to attend one of the many ethnic festivals 10 miles away in Hunter Mountain, or take the sky ride at the local ski resort. Be sure to visit Catskill Game Farm, too.

Tubing, go-carts, miniature golf, horseback riding and golf courses are all an easy drive from the campground.

For more information, contact the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, 59 North Main St., Liberty, NY 12754-1832; call (845) 292-8500 or send e-mail to

chamber@catskills.com.

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