Few things are certain in life, and fewer still in the angling world. But if there is one single certainly in New York State it is the bass fishing here is some of the very best in the country.
Every bass enthusiast in the state has his or her secret bass honey hole. Some of those lakes, ponds or rivers have familiar names, and some do not. Some may be just a few miles down the road or several counties away but there are literally hundreds of them scattered across the state. But also consider this fact; more than a half dozen New York waters including Lake Erie, the St. Lawrence/Thousand Islands area, Lake Ontario's Chaumont Bay, Lake Champlain, Oneida Lake, Chautauqua Lake and Cayuga Lake have recently been named among the nation's top 100 bass lakes by the Bass Angler's Sportsman's Society. Few other states have as many on the list.
When all of that is taken into consideration, it is really pretty easy to understand why New York is now considered to be one of the top bass angling states in the country.
SOME RECENT STUDY FINDINGS
There are good reasons for New York's status as a great bass-fishing state. The most recent comprehensive black bass population study on New York lakes ended in 2014. It was conducted by New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit at Cornell University the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Fisheries. The study was the first such study in about thirty years. A comprehensive river study, the first of its kind, was also conducted.
Both studies revealed several interesting findings that have had a direct effect on the quality of the state's bass resources. Since the study back in the early 1980s, angling for black bass has largely become a catch and release activity, largely due in part to tournament fishing becoming more prevalent and the major regulation changes back in 2006 allowing statewide catch-and-release angling in winter and spring.
The introduction of zebra mussels and quagga mussels in many waters has resulted in clearer water and expanded littoral zones that have benefitted bass. And on a broader scale, a decade or more of higher-than-average temperatures may be having a positive impact on bass populations, since warmer summer temperatures have been correlated with increased bass production.
Basically, according to the latest population survey these factors point to increased bass numbers in most waters of the state, and although there is variability from lake-to-lake and river-to-river, New York bass populations have, over time, achieved higher quality terms of average length, girth and weight.
NO NEW REGS
The regulations that have been on the books for a few years now seem to be working well, and anglers don't have to worry about new regulations for the 2017 season.
The general statewide regulations allows catch and release from Dec. 1 through the Friday preceding the third Saturday in June, with the regular harvest allowed from the third Saturday in June to the end of November. There are, however, many exceptions on certain waters or regions of the state, so anglers should be sure to check the latest freshwater regulations.
For example, most bass waters in the Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond and Nassau Counties are catch-and-release year-round. There is also no catch-and-release season upstate in Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties — fishing for bass during those times is prohibited.
There are also exceptions on Lake Champlain, where the catch-and-release season runs until the second Saturday in June, and there is a special year-round catch-and-release season on the Hudson River from Bakers Falls to the dam in Troy. Other exceptions are also still on the books for this season, particularly in Suffolk County.
Obviously, it is critical that anglers check the regulations for details before wetting a line if they are unfamiliar with a particular body of water.
Keep in mind, too, the special spring bass season on Lake Erie is still on the books. Starting in early May until the statewide opener anglers can take on bass with a minimum length limit of 20 inches per day during the Lake Erie early season, including tributaries up to the first barrier. Artificial lures as well as live bait is allowed. The Lake Erie early season is considered a premier time to try for smallmouth near inshore reefs, harbors and tributaries when smallmouth in the 2- to 5-pound class are considered common and larger specimens tipping the scales at more than 6 pounds are quite possible.
To get your season started here are just a few hotspots to considers this year.
New York City Reservoirs
In the southern region of the state bass fishing doesn't get much better than this. Nearly every reservoir east and west of the Hudson River offers fair to excellent opportunities for largemouth or smallmouth bass, sometimes both.
In general, reservoirs with fluctuating water levels lack near-shore vegetation. The best action is often slightly off shore, in deeper water near established weed and vegetation beds and structure. The opposite is generally true in reservoirs with stable or reliable water levels, where weeds are often found closer to shore. That is where bass will be found.
Anglers interested in smallmouth bass should concentrate efforts in reservoirs west of the Hudson River, in particular Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County and Pepacton Reservoir in Delaware County. The Cannonsville Reservoir, also in Delaware County, the Neversink Reservoir in Sullivan County, Rondout Reservoir in Ulster and Sullivan counties and Schoharie Reservoir in Delaware, Greene and Schoharie counties are also good choices.
For largemouth, hit the reservoirs east of the river. Amawalk, Cross River, New Croton and Titicus reservoirs all in Westchester County, Bog Brook, Lake Glead, Lake Glenelda, Croton Falls and Middle Branch reservoirs are excellent destinations throughout the season. Fish up to 8 pound are possible at Titicus and Croton Falls Reservoirs. Most of these reservoirs have some kind of boat restrictions, so they typically receive less angling pressure, allowing the largemouth to reach large sizes. Even shore fishing can be productive.
