Lake George Village, October Smallmouth Bass ON-THE-BITE…40 feet down!

  • Paddle-tail Jigs Entice Deepwater Smallmouth Bass during PEAK Color Foliage
  • October Fishing on Lake George offers Exhilarating FUN, Finesse Fishing    
  • Morning Fog is Part of Stirring Fishing ADVENTURE

By Forrest Fisher

Walt Lockhart with one of many smallmouth bass we landed fishing the southern basin of Lake George in eastern New York State. Forrest Fisher Photo

The air tasted fresh.  One ray of sunlight was flickering through a tall tree to the east, lighting up the top layer of fog not far from Lake George Village.  We were here to fish for October bass.

The steamy vapor of hot coffee was bidding to escape my thermos lock-top cup.  The morning chill and hot java was perfect for a wake-up solution that followed a late campfire with friends the night before.  The coffee sparked my step as I studied the heavy fog cover on Lake George at 7:15 in the morning.

Adirondack serenity was everywhere.  Nature in this Warren County (New York) location was complete with stunning foliage color.  Very satisfying.  It’s hard to find wilderness-perfect moments in time, but I knew this was one of those.

A blue heron was beak fishing for breakfast to my immediate left.  A dozen wood ducks were bobbing the weeds along a shoreline of boat docks in Dunham Bay.  Overhead, there was a flock of Canada Geese silently flapping southward high above the fog.  They were not honking, they were apparently in stealth mode, except their wings created a slick-moving wind sound that had caught my attention.  More to study about that species, I thought.  We never stop learning.  I grinned.  Getting to 70 years young and still learning, life is good when you visit Lake George.

My fishing partner for the day was an old friend and fishing guide, Frank Tennity, who had brought along his usual 35 pounds, or so, of jigs, rigs, hooks, plastic worms, hard body lures, sinkers, a few fishing rods and related “other stuff” to catch fish, no matter the conditions.

I brought my coffee cup.  Ready here.

My fishing partner, Frank Tennity, is a charter captain from Conesus Lake, NY, but he was able to charm those Lake George smallmouth bass into the boat as well.  Forrest Fisher Photo

We met up with a fishing and hunting friend of local outdoor columnist, Dan Ladd (www.ADKhunter.com).  Moored at the Dunham Bay docks, Walt Lockhart welcomed us with a warm smile to the usual October morning fog of Lake George.  One warm and hearty handshake later, we hopped aboard his very comfortable 23-foot fishing boat.  The canvas cockpit made a difference, protecting from the fresh-smelling dew.

Convenience is important when the fog is so heavy you cannot see across the road.  We enjoyed the wait and sat in the comfy, covered boat.  We talked fishing, sipped coffee, joked about alarm clocks and after about 30 minutes, we could see 100 yards.

That was our green light.

The Lowrance sonar unit provided a split screen with a plotter and GPS coordinates using the Navionics (https://www.navionics.com/usa/) Lake George depth map.  The Navionics software helped us navigate to the “right spots.”

While we came to bass fish, Lake George is more well-known for lake trout and landlocked salmon in autumn, but we were up for the challenge of smallmouth bass.  Walt knew the waters from his many years of fishing experience at Lake George and we newbies to the area had high hopes to hook up with some fish.

“We have crayfish, emerald shiner minnows and smelt as the main forage here,” Walt explained.  “So we’ll throw something that will sort of imitate all of those.  I did also bring some live shiners if you want to try those.“

Some of the rods were already rigged with a ¼ ounce jig head that featured a large thin-wire hook threaded with a 4-inch Keitech plastic paddle-tail.  I was excited.

The boat moved slowly as the motor kicked into and out of gear at Walt’s direction.  We were drifting and fishing in between motor drive connections.  We made progressive motion along the south shoreline of Dunham’s Bay toward Crooked Tree Point and Lake George Village.  We casted our lines along the drop-offs near the weedline edge there without any response from the fish, but our first morning objective was to fish the sharp drop-offs with middle-level gravel shoals near Diamond Island and Dick’s Island.

The fog slowed us down, but we arrived after about 30 minutes of careful boat control.  The rocky shoals were marked with a bright buoy line and the sonar showed fish on top of the shoals in 25 feet or so.  The sun was rising and the fog was lifting.  The water was VERY clear and clean, as I could see my jig down about 15 feet.

Using his Lowrance sonar with Navionics map chip, Walt found lots of fish for us to catch.  Forrest Fisher Photo

Our 6-pound monofilament was thin and clear, a necessary tool to catch fish here with the extreme water clarity.  Over the next 20 minutes, we caught five bass, no giants, but the fish were so healthy looking and strong.  They each jumped above the water surface and electrified the chilly morning for all of us, but Walt wasn’t happy, he wanted to find bigger fish.

