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2008 Bass Forecast For New York

2008 Bass Forecast For New York

What can Empire State bass anglers expect when the season opens in 2008? Here's a look. (May 2008)

New York's bass management plan is designed to produce more and bigger fish for anglers statewide.
Photo by Jeff Knapp.

With 2007 having been the "year of change" for New York's bass fishing regulations, things seem to be settling into place for the 2008 season.

With no major new changes looming, '08 should be a carbon copy of what we saw in 2007.

Nothing about the opening day of the season has changed. It's been consistent throughout the years. The third Saturday in June through Nov. 30 is the standard season, with a 12-inch minimum-size limit and a five-fish daily creel limit.

During the remainder of the year, the new regulations offer anglers on the majority of the state's waters a chance to take bass on a catch-and-release, artificial-lures-only basis.

Shaun Keeler is a biologist with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Bureau of Fisheries in Albany. He said that a couple of proposed regulation changes pertain to bass in regions 1 and 3, but their impact is not expected to be substantial.

There is a trophy season for certain bodies of water that runs from the first Saturday in May, through the Friday before the third Saturday in June. On these waters, there's a 20-inch minimum-size limit and a daily creel limit of only one fish.


Many anglers are concerned about the spread of the VHS (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) disease through the lakes. Although VHS poses no threat to humans, it can be devastating to fish populations.

With VHS popping up annually in lakes across New York, the DEC is taking major strides to help control the spread of the disease, especially in lakes that are dominated by bass. VHS has shown up in some of the finest bass lakes in the U.S., with lakes Erie and Ontario topping the list.

Anglers are being asked to help control the spread of the disease, and also to aid the DEC in detecting fish that may have been infected. If you see a large number of dead or dying fish -- typically 100 or more -- the DEC asks you to contact its nearest regional office and ask for the Bureau of Fisheries.

To learn more about VHS and potential DEC actions to prevent its spread, call (518) 402-8896 or e-mail

Although VHS is a serious issue, don't let it deter you from hitting some of the finest bass lakes in the East. Lake Erie is one of the premier bass-fishing hotspots in the world, and some inland lakes can produce some monster largemouths.

Here's a look at some areas you can count on for hot bass-fishing action this season:

Lake Erie

The third Saturday in June kicks off Lake Erie's open season for smallmouth bass. This year, an early trophy season again includes keeping one fish, of a minimum of 20 inches.

That 20-inch rule became law last year and is expected to improve the size of fish being caught.

Lake Erie is arguably one of the finest smallmouth fisheries in the world. A cause of concern was the presence of round gobies that biologists said were feeding on the eggs of other species. But according to the DEC, it looks as though the bass are returning the favor by eating the gobies and thereby maintaining a healthy population.

Jigs tipped with leeches, night crawlers or plastics are the ticket, and changing lures as conditions warrant is an important part of any angler's strategy. Knowing the lake's contour and having a good, solid understanding of it will put more fish in the livewell.

If you're in the hunt for bronzebacks, finding structure is the key element. Dropoffs, rockpiles, reefs and rock bottoms in the 10- to 30-foot range will provide plenty of action.

Casters of stickbaits can have a great day fishing from shore or a pier. As the water warms up, a boat is a must in order to venture farther out on the lake to find the fish.

Some of the very best action comes with vertical jigging. May smallmouths are entering their post-spawn mode, and you may have to search for them. Once you find one, chances of finding more are quite high.

Along with night crawlers, leeches, tube baits and stickbaits, crayfish are usually the best bait to have handy. A simple medium-action rod, 6- to 8-pound-test fishing line along with split shot about a foot above your hook will work wonders. Drift and bounce the bottom.

Key areas on Lake Erie's eastern basin are Van Buren Reef, the rockpiles east of Barcelona, Battery Point, Meyers Reef, Seneca Shoal and the rock jetties around the Smallboat Harbor. Don't forget about the inner harbors on days when the weather is uncooperative. Remember, too, that the weather on Lake Erie can turn on a dime, so study the weather forecast before heading out.

Access to Lake Erie' eastern basin is available at several launches including the Erie Basin Marina at (716) 842-4141, the NFTA Small Boat Harbor at (716) 828-0027, the Sturgeon Point Marina at (716) 947-4452 and Point Breeze Marina at (716) 549-3768.

Each of these launches offers ample parking and a good starting point for hunting bronzebacks.

Chautauqua Lake
Well known for its walleye and musky population, Chautauqua Lake is now probably one of the best and most productive bass fisheries in the western region.

The DEC has done a fantastic job of keeping tabs on the lake's bass population, and anglers have seen some dramatic changes in the size and number of largemouths and smallmouths being caught.

There's no real mystery on where to target these fish: Hit the weedlines! Jigs, crankbaits, spinners and worms will do the trick.

From shore or boat, the best areas to cast are Mission Meadows, the Bell Tower, Prendergast Point, Long Point, Warner Bar, Greenhurst, Cheney's Farm, Bemus Bay and Toms Point.

Access to the lake is via the Prendergast Boat Launch, Long Point State Park and the Bemus Point Boat Launch.

For more information on Chautauqua Lake, contact the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 1441, Chautauqua Institutio

n Welcome Center, Route 394, Chautauqua, NY 14722. You can also call 1-800- 242-4569 or e-mail the organization at info@tour

Niagara River
Whether you're talking about the falls toward Buffalo or the lower section of the falls toward Lake Ontario, the Niagara River is another gem for bass fishermen.

The upper section of the river -- from the Round House at the beginning of the Niagara River near Buffalo, along the jetties and break walls on down through the slower sections near Grand Island -- is sure to produce good catches of bass this season.

