Walleyes rank near the top of the river’s most popular species list. The walleye population has increased dramatically during the past several decades thanks to habitat improvements in Ontario and a stocking program undertaken jointly by local private groups and Region Six DEC fisheries personnel.
Check local fishing forecasts and at area bait shops for information on current hotspots. In May walleyes are typically found near spawning tributaries and on adjacent structures in the main river.
Summer walleyes favor mainland points and drop-offs, island points and drop-offs, and mid-river shoals. Autumn fish gather in large schools in deep water adjacent to summer structures.
Where: Stark Reservoir, Carry Falls Reservoir, St. Lawrence River, Black Lake, and Oswegatchie River.
Bait: drifting crawler harnesses, casting tipped jigs, and trolling deep-diving plugs. Trollers often experience their best fishing after dark.
Smallies can be caught from June through November, but bronzebacks are the 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.
Where: St. Lawrence River, Black Lake, Cranberry Lake, Blake Reservoir, Oswegatchie River
Bait: Casting artificial lures such as spinners, minnow-imitation plugs, surface baits, and tipped jigs works well in early season. When fish leave spawning areas and move to deeper water, live bait (minnows or crayfish) and tipped jigs work well. Some anglers drift through areas while others anchor on key spots.
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.
Because of cool water temperatures and significant current flows, the river’s habitat is better suited for smallmouth bass than it is for largemouth bass. Largemouths are generally an overlooked species but they are present in the system.
The early morning hours offer the best action during the summer, but autumn is the most productive time of the year for largemouths.
Find them in Black Lake, Lows Lake, Grass Lake, Yellow Lake, and Tooley Pond.
Bucketmouths can be found in the backwaters of most large bays.
Bait: Plastic worm, jig and pig, and surface baits work well.
The St. Lawrence has a variety of panfish including yellow perch, rock bass, bullheads, pumpkinseeds, and black crappies. Both shore anglers and boaters pursue panfish. Yellow perch outdistance the other species in popularity, and anglers catch them year round in all of the river’s larger bays.
Bullhead fishing marks the end of winter and beginning of spring on the angler’s calendar. This species receives significant angler attention in April and May, and nightcrawlers are the bait of choice.
Where: The Waddington to Massena stretch of river offers first rate bullhead fishing.
The St. Lawrence River is rich in muskie history. That history includes the “fishing couples,” Art and Ruth Lawton and Betty Hartman, as well as legendary guides Jim Evans and Al Russell.
Evening, especially after dark, produces the best results. Muskies can be caught throughout the summer even though autumn is recognized as prime muskie season.
Where: St. Lawrence River, Grasse River, Oswegatchie River, Horseshoe Lake (tigers), and Carry Falls Reservoir (tigers)
Best places included the mouth of Whitehouse Bay, Ogden Island, the mouth of Coles Creek at Waddington, and the Town Beach, Coupland Oil Tanks, and Hawkins Point at Massena.
Bait: Trolling large minnow-plugs, Trollers work their lures in 20 to 40 foot water depths along structural edges and the adjacent deep water. Popular plugs include Swim Whiz, Cisco Kid, Radtke Pike Minnow, Suick, and Depth Raider. Baits should be worked close to bottom and natural colors such as shiner, perch and bullhead are recommended.
This is a 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.
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 a bay’s outside edge. Casting tipped jigs or trolling deep-diving pugs are the most effective techniques. Three prime locations for autumn pike are pints, weedlines, and openings in the weeds.
Find them in the St. Lawrence River, Black Lake, Yellow Lake, Grass Lake, and Oswegatchie River.
A few pike hotspots Whitehouse Bay and Coles Creek Bay near Waddington and Wilson Hill Island bays and the bay at Massena Town beach near Massena.
Bait: a minnow below a bobber, bucktail jigs with a minnow, or plastic tipping, spoons, spinnres, and minnow plugs. A slow presentation is critical to early-season success.
Carp are powerful fish whose fighting ability pushes any angler’s skill and tackle to the limit. With deep-surging runs and arm-wrenching power, carp provide a fight that has to be experienced to be believed. And since carp fishing is generally done from the shore, or bank side, the excitement is available to all.
New York State law permits the fishing of carp all year long, but anglers generally restrict their efforts to May through ice-up. June, July, and August are the most popular months because they yield the biggest and the most fish. Catches of 20 to 30 fish per person per day are common. Carp can be caught throughout the day, but the best action occurs around dawn and dusk. St. Lawrence River banks and islands are a great place to catch them.
Bait: Large spinning reels capable of casting 20-30 yards from shore.