The wind was calm with a slight surface movement from the south as we moved to fish the steep drop-offs near Wood’s Point and Plum Point.  As we approached visibility to Lake George Village, we found fish.

Tightly packed schools of smallmouth bass were holding 40 feet down in 80 feet of water.  The fish were less than 100 feet from shore, that’s how fast the bottom drops in this location.  The bass were there and on a binge feed.  Sheer fun!  Among the three of us, we landed and released about 30 smallmouth bass, not giants, but up to 2 pounds.  Fun fishing.  It was one exciting hour!

For size and color details on the highly effective jig tail we were tossing, visit: (http://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Keitech_Swing_Impact_FAT_Swimbait/descpage-KSIF.html), we were using the Sun Gill color.

The Keitech fat swimbait jig tails we used were VERY effective. The fish would hit them on the descent.  Forrest Fisher Photo

We carefully released all the fish as we caught them, then we moved to fish shallower water.  New challenge, same lures, the paddle-tail jigs.  We stopped to flip the docks along the Burnt Ridge Road boat slips on the way back “just to see” if any largemouth might savor an invigorating nibble for a freshly-delivered breakfast jig.

Sure enough, we hooked up with a few 2-pound largemouth bass to finish our short trip.

A complete morning, by 10:30 a.m. we were back at the dock with a late morning schedule to fill.

Our next destination was lunch with outdoor friends at the Docksider Restaurant (http://docksiderrestaurant.com/), a quaint little eatery with a cozy bar on nearby Glen Lake, just 10 minutes east.  The food was scrumptious and while there, we met other fishing friends that had just enjoyed a great morning of fishing Glen Lake for their renowned giant bluegills.

Located right on Glen Lake, 10 minutes south of Lake George Village, the Docksider Restaurant was a cozy place to relax for lunch and meet with friends. Forrest Fisher Photo

They wouldn’t tell us their fishing hotspot until we traded our Lake George smallmouth bass news.  Deal.

Tales of fishermen secrets continue every day, no matter where you are.  Even among strangers, it’s half the fun of fishing!

There is one very helpful free fishing booklet with maps, directions and tips on where to fish Adirondack lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, even offering what to use, where to access and who to call for more information.  The link: www.visitadirondacks.com, for Warren County see page 32.  For a list of local fishing guides and charter captains, or for accommodation contacts, drop a note to Kristen Hanifin at LGRCCCVB@LakeGeorgeChamber.com.

Destination Niagara USA Fishing Report for August 10, 2017

Lake Ontario – The hottest action out deep has been for steelhead off Wilson and Olcott.  Boats have been heading out to 400-500 feet of water for salmon and trout, but most of the fish have been nice steelhead taken on spoons.

Flasher-fly will work for trout but if there are kings and coho’s around, those seem to be the best baits to use. The DW 42nd spoon keeps popping up for one popular bait; for spinnies, white on white, white 2 face, and chrome green dot flashers with stud fly, purple or lime mirage fly have worked best, but other colors are working, too.

A few salmon have started to make it in closer to shore, but the best and most consistent fishing has been out deep.

The Niagara Bar is producing some nice fish, as well.

John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda was out last weekend and did well with flasher-fly 90 feet down over 100 feet of water right at the drop off.  He caught a dozen nice kings to 25 pounds.

Out of Wilson, Capt. Mike Johannes has been reporting fish about 8 miles out, but fish are also available in the 100 to 200 foot depth range.  Spoons and flasher-fly, what’s been working elsewhere, has been the hot bite.  Meat will also work for kings as we move closer to the time when salmon will be making their way in to the ports they were stocked at.

The Orleans County Rotary Derby has been plugging along slowly the past week. Mike Schaeffer of Sligo, Pa., is leading the grand prize quest with a 28 pound, 6 ounce salmon out of the Oak.  In the Salmon Division, Chase Lamb of Burt is in first place with an Olcott king that weighed 23 pounds, 15 ounces.  The contest runs through August 20th, which helps set up for one of the busiest weekends of the year as far as the fishing scene is concerned.

The Fall Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby kicks off on August 18 and runs through Labor Day.  Also on August 18, the Second Annual Reelin’ for a Cure will be held out of Wilson and Olcott from 6 a.m. to noon.  This all-ladies event will be raising funds for the Breast Cancer Network of WNY.  Last year there were 12 teams.  This year it looks like it has more than doubled!  They need boats – charter boats and rec boats – to make it all happen.  It’s a fun time for sure. Contact Stephanie Pierleoni at 481-6388 for more information or go on the event’s Facebook page.

