Here’s where to find some great summer bass fishing in the Empire State.
Considering that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has already declared the black bass New York’s most popular game fish, there’s no need to belabor the point with Empire State anglers — they already know. New York just happens to be renowned for its bass-fishing opportunities.
In fact, some of the best bass fishing in the country can be found here. Lake Erie, the St. Lawrence River/Thousand Islands, Chaumont Bay (Lake Ontario), Lake Champlain, Oneida Lake, Chautauqua Lake and Cayuga Lake have all recently been selected as national top 100 bass lakes by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) and there are many other outstanding fisheries throughout the state.
Suffice it to say that if you are in New York and you want bass, you got bass!
Expanding on the list given above, and without further ado, here’s a look at some of New York’s top June bass fisheries.
The finest smallmouth bass fishing in New York State and arguably the entire United States can be found in the waters of Lake Erie. According to DEC fisheries managers, bass are found along the entire New York shoreline, with hotspots along rocky structure and drop-offs in 15 to 35 feet of water.
However, smallmouth bass in Lake Erie are very widely distributed and are also available to anglers fishing inshore zones with waders, kayaks and other small vessels. Most bass caught are between 2 and 4 pounds, but there is good opportunity to catch a hefty 5- or 6-pound lunker. The last five New York State record smallmouths have come from Lake Erie, with the current record standing at an impressive 8 pounds, 4 ounces.
Anglers can enjoy an early bass season on Lake Erie to take advantage of the great fishing available for smallmouth bass during spring. From the first Saturday in May to the regular season opener of statewide black bass season on the third Saturday in June, anglers may take one bass of a minimum of 20 inches per day in Lake Erie and its tributaries. The use of natural baits is permitted during Lake Erie’s early bass season.
The best smallmouth bass fishing of the entire year is in the spring on Lake Erie’s near-shore reefs, harbors and tributary streams. The number of bass caught can be outstanding due to the higher concentration of bass in those areas. And some of the lake’s largest bass are caught in spring.
In fact, anglers have a better chance of catching a 6-pound-plus trophy bass in spring than any other time during the year. The spring bass bite starts in April and lasts through the regular season opener in late June. The basic progression of fish concentrations is tributaries (April-May), harbors and canals (May), and open lake reefs and shoals (May-June).
Smallmouth bass will also run up many tributaries along the Lake Erie shoreline, but the most popular among anglers (due to the number of fish and ease of public access) are Cattaraugus Creek, Eighteenmile Creek, Canadaway Creek and Chautauqua Creek. Public fishing rights maps for these streams are available for printing on the DEC’s Web site (www.dec.ny.gov).
Bass fishing is also good in harbor and canal areas in May and early June. Good locations include Black Rock Canal, Buffalo Harbor and Dunkirk Harbor. These areas are also good places to retreat to and still catch fish when conditions get rough on the open lake.
From late May through late June, fishing is great near shallow reef areas including Seneca Shoal, Woodlawn Bar, Myers Reef, Evans Bar and Van Buren Bay. However, many smaller rocky areas along Lake Erie’s coast also hold good numbers of bass in June.
You also may be interested in …
- New NY State Fishing Records for Walleye, Black Crappie
- 2018 New York Family Fishing Destinations
- New York Bass Fishing Outlook 2018
ST. LAWRENCE COMPLEX
Originating at the northeastern end of Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River flows 700 miles to the Atlantic Ocean. With an average width of two miles and a maximum depth of over 200 feet, this sole natural outlet for the Great Lakes system is the largest east-west river in North America. The first 114 miles of this waterway form the border between southeastern Ontario (Canada) and northern New York.
Protected bays provide good fishing for the small boat angler, while abundant area docks and piers offer action for shore fishermen.
Geographically, the New York portion of the St. Lawrence River can be divided into three distinct, easily defined areas. From Tibbetts Point near Cape Vincent to approximately Morristown is the most popular area known as the Thousand Islands Region. The lower section of the river, from the Iroquois Dam to the Moses-Saunders Power Dam near Massena, is referred to as Lake St. Lawrence. The area which lies between these two sections is appropriately known as the Middle Corridor.
Although largemouth bass are taken on the St. Lawrence, smallmouth bass are the most commonly caught species. Good catches of smallmouths are taken around islands such as Carleton, Round and Linda, off points (Bartlett, Chippewa and Grass), in bays (Goose, Chippewa and the bays of Grindstone and Wellesley Islands), below the Moses-Saunders Power Dam and off shoals.
Minnows, worms and crayfish are good early-season baits. Small spinners, jigs and rubber worms work well in the late summer, when largemouth bass can be found in shallow, weedy bays and along the edges of shoals. Lake of the Isles on Wellesley Island is considered the largemouth hotspot for the St. Lawrence River. Rubber worms, spinnerbaits, surface lures, plugs and worms are popular and productive baits.
Chaumont Bay is a beautiful, secluded area located near the St. Lawrence Seaway on the east end of Lake Ontario, in what is commonly called the Thousand Islands-Seaway region of the state. The Chaumont-Three Mile Bay area is the largest freshwater bay on the planet. It also has some of the best bass fishing in the world.