The lower section, including the river's mouth and upstream, produces some of the largest smallmouths in the state. These fish gorge themselves on the plentiful food supplies coming down the river. Latching onto one with light tackle is an experience in itself.

When fishing the upper section, make sure your boat and gear are in working order. If your motor fails and you find yourself floating helplessly toward the falls, it makes for a long day.

Riverside Park on River Road in North Tonawanda and the NFTA Small Boat Harbor in Buffalo offer easy access. Try launching out of the ports in Lewiston to hit the lower Niagara.

Oneida Lake

Locals know that Oneida Lake is an awesome walleye fishery, but some folks are now starting to scratch their heads as they see increasing numbers of professional bass tournaments taking place on "their" lake. Thanks to Oneida's growing populations of smallmouths and largemouths, anglers nationwide are starting to take notice.

A fairly large lake that's some 21 miles in length, Oneida offers plenty of shoreline where anglers can spend a day. The shoals around the lake attract anglers from across the country. Walleye and bass anglers will be found fishing in the same areas. Shackleton Shoals off Shackleton Point, Dakin Shoals, Grassy Shoal and Pancake Shoal hold their fair share of fish.

If these areas aren't working on any given day, troll slowly around the docks and flats closer to shore while you pitch jigs, crankbaits and topwater plugs.

Oneida Lake lies north of Syracuse off Interstate Route 81 at exits 30, 31 and 32. Routes 39 and 41 and other local roads surround the lake. Public launches are at Oneida Shores County Park, with state-operated facilities at Briggs Bay and Godfrey Point.

Honeoye Lake
I'm a walleye fisherman, but before my bait even hits the walleye's strike zone, I often pull in several bass. It's nice to get a big walleye on the line, but if you're on the hunt for bass, Honeoye Lake is a good place to be.

"Early season" on Honeoye means early weeds. The key to catching bass on this lake consistently is to get there when the time is right. As soon as those weeds begin to grow, the bass begin to congregate on the edges and forage for food. This is the perfect time for trolling the weedlines at dawn or dusk, and then jigging them throughout the daylight hours.

Rocky bottoms, crystal-clear water, plenty of cover and food all make the St. Lawrence River one of the top bass-fishing destinations in northern New York.

Bass fishing on Honeoye Lake is often a matter of trial and error. If one tactic isn't working after 30 minutes or so, don't be afraid to tie on a new jig, or test a new bait of choice. Some days the fish are finicky, and it takes some patience and skill to bring these fish into the boat.

A good map will show you the various depths and bottom layout of the lake. California Point, Pickerel Point and Log Cabin Point offer some great gradients.

For information on lake conditions and recent catches, call Honeoye Lake Bait and Tackle on 4864 County Road No. 37 in Richmond at (585) 229-2266.

Silver Lake
Tucked in the hills of Wyoming County, Silver Lake's abundant bass population is sometimes overlooked.

Joseph Evans, a biologist with the DEC's Region 9 office, said that Silver Lake is 90 percent largemouths and 10 percent smallmouths.

"Most anglers target largemouths and catch smallmouths incidentally. There's a good largemouth population, and catch rates are good.

"However, we don't often see trophy-sized fish, although the lake is very productive. There is intense competition between largemouths, smallmouths, walleye and northern pike. There are lots of fish, but the big ones are elusive."

The eastern shore of the lake is where the majority of fish will spawn.

Long-lining stickbaits after dark and jigging the dropoffs at dusk can be deadly.

To find Silver Lake, follow U.S. Route 20 west from Canandaigua through the village of Avon and the intersection of Route 246, which leads south to the village of Perry and the Silver Lake outlet. There is a state-operated boat launch on West Lake Road.

Silver Lake has a maximum depth of 37 feet and a mean depth of 25 feet. For a contour map of the lake, contact the DEC's Region 9 office in Allegany at (716) 342-0645.

For more information on Silver Lake, contact the Wyoming County Tourism Promotion Agency at (716) 493-3190.

St. Lawrence River

Rocky bottoms, crystal-clear water, plenty of cover and food all make the St. Lawrence River one of the top bass-fishing destinations in northern New York.

Bass are plentiful in this river, and anglers have plenty of shoreline pockets to explore. In summer, the river is alive with boats and ships coming through, so it can be a challenge to find some quiet water.

But with a little patience, you'll get your fish. If you plan on venturing past the center of the river, be sure to get a Canadian fishing license. It's worth having if conditions aren't in your favor and you're forced to the other side.

For most anglers, baits of choice include live minnows and crayfish on weedless rigs worked over the rocks. Or try your luck with crankbaits and spinners.

Access to the St. Lawrence is off I-81 via routes 12 and 12A. Public launches are provided at several state parks, as well as at marinas at Clayton and Alexandria Bay.

Although VHS (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) poses no threat to humans, it can be devastating to fish populations.

For more information, contact the Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce at (315) 482-9531, or visit

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain offers Empire State

anglers a unique setting when fishing for bass. Lake Champlain on the Vermont border is not only a scenic waterway, but it holds some remarkable bass.

The lake's southern portion is shallow and full of weeds -- the perfect site for pitching a topwater bait into pockets of open water in hopes that a big bucketmouth will devour your offering.

Lake Champlain's northern end features plenty of rocks, some clear water -- a perfect location for smallmouths. Focus on the area around the islands in the northern section. These pockets of rocks and boulders will produce some fine smallmouths.

Tube jigs and plastic worms seem to be the baits of choice for fishing Lake Champlain. Casting stickbaits and crankbaits can be effective as well.

Vermont allows anglers to fish on their side of the lake as long as their regulations are adhered to. Three bays that are off-limits are Malletts, Missisquoi and the Inland Sea.

For more information and local accommodations, you can contact the Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce at (518) 563-1000.

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