New York? Fishing? Really?
Most of the time when someone mentions something about New York, big city images like New York City pop up. But all of New York is not in the city. And the St. Lawrence River is definitely not; It’s a world away.
The St. Lawrence River connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, measuring almost 700 miles from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. The river drains more than 30,000 square miles of the Great Lakes Basin. The deepest parts of the waterway are over 200 feet deep, while the average depth is about 10-30 feet deep where most people fish. The first 114 miles of this waterway forms the border between Canada and northern New York.
The variety of water here is too broad to even list. Huge lake areas are part of the system as well as winding, island filled narrows that are all lined with rock outcrops and huge boulders, both above and below the water surface.
You almost have to be there to believe it, but the St. Lawrence River is an angler’s paradise in some of the most scenic outdoor environments you can find. It’s well known for bass, both largemouth and smallmouth. It’s chocked full of northern pike and muskies — and they grow huge. Northern pike over 10 pounds are common and the muskies can top 50 pounds regularly. The river record is near 70 pounds, but it’s been around a long time. Walleye are also abundant here.
While bass are popular among visitors, most anglers who fish here look for walleyes, which have made a dramatic comeback over the past few years. Walleye are best caught in tributaries during the spawn or on structure near the main river the rest of the year. Fishing in the summer is best around points and dropoffs. Popular walleye areas include the Robert Moses Power Dam, Ogdensburg Bridge, Ogden Island, Chippewa Point and the Iroquois Dam.
Another favorite summer fish is the smallmouth bass. Bass love live bait or jigs tipped with live bait. Trolling and drift fishing works and some anglers actually cast artificials for these tough fighting fish. Largemouth bass are caught on crankbaits, jigs, and surface lures and are mostly found in the smaller waters off the big bays in the river. The cold water prevents a long growing season, but five and six pound bass can be caught here.
While every fish has a good, better and best season to be caught, most anglers agree that the northern pike can be found almost anywhere anytime. The bays, the river, island outcroppings and the river channels themselves can hold northern pike. And they can be caught along weed lines or in deep water structures. Anglers like to use spoons and spinners, but also use minnows below a float to catch the fish on occasion. Every angler has their favorite spot, lures and techniques, but the good news is they all catch fish.
Everything here isn’t huge. There are tons of panfish for the catching like bluegill, black crappie, rock bass, bullheads and yellow perch. And all these fish can be caught all year long. In the winter, anglers here even turn to their ice fishing gear for action.
Fish that can be found here in the system also include carp, coho salmon, chinook salmon, rainbow trout, brown trout and lake trout.
One thing to note here is there is a lot of water and some of it actually goes into Canada. On Lake Ontario waters, anglers do have to possess a Canadian license. This requirement is rigorously enforced. It is important that when planning your trip, either on your own or with a guide, make sure you know what waters you will be fishing.
Another thing you have to do is narrow down where you will fish. Again, a local expert can help here. Guides can also help you avoid shoals and navigational hazards in this river. Another thing that shocks some first-time visitors is the fact that you can be running down the river in a large fishing vessel and look up ahead and see an ocean going vessel. It’s a multi-purpose recreational and commercial waterway.
The River runs past communities, from north to south, like Cornwall on the Canadian border to Masssena, Morrisburg, Cardinal, Ogdensburg, Brockville, Alexandria Bay, Clayton and Cape Vincent as it runs into Lake Ontario. Rochester is the largest U.S. city on the shores of Lake Ontario.
While all those communities have access to the waterway, one of the most popular is Alexandria Bay. It has been the site of many angling events and is close to the island areas and rock outcrops that produce lots of smallmouth and largemouth bass. It has been host to the prestigious BASS Classic and other BASS tournaments over the years. The Kring Point State Park near Alexandria Bay, Jacques Cartier State Park near Morristown, Coles Creek State Park near Waddington and Robert Moses State Park near Barnhart Island north of Massena are also popular launches and fishing areas.