The entrance to the bay is at Point Peninsula and Pillar Point, where visiting anglers will find several local marinas. Although it is a remote area with a year-round population of fewer than 700 people, Chaumont Bay has motels and boat rentals along the water and in the village of Chaumont.
With more than 400 square miles of surface area, 70 islands, and 120 miles of trolling possibilities, anglers visiting Lake Champlain will never run out of places to catch fish. Fortunately, the options are never-ending. Thanks to a reciprocal license agreement between the states, anglers needn’t worry about changing state regulations.
The central and southern portions of Lake Champlain are known as bass country, so expect to see plenty of bass boats on the water, especially during tournaments. The big lake’s dense weed beds and rocky drop-offs provide excellent habitat for bass.
More than a dozen state or municipally-owned hard-surface boat launches provide easy access to the water along with ample parking. Guides are available at most launches.
Local bait and tackle shops up and down the lake are ready and willing to help visiting anglers get into the action. Stop by and ask about the hottest bait or lure and get some tips on the best fishing locations. If you catch one, there are more around somewhere.
Oneida Lake, located 10 miles north of Syracuse in Oneida and Oswego counties, is the largest lake lying wholly within New York State. Oneida Lake is a relatively shallow natural lake with an average depth of 22 feet.
Public access is provided where Interstate Route 81 crosses the western end of the lake, offering many opportunities for fishing either in open water on the lake, under the bridge or in the back bay.
There are two separate fishing areas, one on the northern shore and one on the southern shore. The fishing areas are located along accessible paths directly below and adjacent to the highway bridge. There are paved paths, a pedestrian bridge, fishing platforms and interpretive signage, plus designated accessible parking.
Oneida Lake is a fantastic bass fishery where numerous bass tournaments are held each year. Oneida Lake has become a popular tournament stop for professional bass fishing organizations. Smallmouth bass can be caught around the lake’s many shoals while largemouth bass are found in the larger bays where there is good vegetation growth. Fingerling yellow perch and gizzard shad, along with round gobies, are the main forage fish found in the lake.
Pro Tip: Bass in the Grass
Chautauqua Lake is located in the southeast corner of Chautauqua County and is the largest inland lake in western New York. It is divided into two basins of nearly equal size by Bemus Point.
Chautauqua Lake ranks among the top bass lakes in New York State. The shallow, weedy areas and docks offer exceptional cover for largemouth bass. Boaters and shore anglers do best by keying on these areas, where bass wait to ambush prey. Early morning and evening are the prime times for surface-type plugs. Anglers also have good luck using spinnerbaits, plastic worms, jig-and-pigs, crankbaits and live bait such as crayfish and shiners.
Although less abundant than largemouth, smallmouth bass can offer good action near deep drop-offs, points, rocky shoals and gravel bars near creek mouths.
The islands in the south basin have proven to be the most productive areas for smallmouth bass. When fishing over deeper structure, a drop-shot rig with crayfish, shiners or plastics works well.
The shallower south basin has extensive weed beds and some productive shoals. In the north basin, weed beds are found in the shallow bays and in the northern-most section. The north basin is also known for its numerous deep kettle holes.
The north basin stratifies during summer with a thermocline occurring at around 30 feet. There can be anoxic conditions below the thermocline from July through August. For current fishing information call the Lake Erie Fishing Hotline or (716) 855-3474.
Cayuga Lake extends northward from the city of Ithaca through Tompkins, Cayuga and Seneca counties. The lake is over 38 miles long and 435 feet deep at its deepest point. According to one local website, Cayuga Lake reaches 53 feet below sea level and is considered to be one of the deepest lakes in North America. It has a small island on the eastern shore, one of only two islands in the Finger Lakes region. The lake is a popular sport location and has the largest inland marina in the state of New York.
Cayuga Lake ranks second in size among the Finger Lakes; only Seneca is larger. Bass anglers here focus on the vast shallow, weedy area at the north end, which extends south for approximately 6 miles and occupies 5,800 acres. Largemouth bass fishing is productive at the shallow north end during spring and summer.
A long, narrow lake with hundreds of boat docks lining the shores, Cayuga is essentially void of creek arms or channels, so “ledge” anglers may want to make the necessary adjustments. However, there are plenty of steep banks that line the cylinder-shaped lake, presenting structure that can provide some good deep-cranking opportunities. Both ends of the lake have plenty of ledge structure in the 20-foot range.
Another factor is heavy vegetation. By late June, hydrilla will be thriving. Thick, matted weed beds will provide additional cover for bass, gradually moving many of them away from the docks and typical shoreline habitat.
Cayuga’s bass anglers should not be put off by the vegetation. Look for outer weed lines or isolated weed beds in 5 to 7 feet of water, especially where there is deeper water within 100 yards. In Cayuga, “deeper” is considered to be 20 to 25 feet.
Start fishing outside of a weed bed before throwing a lure inside. Keep two set-ups ready to make it easier to alternate between presentations. During Cayuga’s significant annual algae bloom look for isolated rock piles in 10 feet of water and fish deep-running lures near them.
This is just a sampling of New York’s great June bass waters. For additional information log onto www.dec.ny.gov. Click on the links to bass fishing and places to fish for bass in each region of New York.