Fishing - Species
Black crappie ranks as Black Lake’s most popular panfish. After ice-out, crappies migrate into marshy bays where the fish remain though April and early May. These shallow-water crappies offer some of the best fishing of the year as large schools hold tight to cover. During the spawning period of late May and early June, crappies congregate on rocky points, and the fishing remains first-rate. Summer angling becomes more challenging as fish move to deeper water and disperse throughout the lake.
Successful outings require more searching on the part of anglers, but two prime locations to check out are shoals and weed edges. The lake sees minimal crappie pressure in autumn, a time when the post productive spots are mid-lake shoals and rock piles.
Hot Spots: Weedbeds and shoals in Black Lake
Smallmouth bass can be caught from June through November, but bronzebacks are the St. Lawrence River’s “summer fish.” In early summer, look for smallmouths along mainland points, island shorelines, rocky areas and large flats. As summer progresses these fish congregate near deep-water points, island drop-offs, and mid-river shoals.
Casting artificial lures such as spinners, minnow-imitation plugs, surface baits and topped jigs work well in early season. When fish leave spawning areas and move to deeper water, live bait (minnows or crayfish) and tipped gifs work well. Some anglers drift through areas while others anchor on key spots. Either way, the secret is to move from spot to spot until active fish are located. Trolling diving plugs is an effective technique throughout summer and fall.
Hot Spots: Small mouth abound throughout the St. Lawrence and among the more popular locations are the islands at Black Lake, Chippewa Bay, American and Old Main Island at Morristown, Galop Island at Ogdensburg, Ogden Island at Waddington, and Wilson Hill, Croil and Long Sault islands at Massena.
While the cooler waters of the St. Lawrence are better suited for the smallmouth bass, large mouth are present and can generally be overlooked. Bucketmouths can be found in the backwaters of most large bays. Traditional offerings such as plastic worm, jig and pig, and surface baits work well. The early morning hours offer the best action during the summer, but autumn is the most productive time of the year for largemouths.
The best fishing for large mouth bass on Black Lake occurs in early summer and throughout the fall. Look for them mostly along weedlines, in opening in the weeds, around weedy shoals, and on rocky points. Traditional offerings such as the plastic worm, jig and pig, and spinnerbait work well as do tube jigs, crankbaits and surface lures.
The relatively new kid on the block, carp have gained enormous popularity in St. Lawrence County over the past decade. The catches along the St. Lawrence can range up to 40+ pounds. There are literally thousands of “swims” to fish along the banks and islands. New York State law permits the fishing of carp all year long, but anglers generally restrict their efforts to May through ice-up. Anglers can use two rods, with single hook on each. Carp can be caught throughout the day, but the best action occurs around dawn and dusk.
Basic tackle consists of 12-13 foot rods with large spinner reels capable of casting 20-30 yards from shore. Serious carp anglers carry an unhooking mat and array of terminal tackle for tying rigs. Corn and boilies work as best bait in the St. Lawrence, with strawberry, pineapple and tutti-frutti yielding more strikes. Before fishing an area, a quantity of corn, soaked for 24 hours, is used as chum to lure carp in.
The St. Lawrence County Chamber has sponsored a special tagging program of carp in the St. Lawrence River. If a catch includes a small tag on the front pectoral fin, please note the date, location and weight of the catch and report it to the chamber by calling 1-877-228-7810.
Hot Spots: Ogdensburg City Docks and park near the Customs House, Wheathouse Bay, Little Sucker Brook and Whittaker Park in Waddington, Hawkins Point and Massena Intake, in Massena.
The St. Lawrence River is rich in muskie history. Art Lauton’s 64.5 inch, 69-pound, 15 ounce fish taken in 1957 is still recognized by the DEC as the current world record.
In the angling world, the muskie has been called the “fish of a hundred hours” and the “fish of a thousand casts.” When anglers go after muskie, the outing is called “a hunt” rather than a fishing trip. The muskie is at the top of the food chain in its world, and catching a trophy muskie is the ultimate challenge in freshwater fishing. There are no shortcuts to catching a big muskie.
Nearly all muskie anglers employ the same technique, trolling large minnow-plugs. Trollers work their lures in the 20- to 40-foot water depths along structural edges and the adjacent deep water. Popular plugs include Swim Whiz, Cisco Kid, Radtke Pike Minnow, and Depth Raider. Baits should be worked close to bottom and natural colors such as shiner, perch and bullhead are recommended. Evening, especially the after-dark hours, produce the best results. Muskie can be caught throughout the summer even though autumn is recognized as prime muskie season. The official season runs from the third Saturday in June through December 15 on the St. Lawrence River and from third Saturday to November 30 on other rivers. The legal measurement is a minimum of 48 inches on the St. Lawrence River and 40 inches on other rivers in St. Lawrence County.
Hot Spots: The St. Lawrence River: The channel side of Oak Island at Chippewa Bay; American Island at Morristown; the mouth of the Oswegatchie River and the International Bridge Shoals at Ogdensburg; the mouth of Whitehouse Bay, Ogden Island and the mouth of Coles Creek at Waddington; and the Town Beach, Copeland Oil Tanks, and Hawkins Point in Massena.
