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Outdoor Journal: Mohawk River structure holds smallmouths

Outdoor Journal: Mohawk River structure holds smallmouths

Outdoors columnist Ed Noonan continues with his two-part series, a guide to fishing the Mohawk River

This week, in the second of a two-part series on fishing the Mohawk River, we head south and east from the Mohawk Valley Marina and spend a little time tossing top-water baits into the shoreline directly across from the launch.

I mentioned this area last week, but it deserves more attention.

It’s definitely an area to fish every time you’re in the Lock 7-8 pool. When you reach the large stone abutment ruins, fish around green marker buoys 71 and 71A, then go directly across the river, north, and work the abutment ruin there. Both sides of the abutments hold smallmouths, but be careful because there are quite a few sub-surface rocks that chew up props. It’s best to wear pol­arized sunglasses and navigate with an electric trolling motor.

Fishing on the Mohawk

To read the first installment of outdoor writer Ed Nooan's adventures on the Mohawk, click here .

Just a few hundred yards east on the north side, there’s a long and narrow rocky outcropping which is actually an old wing dam. Work this on both sides thoroughly with plastic baits. I would start with a weightless wacky worm rig, and if that doesn’t work, try tubes and spider jigs. You can easily catch a legal limit — five fish 12 inches or larger — of smallmouth bass here. When finished, move right into the north shore line and work it with the same lures all the way east to the Rexford Bridge, Route 146.

At the bridge, cross over to the south side and fish the remnant of the historic Rexford Aqueduct. Use your electric trolling motor or paddles around this structure and watch for subsurface rocks. But these same rocks will also hold smallies. Work the deeper side of the structure, dropping your jigs or worms tight to the abutments and let them fall straight down. For shallow areas that can’t be navigated, cast a white/chartreuse quarter-ounce willow leaf spinnerbait and retrieve it just under the surface. For more attraction add a three-inch white twister tail trailer.

Continue working the south shoreline with both the spinnerbait and the plastics down river just past and around the bend by green buoy 61, then cross back to the north side of the river to red buoy 58. This is another area where several different lures can be used.

My first choice before the sun gets too high is a Pop-R around the inlet leading to the back bay of the Schenectady Yacht Club. Do not go in the inlet or fish around the docked boats, but work the points on each side thoroughly, and then continue down the to the small island. Fish the outside of the

island, first with the top-water bait and then the plastics. Concentrate on both the western and eastern ends of the island. and depending upon the water depth, try to work around the back side. If the water gets too shallow to navigate, toss that spinnerbait as far as possible into the shallower water before leaving.

Continuing down river on the north side is a series of flats, several hundred yards long, that attract baitfish, and they attract schooling smallmouths all the way down to red buoy 56A. Once again, spinnerbaits and top-water lures can bring them up with their mouths open, but don’t overlook dragging tubes or spider grubs jigs along the bottom. If the current is right and not too swift, I like to drag and bottom-bounce with either or both of these two jigs, or just pull along a four-inch worm on a Carolina rig.

Directly across the river from red buoy 56A is green buoy 59 and right behind that is a little weedy, rocky cove. Often overlooked because of it’s shallow depth, it can be a pleasant surprise and definitely worth a few casts. My two choices here — and anywhere there are sparse weeds on the Mohawk — are the wacky worm and jigs; and they should be fished slowly.

From there down on the southern shoreline where the steep cliff area begins, various type of weeds grow above and beneath the surface. As a bass angler, when I see weeds, I see a “bass hideout,” and whenever I’m on this stretch of the Mohawk, I spend time fishing all these patches. And that includes actually fishing right into the middle including where the weeds meet the rock cliffs. I do get hung up, and I use heavier tackle. When you hook up with a bass in this jungle, the only way to get it out and in the boat is to use heavy tackle.

Also on south side of the river, there are two small waterfalls coming off of the cliffs and emptying into the river. One is near green buoy 55, the other across from red buoy 54. Right now, with the heavy rains we’ve had, these falls are running strong and should definitely by fished. Cast right into the falls where it enters the river with either of the lead-headed jigs. The smallmouths and other gamefish are attracted to these areas because there is a constant flow of food brought in by the falls.