The final contest that starts up next weekend is the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby, set for August 19th to the 27th. Six species categories for the adults and a Grand Prize of $3,000.  For the kids, it’s free to enter with loads of merchandise prizes and trophies.  Sign up at any of the LOC weigh stations or at www.fishodyssey.net.  This is for Niagara, Orleans and Erie counties. Many thanks to Jim and Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott, who do a lion’s share of the work behind the scenes, such as the website and the leaderboard.  This is a great way to get the whole family out to enjoy the waters of Western New York.

Niagara River action, both above and below Niagara Falls, has been dominated by bass, but the walleye fishing can be pretty good, too.  Bass are liking crayfish and shiners, in that order.

Walleye are liking worm harnesses and other spinner-worm combinations.  Yellow sally rigs are a local favorite in the lower river.

  Captain Ernie Calandrelli of Lewiston also hit the top walleye on the same drift, using the same bait as Fox – a softshell crab.

Bill Hilts, Jr., Outdoor Promotions Director

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303; p: 1-877 FALLS US; 716-282-8992 x. 303; f: 716-285-0809; www.niagarafallsusa.comfacebook | twitter | instagram

Destination Niagara USA Fishing Report – July 6, 2017

  • FISH: King Salmon Action is HOT
  • WHERE: Wilson Harbor, Niagara County, NY
  • LURES: A-Tom-Mik Twinkie set-ups & Dreamweaver UV Frog Spin Doctor

Lake Ontario salmon action is continuing on a consistent clip to the delight of trollers at Wilson, Olcott and the Niagara Bar.

Big King Salmon are becoming the norm off Wilson Harbor, Niagara County, NY, these last few days.

Don’t take my word for it, though, just ask Capt. Casey Prisco of Matamoras, Pennsylvania.  He was fishing in the Monroe County Offshore Classic last weekend out of Rochester and ran his boat 153 miles round trip in the one-day contest, settling in to fish off Niagara County in Wilson.  The fish zone was 71 to 111 feet down over 130 to 180 feet of water, using a Dreamweaver UV Frog spin doctor and an A-Tom-Mik Twinkie set-up.  With the A-Tom-Mik meat set out 205 feet on a diver.  Another productive rod was a 10-inch white green dot Dreamweaver spin doctor with A-Tom-Mik meat set down 91 feet.  He went 21 for 22 on fish for the morning before running back – catching nearly 84 pounds for five fish.

For local captains, the new A-Tom-Mik stud fly has also been a hot ticket for kings, too.  Earlier this week, we had some fishing writers from Germany show up in town for an “I Love NY” familiarization tour.  They did spend a few hours in the morning, catching salmon and steelhead with Capt. Mike Johannes and On-The-Rocks charters out of Wilson before travelling to their next stop.

The day before, they fished the Lower Niagara River for smallmouth bass with Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters, catching roughly 25 fish on spinnerbaits. The biggest was 6 pounds. 

Fishing with Captain Frank Campbell, visitors to the Lower Niagara River in Niagara County, NY, are cashing in on GIANT smallmouth bass, like this 6-pound bronzeback.

There are quite a few fishing contests in the month of July and two are going on right now.  They include the Lake Ontario Counties Summer Trout and Salmon Derby and the 27th Annual Erie Canal Fishing Derby.

If you are going fishing on Lake Ontario, if even for a day, make sure you sign up.  Day passes are available.  Leading fish for the $10,000 Grand Prize is Lee Beaton of Clifton Springs, NY, with a 27 pound King caught out of Wilson.  Darryl Raate of Fulton is leading the steelhead division with another Wilson fish – this one weighing 13 pounds.  Top brown is 16 pounds, 2 ounces and the first place lake trout is 22 pounds, 10 ounces. The derby continues through July 30. Go to www.loc.org for details. 