Muskellunge inhabit the lower stretches of the Oswegatchie, Grasse, Raquette, St. Regis and Deer rivers. While the numbers are fairly stable, catch and release is still encouraged. Because these rivers don’t have the depth of the St. Lawrence, casting opportunities are better than the trolling technique. For the most part, anglers use an electric motor or simply let the current move them along while they cast to the bank. Many anglers opt to toss surface lures, but spinners and jerk baits will also entice strikes.
The Northern Pike is the St. Lawrence River’s “fish for all seasons.” When the season opens in May, pike can be found in any bay, but the larger bays will hold more fish. Popular offerings include a minnow below a bobber, bucktail jigs with a minnow or plastic tipping, spoons, spinners, and minnow plugs.
A slow presentation is critical to early-season success. Most bays will hold pike throughout the summer, but these fish are the smaller ones. From June through September, look for larger pike along weedlines and around deep-water structure at bays’ outside edge. Casting tipped jigs or trolling deep-diving plugs are the most effective techniques. Three prime locations for autumn pike are points, weedlines and openings in the weeds.
Northern pike were introduced illegally to Cranberry Lake a number of years ago, and the species has taken hold, and fish over 15 pounds are found.
Hot Spots: Chippeawa Bay and the bay at Jacques Cartier State Park near Morristown, Wheathouse Bay and the enclosed bays at the head of Galop Island near Ogdensburg, Whitehouse Bay and Coles Creek near Waddington, and Wilson Hill Island bays and the bay at Massena Town Beach near Massena.
Panfish that are prevalent in the waters around the county include: yellow perch, rock bass, bullheads, pumpkinseeds, and black crappies. Generally good fishing for panfish include Black Lake, St. Lawrence River, Oswetachie River, Blake Reservoir and Highly Flow Reservoir and Cranberry Lake.
Yellow perch far outdistance the others in the St. Lawrence River, and frequent the River’s larger bays. They are also abundant in Black Lake. Larger fish can be found in the deeper holes during the summer. Fall catches occur in deep water off rocky pints. Minnow sand worms fished close to the bottom are the best producers throughout the open-water seasons.
Hot Spots: St. Lawrence River: Chippewa, Terrace Park, Moreley’s Coles Creek, Wilson Hill and Massena Town Beach. Black Lake: State Route 58 causeways and bridges that connect Booth Island to the mainland. Raquette River: southside of village of Norwood, Norwood Pond.
Bluegill and Bullhead are “the fighter” of Black Lake’ panfish, and like other species, spring sees gills move to shallow water where they remain until mid-June. Spring bluegills are favorite of fly fishers. Marshy areas and rocky shorelines with a gradual drop-off are prime locations. In the summer, bluegills school near weedlines, rock piles and other structures. Autumn can produce some big bluegills especially near shorelines and islands that have a combination of rocks weeds, and open water.
Hot Spots: Norwood pond on the south end, Black Lake, the bays of the St. Lawrence River near Chippewa, Coles Creek, Wilson Hill, Massena Town Beach.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation initiated a lake sturgeon recovery program in St. Lawrence County waters in 1994. Since then, thousands of sturgeon have been stocked in the Oswegatchie River and smaller numbers have been placed in Black Lake and the St. Regis River. Evidence of the program’s success is the increasing number of incidental catches reported by anglers, particularly bait fishers and particularly in the Oswegatchie River. Reports of sturgeon catches are especially common around Eel Weir and Elmdale. Anglers should note that there is no open season in NY State for sturgeon, and possession of the species is prohibited. All incidental catches should be released immediately.
Numerous lakes, ponds and rivers are known for trout in St. Lawrence County. Depending on what you are looking for and the method of catch whether fly fishing or regular line, St. Lawrence County has some of the best waters. On some of the lakes, such as Sylvia Lake, lake trout weight more than 20 pounds can be found. Annual stocking program exist on many of the lakes including Star Lake, Lake Ozonia and Portaferry. There are some restricted seasons for trout fishing. Please consult the DEC website for specific updated information. For example catch and release only is allowed on Cold Brook, Jordan River from Carry Falls Reservoir upstream to Franklin County line, South Branch Grasse River from ½ mile downstream of Route 3 upstream to Grasse River Flow from April 1-October 15 with artificial lures.
Lake Trout Hot Spots: Sylvia Lake, Trout Lake, Massawepie Lake and Lake Ozonia (splake).
Walleye rank near the top of the St. Lawrence River’s most popular species. The walleye population has increased dramatically over the past two decades. Over the course of the season, schools of walleye migrate from location to location in search of feed. Any bait shop should have information on current hot spots.
In May walleye are typically found near spawning tributaries and on adjacent structures in the main parts of the St. Lawrence. In summer walleye favor mainland points and drop-offs, island points and drop-offs, and mid-river shoals.
In autumn fish gather in large schools in deep water adjacent to summer structures. Productive techniques include drifting crawler harnesses, casting tipped jigs, and trolling deep-diving plugs. Trollers often experience their best fishing after dark.
The St. Lawrence River Walleye Association conducts five tournaments annually. For more information about the association, or walleye preservation, visit the website.
Hot Spots: Traditional walleye haunts include Chippewa Point, American Island, Ogdensburg International Bridge, Iroquois Dam, Ogden Island, Croil Island, Long Sault Islands and Robert Moses Power Dam.