Fishing Within the Blue
A guide to the top five places to fish within the boundaries
of the Adirondack Park.
Story by John
Photos by Noah Fitzgerald
are over three thousand lakes and 30,000 miles of river in the Adirondacks.
That said, finding a good place to fish within the Adirondack
Park “blue line” boundary is a pretty simple task. However,
there are some places that are without question the best places to fish.
to John Sweeny, a licensed guide at the AuSable
River Sport Shop and Adirondack fisherman for forty-seven years, "The
Adirondacks provide some of the best fishing in the East with good aquatic
life, dependable hatches, and a good number of fish per mile."
"The Adirondacks provide some of the best
fishing in the East."
variety of easily accessible waters including rivers, lakes, streams, and
ponds, as well as the variety of fish species, gives anglers plenty of
options and opportunities while fishing in the Adirondacks," says
Chris Williamson, owner of Jones
trip should be more of a sport and less of a quest, so I will identify
the "top five" fishing locations in the Adirondacks. I will
also identify what fish occupy this water and the most effective methods
of catching these animals, as well as location and accessibility.
1. AuSable River
Francis Betters refers to the AuSable River as “The Legendary AuSable”
in the book Good Fishing in the Adirondacks. It is often agreed
that this river is the best trout stream in the East. Beginning as a small
tributary atop Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Park before running east
through Essex and Clinton counties, the AuSable River eventually empties
into Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh. According to Betters, “unpolluted
water, a proper temperature range, a good supply of oxygen, a plentiful
food supply, and cover,” make the AuSable a prime place to fish.
The AuSable is considered by many to be the blue-chip trout river of the East.
restricts anglers to fishing most of the river from April 1 until October
15-the standard fishing season in many upstate counties. However, the
30-mile West Branch is open year-round. Be aware that some areas are restricted
to catch and release and some are off-limits to fishing.
According to Betters, the most effective lures to use in the faster sections
of the AuSable are spinners-handmade lures fashioned with skirts and beads
to look like a bug or small minnow. Spinners include Panther Martins,
Mepps, Roostertails, C.P. Swings, or Swiss Swings. For medium to slower
sections, he recommends Phoebes or Rapala lures, which are crank baits
made to resemble small minnows. Another option, of course, are live baits,
such as minnows, worms, or the traditional fly. Colors and sizes of flies
vary and different fashions are used according to what bugs are in the
air and on the water at the time.
The Department of Environmental Conservation heavily stocks the West Branch
with rainbow and brook trout each spring, the area's main species of fish.
Most range from 8 to 18 inches; however, deep pools along this stretch
has yielded trout as big as 8 pounds. Smallmouth bass, northern pike,
and walleye can also be caught out of the AuSable in warmer, slower sections.
The most scenic section of the river is in Lake Placid, where the river
flows by the Olympic ski jumps. Easily accessible by Route 86, this area
is open year-round to catch and release fishing.
2. Lake George
Shaped by retreating glaciers and filled by runoff from the nearby Adirondack
Mountains and Green Mountains, Lake George's 32-miles of crystal clear
water, along with its historical significance, landed a number two spot
on the list.
Lake George is known as "Americas most beautiful lake."
can take many approaches to fishing depending on what he or she wishes
to land. For landlocked salmon and lake trout, an angler needs a boat
to access the deep water in the wider, middle part of the lake where depths
can reach over 100 feet. During the midsummer months, lake trout and salmon
are lazy and difficult to catch. In early spring, however, landlocked
salmon and lake trout actively feed in the shallow waters near the shore.
Brown and rainbow trout prefer cooler waters with plenty of cover and
are a rare catch.
For largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel, northern pike, and pan fish,
the many warm, shallow bays and narrows are hot with action. Bass love
cover and structure, so weedless rigs and crank baits fished around rocks,
fallen trees, docks, and any other manmade or natural cover is the best
plan to catch this animal.
“America's most beautiful lake” offers year-round fishing in a picturesque
environment. The lake is dotted with 365 islands, forty-seven of
which are maintained by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
These islands are available for camping with permit. For $18, anglers,
campers, and outdoor lovers alike can have overnight access to one of
Lake George is located off exits 20 to 28 of New York Interstate 87. The
“narrows” divides the North and South Basins. The densely populated South
basin is where the village is located, and population density diminishes
as you move north toward the wetlands. A boat would be most effective
on the lake, while there are many docks and piers to fish in the village.