Meanwhile on the Erie Canal, the derby kicked off on Wednesday, July 5, and will continue through July 16.  There is a family pass for just $25 if you want to take advantage of a group entry fee.  The leader board is wide open.  Get out there and catch some fish.  Find out information at www.eriecanalderby.com

The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association is ready to have a party – a fishing party for its members.  You can join for just $10 and become part of the festivities, set for July 21-22 out of Olcott.  The first event on the fishing calendar is the Curt Meddaugh Memorial Tournament on Friday, a big fish contest that is free for club members.  All you have to do is register! Big fish for the day must be weighed in by 3 p.m. at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott.  On Saturday, the LOTSA Club Tournament will be going on all day.  This is a big fish contest, as well, and entry fee is $60.  Weigh in at Krull Park by 3 p.m. to be included for the cash prizes.  The final piece to the LOTSA fishing puzzle is the club’s 3-2-3 contest over the two days. Best 3 fish over 2 days of fishing, paying out the top 3 weights.  Entry fee is $50 for this portion of the contest.  The club picnic will be immediately following on Saturday and the awards will be handed out.  You can find out more information and also register for these contests at www.lotsa1.org. And speaking of LOTSA, the next meeting is July 13 at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara in Lockport, guest speaker will be Capt. Matt Yablonsky:  “Talking Small Boat King’s” at 7 p.m.

As we mentioned, bass fishing in the lower Niagara River has been decent and the moss really hasn’t been that bad.  In the upper Niagara River, bass and walleye are still cooperating at the head of the river and around Strawberry Island.  The best bait has been with a spinner and a worm.  Remember that you can now venture into Canadian waters without calling in.  Make sure you understand the live bait regulations and you are carrying a Canadian fishing license if you do cross the border. 

Bill Hilts, Jr.
Outdoor Promotions Director

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303; p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303, f: 716-285-0809; www.niagarafallsusa.com

NO SUNDAY BAY

  • Where there are no fish. 
  • Where you won’t catch the largest smallmouth of your life.
Trip leader, Tim Mead, leads a scrappy smallmouth to the boat. Jim Low Photo

By Jim Low
“There is no Sunday Bay,” intoned Tim Mead as he loaded the last huge pack into a Kevlar rental canoe. “If there is a Sunday Bay, it has no fish. If it does have fish, they won’t bite, and if they do bite, they are all small.”
He turned and looked expectantly at the rest of his party. The three of us nodded in solemn agreement and off we went.
Having been here every summer for the past 30 years, Tim took the stern seat in the lead canoe, a compass and a detailed map of Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park perched on the gear in front of him.
For the first hour and half of paddling, we occasionally heard and saw a motor boat near the American shore to our south. Then we rounded a spruce-clad point, and the motorized world disappeared.
For the next two days, the only human voices, or other sounds of civilization, we would hear were our own voices and the hiss of a Jetboil stove.

A big female snapping turtle visited us off and on for two days, trying to find a spot to lay her eggs. Jim Low Photo

We would be serenaded by loons and challenged by eagles.
We would receive multiple visits from a large and determined snapping turtle bent on laying eggs and we would catch more 3- to 5-pound bass than I ever imagined possible.
We would sleep on the ground, sip tea laced with plum brandy and fall so deeply under the spell of the Canadian boundary waters that going home would hurt.
Technically, our journey began with an 8-mile lift via johnboat to Prairie Portage, on the U.S.-Canadian border. The real adventure commenced after we checked in at the Canadian customs office and launched our two canoes into sprawling Basswood Lake.
Having read Tim’s book, Quetico Adventures, I had a good idea what to expect during our five-day trip. I was prepared for coolish weather (nighttime lows in the 40s), rain, mosquito swarms and living on dehydrated food. I thought I was prepared to encounter amazing fishing, but when the first 20-inch bronzeback darted from the depths to make a pass at my surface plug, all my mental fuses blew.
Before I knew what I was doing, I jerked the plug out of the water and shouted. Well, I shouted something I hoped my paddling partner, Mike Quinn, wouldn’t hold against me. I assume he heard worse during his years in the Navy, but what my swearing lacked in creativity, it made up for with awestruck intensity.
In 50-plus years of chasing smallmouths in Missouri, I had never seen one close to that big. In the next half hour, Mike and I landed or hooked and got good looks at the five biggest smallmouths I had ever seen in person. And we were only an hour into the first day of fishing!

Mike Quinn with a 28-inch Northern Pike.  Jim Low Photo

Over the following four days, we caught bass until our arms ached. Tim caught one largemouth bass whose mouth could comfortably accommodated a softball. He estimated its weight around 8 pounds, not a monster by Southern standards, but not bad for a fish species living outside its original native range and competing with fish their ancestors never had to contend with.
These included northern pike between two and three feet long and smallmouth bass that would have sent their Show-Me State kin dashing for cover. Boundary Waters smallies aren’t just long; they are built like defensive tackles, and they fight like demons, alternately burrowing toward the bottom and executing head-shaking jumps that would do a tarpon proud.
The smallmouth bass here bit with equal verve on everything from plastic grubs to Zara Spooks.
They bit at high noon, and at dusk, and at dawn.