Some of the reservoirs east of the river also have excellent smallmouth fisheries, notably the Cross River and the Bog Brook and New Croton reservoirs. These two reservoirs have produced smallmouth up to 6 pounds of late. Other good smallmouth opportunities on the east side of the river will also found at the Amawalk Reservoir, Diverting and East Branch Reservoirs in Putnam County and Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County.
Keep in mind that once the cold season arrives even though no ice-fishing is allowed on reservoirs on the west side of the Hudson, ice-fishing is allow on reservoirs on the east side except the New Croton and Kensico reservoirs.
Anglers should also keep in mind a New York City Department of Environmental Protection access permit is required to fish these waters, regardless of the season. Special boat permits for angling and storing may also be required where boats are allowed.
For more information visit www.nyc.gov/dep or www.nyc.gov/dep/accesspermit; or telephone 1-(800)575 LAND (5263).
You can't talk about fishing this lake just north of Syracuse without mentioning largemouth and smallmouth. The lake's bottom generally consists of rocky bars, mid-lake shoals and reefs and while the bass opportunities have always been good on the lake, since the introduction of zebra mussels water clarity has greatly improved. The impact of increased sunlight on near-shore and even offshore vegetation has been noticeable, and the bass resource has responded in kind.
For starters try the weed beds in the Big Bay area east of the Interstate 81 bridge on the north shore. The Lakeport Shoal area off Lakeport is another perennial hotspot. While more areas will be reachable and the best opportunities will be found afloat, shoreline access will be found at Oneida Shore State Park in Brewerton and at the pier at Sylvan Beach.
The Region 7 Fishing Hotline updates conditions on the big lake. Contact: 1-(607) 753-1551.
Eastern Lake Ontario
While Lake Erie gets a lot attention among smallmouth anglers, the angling for largemouth on the eastern end of Lake Ontario has a great deal to offer. Smallmouth bass are also available and in good supply.
Any of the bays and river estuaries including Little Sodus Bay, nearly all of Mexico Bay and especially the South Pond and North Pond areas, are bound to produce action. Don't overlook the estuary areas at the mouths of the Oswego River in Oswego, the Grindstone River near Selkirk Shore State Park and even the Salmon River at Selkirk. Generally speaking the smallmouth action peaks in mid-June to early July, but picks up again starting in August and runs right through November. The largemouth action can be hot all season long.
Boat launch facilities are readily available in these areas and all along the shoreline for those towing their own craft, and for others charter services are also available. Shoreline opportunities also exist in most locations. The area is also blessed with bait and tackle shops always willing to provide information on where the action is and accommodations are abundant.
For more information on services in the area visit www.visitoswegocounty.com. For a wider look at fishing the New York portion of Lake Ontario and the rivers that flow into it, go to http://ilovenyfishing.com
Certain waters northern New York are nationally known largemouth and smallmouth bass hotspots. You can't go far wrong, for example, fishing the St. Lawrence River and Ten Thousand Island areas during the regular season. Amid such a huge range of great choices, it is easy to overlook Black Lake in Morristown, but it too should be on any bass enthusiast's hit list. The lake gets its share of attention, and at times bass can be touchy, but 15- to 20-fish days are quite possible when the action is hot. Try hitting the lake from the season opener right through July and into early August and again in the early fall.
Black Lake is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 40 feet and mean depth of just 8 feet, so navigating caution is a good rule for those not familiar with the lake, especially if you are near the shore or working around islands, rocky shoals and weed beds — all prime spots for largemouth and smallmouth bass. In general, largemouth will be found in the shallower, warmer bays while smallmouth seem to hang off the points, but both can be found just about anywhere. The weed beds near the mouth of the Indian River, around the shoreline of Big Bay and any of the smaller bays heading north and Bullhead and Conger Islands are just a few popular spots. This is a great bass lake!
Lodging is readily available, and many are free with fishing updates, lure and bait suggestions, and many offer boat access facilities but advance reservations are advised.
For more information visit www.blacklakeny.com; or telephone 1-(315) 375-8640.
Northern River Action
In the northern region of the state, take advantage of some of the excellent river bass opportunities. The Black, Indian, Oswegatchie, Grasse and Raquette rivers are all prime smallmouth bass waters. The Indian River and Oswegatchie River also offer largemouth.
Each river has launch facilities for boats of various sizes, but the most enjoyable (and productive) way to fish these runs is from a canoe, small car-top boat or a kayak. Some stretches offer shallow-water wading opportunities. Several bridge crossings and access sites offer strategic launch and take-out points for some exciting and productive float trips to spots seldom fished.
Like nearby Black Lake, some of these rivers are rules by special regulations, so be sure to check the regulations for details.