The biggest walleye I ever caught on the Mohawk, just over five pounds, came from the falls by green buoy 55 during a Capital District Bassmaster’s club bass tourn­ament. Also fish a 25-foot semi-circle around these falls where bass and other game fish will often school waiting for food to wash out to them.

Another spot in this vicinity anglers often overlook is a patch of weeds right below the Llenroc mansion sitting on the top of the cliff. You can’t miss this beautiful piece of architecture overlooking the Mohawk.

The weedbed there is an ideal hiding place for river smallies. The flats are quite extensive and attract all types of baitfish. There are both surface and sub-surface weeds there. Try the surface and spinnerbait first, then if no action, switch to the plastics and fish them slowly.

There’s one other technique I like to use for smallmouths in shallow rocks, step down ledges leading into the channel, open flats, main river points and over sunken weeds — a three-inch white Mister Twister Tail on a quarter-ounce leadhead jig. Make long casts and when the bait hits the water close the bail on a spinning reel or engage the spool on a baitcasting reel, hold the rod tip up about eye level and let the lure free-fall about 8-10 inches beneath the water. Then, with the rod tip at about a 45-degree angle to the water, begin a slow, steady retrieve, just fast enough to make that curly tail do its job.

Next, fire up the gas engine and head on down toward Lock 7. About three quarters of a mile from the lock dam, there are houses on the north side of the river. Start about 100 yards before the first house and work both the weed lines and the shore lines with all the baits. I start with the wacky worm, espec­ially for tight-to-shore fishing. The jigs seem to work a little better in the weeds and along their edges. As the summer progresses, many of these weeds can be flipped for smallmouths. Once in a while, there is a good largemouth to be had.

Also, don’t be afraid to fish the docks. Just be careful with your casts and respect the owner’s property (boat and dock).

In the lock area, there are several good fishing spots, but take care not to impede boat traffic in and out of the lock. And a word of warning: Do not go inside the danger buoys that line the river in front of the falls. Always stay completely upstream of them. In fact, I recommend not going within 500 yards of these buoys.

Several hundred feet upstream of the lock doors is a wooden wall. Start at the west end of this wall and work in, slowing down towards the lock, using a weightless wacky worm in black with silver flakes. There’s some overhanging veget­ation there. Try to get under it. It’s plenty deep enough to hold the four-pound, three-ounce smallie I caught in the same bass tournament in which I caught the five-pound walleye.

The final stop on this trip should be the back bay of Lock 7 in Canal Park. Shore anglers usually fish this area, but they can’t reach the tight water chestnut patch in the center of the bay. Chances of hooking up with a largemouth there are very good. Fish these edges thoroughly and if that fails, tie on and peg a half- or three-quarter ounce slip sinker and hook up a worm Texas style (weedless). This will allow you to fish right in the heavy weeds without too many hang-ups. Be sure to use heavy tackle you’ll need to haul them out of that cover.

RIVER BASS-KIT

Here’s a list of the lures you should have when fishing for summertime Mohawk River bass. For topwater, Rebel Pop-Rs with orange bellies; shad, white of gray soft jerk baits; quarter-ounce willow-leaf spinnerbaits in white and white/chartreuse with matching Mr. Twister trailers; pumpkin seed, green pumpkin and motor oil tubes and spider grubs on quarter-ounce jig heads; and four- to five-inch black with metal flake wacky worms fished with 2/0 and 3/0 wide gap hooks.

DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK

Have you ever caught a freshwater drum? Steve Oathout of Clifton Park caught two recently in the Mohawk River. Both were taken from shore on crayfish with 12-pound-test and a two-ounce bank weight. The two drums weighed six and eight pounds.

Similarly, Pete Isaacson of Alb­any caught a drum fishing from his kayak by the Corning Preserve boat launch on the Hudson River. Pete was using small raw shrimp fished on the bottom when his 29.25-inch, 11.96-pound drum hit.

The New York state record freshwater drum weighed 24 pounds, eight ounces, and was caught by Greg Netto in Chaumont Bay on Lake Ontario in June 2005.

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