Lake George has long been a popular tourist destination offering shopping,
dining, lodging, live music, and mini-golf in the village as well as a
theme park nearby. Lake George is also the home of many events such as
the Americade motorcycle rally in the summer and the Winter Carnival in
3. Lake Champlain
Surrounded by the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains,
there is no shortage of scenery on Lake Champlain, the country's sixth-largest
freshwater lake, which offers the most variety of fishing in the Adirondacks.
Lake Champlain is the sixth-largest freshwater lake and serves
as a border between Vermont and New York.
In the shallow,
cool waters of Lake Champlain, anglers will find schools of smallmouth
and largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, pickerel, crappie, and sunfish.
In the deep waters, brown trout, landlocked salmon, lake trout, and even
an occasional steelhead are potential catches. Lake Champlain bottoms
out at over 400 feet deep between Port Kent, New York and Burlington,
Vermont. Southern portions of the lake are too shallow for fishing.
Due to its size and rocky shoreline, experienced anglers recommend fishing
the lake by boat. This action allows an angler to cover more area
as well as access many islands, such as Valcour Island near Plattsburgh. However,
Lake Champlain is often rough and storms sweep in without warning, so
anglers and boaters need to pack the proper safety equipment and be prepared
to take cover in case of one. Boat launches can be found along the western
shore, including ramps in Ticonderoga, Port Henry, Plattsburgh, Point
Au Roche, and Chazy. There is good fishing in the Rouses Point vicinity,
as well, but there is limited accessibility.
Late spring to early fall is the best time for fishing on Lake Champlain,
while the lake is a popular ice-fishing destination in the winter months.
The best lures to use vary depending on what you are trying to catch.
Rubber worms, live minnows, and spinner baits are best for bass, while
deep diving spoon baits attached to down riggers are best for catching
lake trout and salmon in the deeper water.
While fishing on Lake Champlain, take the opportunity to fish the many
tributaries that feed the lake such as the “Legendary” AuSable, the “Mighty”
Saranac, and the “Great” Chazy Rivers.
4. Saranac River
Just miles from the AuSable, the “Mighty” Saranac River begins in the
Adirondack High Peaks before flowing east through Franklin, Essex, and
Clinton counties, eventually emptying into Lake Champlain.
section of the Saranac near SUNY-Plattsburgh.
More of an
industrial river, the Saranac has long been used for cooling purposes
by a number of hydroelectric plants. This shouldn't discourage anglers,
however, because the Saranac still offers a variety of fish. Water conditions
have improved fish habitat by the varying temperatures.
A majority of the Saranac offers year-round fishing unless marked otherwise. Many
spots prohibit the use of live bait, and since their waters are similar,
the same lures listed above for the AuSable apply to the Saranac.
Walleye, smallmouth, trout, and northern pike, steelhead, and landlocked
salmon can all be caught in the Saranac. The type of fish you catch will
likely depend on the speed and temperature of the water. While trout and
salmon like cold, fast moving water, walleye, pike, and bass tend to like
warmer, slow moving water.
Along its path to Lake Champlain, the Saranac passes under many bridges
and over a dam. One section flows behind the State
University of New York Plattsburgh campus, making access very easy.
5. Schroon Lake
Fed by runoff from the Adirondack and Green Mountains, the 9-mile long
Schroon Lake offers great year-round fishing in the heart of the Adirondacks.
Its serene setting and quality fishing landed a spot on the top five.
Lake can be found off exits 26 to 28 of I-87 by following Route 9.
Landlocked salmon, lake trout, brown trout, large and smallmouth bass,
northern pike, yellow perch, smelt, rock bass, and sunfish can all be
found throughout the lake. Trolling by boat is the most effective method
to fishing on the lake. Much like Lake George and Lake Champlain, the
best seasons for fishing are fall and spring. Free boat launches are available
both in the Village of Schroon Lake and in the town of Horicon, on the
northern tip of the lake.
in the North Country are blessed with an abundance of good fishing.
For those with outdoor experience looking for an adventure, the way to
finding these remote lakes, ponds, and streams is to get a map and go
bushwhacking. To make it easier, guide services are available to bring
less map-savvy anglers to these fishing paradises.
you have any good Adirondack fishing tales?
Here is a
list of guide services that offer fishing, camping and hiking trips in
the Adirondacks. Trips are specialized for full and half day trips and
payment options. Group plans are available.
River Sport Shop
in taking a trip to these fishing spots? Here are maps of the bodies of
water and surrounding areas.