On Saturday, the New York state season for the No. 1 sought-after freshwater fish, the black bass, will open.
Always one of the most popular opening days, large and smallmouth bass attract anglers to their favorite lakes and rivers in pursuit of these exciting gamefish. Those of us who have taken advantage of the “catch and release only” preseason bass fishing regulation during May and early June have experienced some exciting rod-bending action
from the spawning bass. I’ve received reports of seven-pound, six-pound and several five-pound largemouths taken from local waters, as well as one five-pound river smallmouth. I hooked up with one of the five-pound largemouths earlier this week and a few two- to four-pounders at Saratoga Lake during a pouring rain.
More recent reports indicate that the spawning in most lakes and rivers is over, and therefore, we should expect regular fishing conditions. But my experience last Sunday was encouraging. I caught several nice three-pound largemouths on my favorite wacky worm rig. The spawn may be over, but the bass are still there, still hungry and biting. I checked the long-range forecast for this weekend and thought it quite amusing. The three forecasts I looked at predicted 20, 30 and 68 percent chances of precipitation. I suggest you bring your rain gear and go, and don’t worry; the bass don’t mind the rain.
Here are some suggestions on where to go for bass this weekend.
GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE
For smallmouth bass, this lake touches the shores of four counties and is one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the Northeast. These feisty gamefish can be caught almost everywhere on its 27,000 acres. A good choice for opening day, and especially during this early season, is to put your boat into the water at the Northville launch on Route 30 and fish the river. Fish north, all around the island and both shorelines. There’s plenty of rock and weed structure, and it all can hold good smallmouths. Heading right from the launch, fish the right side, under the bridge and continue on that shoreline up to Hampton Point and the Sport Island Pub.
The Mayfield-Broadalbin area also has a number of very good smallmouth areas. The easiest way to reach them is to launch at the Broadalbin Launch on Route 110. From there, boaters have access to Scout Island, Beacon Island, Vandenburgh Point, Mayfield Bay and a number of other good smallmouth bays. Watch the shoreline carefully. There are stone fences that appear to end at the water; but not all of them do. Find those that extend into the water, and there should be smallies there. Click here for a list and map of all the public state launch locations.
This lake shouldn’t be a surprise. It continues to produce both large numbers and good-quality largemouths. There were plenty of big bass caught there during the spawn, and they’re still there. I’m sure there’ll be a number of bass boats there this weekend and every weekend thereafter because it’s still a favorite stop of many of the bass clubs and cast-for-cash tournaments. But don’t let that bother you. There are plenty of bass to go around.
Picking a special spot on Saratoga Lake is difficult because there’s plenty of action on the main lake and down Fish Creek. On the main lake, the outside weedlines in Manning’s Cove, Chinatown and the north and south sides of Snake Hill are all good. Also, don’t overlook the danger buoys in the middle of the lake. The shallow water there is covered with sunken weeds and surrounded by deeper water which is ideal for both large and smallmouth bass.
Fish Creek is another area that shouldn’t be overlooked. This is an ideal place for smaller boats to get away from the busy main lake. Fish from the state boat launch downstream. Both sides have excellent bass structure. Across from the launch and just beyond Saratoga Boat Works Marina, there’s a 10-feet-plus-deep weedline that continues almost all the way down to the first bend in the creek. On the boat launch side, there are heavy surface and subsurface weeds that also can be very bass-productive. That same good structure continues on both sides all the way down and past the bridge at Stafford’s Bridge Road.
If you plan to fish Saratoga Lake this weekend, the state launch is open and there’s still no charge. However, there’s still quite a bit of equipment taking up the main launch parking. There’s also paid launching available at Lee’s Park next to the state launch and South Shore Marina on Route 9P at the south end of the lake.
For those who want to get away from the crowd or don’t have a boat, there are some excellent bass fishing opportunities. The Lake Lonely Boat Livery on Crescent Avenue in Saratoga Springs offers a paid boat launch, limited shore fishing and rental boats with or without electric motors.
Ballston Lake is another small lake with a very big bass reputation. There’s a paid launch at the Good Times Restaurant on Lake Road and a large fishing pier with a parking lot on Outlet Road.
Covering 1,370 acres, Peck’s Lake in Gloversville has a good population of both large and smallmouth bass. There’s a shore fishing area on Route 29A, but you must first check in with the Peck’s Lake Marina. The marina and its paid launch are located on Peck’s Lake Road, off of Route 29A. The marina also has boat rentals. There are boat and motor regulations for those who want to use their own, so it’s best to go to their website at www.peckslake.com, or call them at 725-1294 for details.
— The Lake Lonely Boat Livery will host its one angler/one bass, Tuesday afternoon tournaments, beginning next week. Tournament hours are 5-8 p.m. The entry fee is $10 with a 100 percent payback. The livery will offer entrants a boat and electric trolling motor rental for $15. For further information, call 587-1721.
— South Shore Marina will host Wednesday afternoon partner/single tournaments, also beginning next week. Tournament hours are 5-8 p.m. The entry fee is $49, and includes the launch and lunker fees. Rules include a three-bass limit, artificial lures only and all bass must be weighed in alive. The top 10 in each event receive points. The top 10 at the end of season will compete in the championship tournament. For further information, call 584-9125.
— Saratoga Tackle’s Bass Challenge partners/singles tournaments start Thursday, June 23, on Saratoga Lake with take-off and weigh in at Lee’s Park from 5-8 p.m. The entry fee is $60 with a $10 optional lunker fee. There is a five-bass limit, artificial lures only and all fish weighed in must be alive. If you weigh in a short fish (less than 12 inches), you’ll be disqualified. All fish must be kept in a livewell. For further information, call 584-3952.
— The Mohawk Masters Singleman tournaments will kick off their 19th season Saturday on the Mohawk River at the AlCathy boat launch at the end of Flight Road, Waterford. Entry fee is $45, $5 for lunker, and tournament hours are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is a five-bass limit, and contestants can enter at the launch.
— Also Saturday, the Greenbush Bass Association will host its partners/single tournament on Saratoga Lake at the state boat launch. Entry fee is $75. There’s a five-bass limit. Contestants can enter at the launch.
— The Schenectady Elite Open tournament, scheduled for Saratoga Lake Sunday, has been canceled.
Have you ever thought about fishing a bass tournament? One of the best ways to begin is by joining a local bass club. I started in the early 1980s when I joined the newly formed Capital District Bassmasters. Anyone can join these clubs, and you don’t have to have a bass boat or any boat. You can join as a non-boater. As a non-boater, you’ll fish the inter-club tournaments with a different boater for each tournament and will be competing only against other non-boaters. But I must warn you, once you get bass tournament fever, there could be a bass boat in your future. I worked my way through over a dozen different bass boats, and I am still looking at them.
In terms of the inter-club competition, they have minimal entry fees and are held on weekends, usually at different nearby waters. The cash awards are nice, but the real reward is the trophies and the fun you can have with the bragging rights. After a few tournaments, you’ll see your skills start to improve. There’s no better way to learn bass fishing than fishing with other bass fishermen. Everyone has something you can learn; and you have something you can teach, and the friendships made in these clubs will last a lifetime.
For a list of the bass clubs in our area, go to www.nybassfed.com and start your bass tournament fishing the right way.