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Bass and More at Angler-Friendly Black Lake

Mike Seymour

With its campgrounds, cottages, boat rentals, marinas, stores, bait shops, guides, and diners, Black Lake is an angler-friendly community offering year-round fishing opportunities.   Available species include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, black crappies, yellow perch, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, bullheads, catfish, rock bass, muskellunge, and long-nose gar.  No matter which species an angler targets, he or she is likely to catch a combination of species on any given outing.

Black Lake, the largest of the Indian River lakes, covers over 8,000 acres and extends for nearly 20 miles along St. Lawrence County Route 6.  A mixture of marsh, woodland, farmland, and cottage development characterizes the 60 miles of shoreline.  In addition to shoreline structure, fish-holding habitat includes weedy bays, weedlines, shoals, islands, drop-offs, rock piles, channels, tributaries, and necked-down areas. The lake’s maximum depth approaches 30 feet, and the average depth is eight feet.  Channels and shoals are well marked, but boaters should use a lake chart or depth finder when travelling unfamiliar areas.  Because of Black Lake’s shallow depths, high winds typically create a significant chop on the open water.  Anglers, however, can always find out-of-the-wind places to fish.

National publications have rated Black Lake among the top-ten bass waters in the country.  To protect the lake’s outstanding bass fishing, special regulations call for a minimum length of 15 inches and a daily limit of three bass.  In addition, anglers may fish for bass only during the traditional bass season that runs from the third Saturday in June until November 30.  Black Lake, like other waters in St. Lawrence County, is exempt from the statewide catch-and-release bass season.  

Largemouth Bass
Black Lake anglers target largemouth bass more than any other game fish.  These fish inhabit the lake’s entire length and are catchable throughout the open season.  The best fishing occurs in early summer and throughout the fall.  In mid-summer, the early morning and evening hours are an angler’s best bet.  Look for largemouth bass along weedlines, in openings in the weeds, around weedy shoals, and on rocky points.  Traditional offerings such as the plastic worm, jig and pig, and spinnerbait work well as do tube jigs, crankbaits, and surface lures.

Smallmouth Bass
Though not as abundant as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass thrive in the lake.  In June and early July, an angler’s best bet is to work the rocky points where crankbaits produce the top catches.  Mid-lake structures, particularly those in the southern half of the lake, are the best locations for mid-summer angling.  Summer bronzebacks inhabit deep water adjacent to the shoals and move to the shallows to feed under low-light conditions.  At this time of the year, live crayfish and Senko-type worms produce the best catches.  Smallmouth action peaks in autumn when the fish congregate on rocky shoals.  Minnows replace crayfish as the top live bait, and crankbaits also work well.

Northern Pike
The northern pike is Black Lake’s “fish for all seasons.”  Many small pike fin the waters here, but four- to seven-pound pike are very common, and double-figure weights are a real possibility at any time of the year.  Because northern pike demonstrate a preference for weed cover, these fish are literally found throughout the lake.  Spring offers some of the best pike action of the year when fish can be taken in any weedy bay particularly along a weed edge.  Try casting spinners or spoons, or suspend a live shiner below a bobber that is just big enough to support the minnow’s weight.  For the best summer action, look for pike along weedlines in a sandy or gravelly area rather than a mucky one.  Trolling minnow plugs is an effective technique, as is the use of a live shiner below a bobber.  Pike action is good throughout the fall with early autumn yielding the best catches.  Look for green weeds and cast artificial lures along weedy shoals and weedlines.  During winter, ice anglers concentrate their efforts in Mile Arm Bay, the area from Rollway Bay to Conger Island, and the massive weed flat extending from Fisherman’s Landing to Camp Carol Camps.

Walleyes
The walleye is Black Lake’s “comeback kid” as stocking efforts and habitat improvement projects on the part of the Black Lake Fish and Game Association and the DEC Region Six Fisheries Staff have resulted in a tremendous resurgence in walleye numbers.  Incidental catches occur throughout the lake, and an increasing number of anglers are targeting, and regularly catching, marble eyes.  Some anglers cast bucktail jigs tipped with a crawler, but the majority of walleye anglers troll crawler harnesses or diving minnow plugs.  The best locations have mild current present so check out the Indian River inlet, the Narrows, the Route 58 causeway, and the Oswegatchie outlet.

Black Crappies
The black crappie ranks as the lake’s most popular panfish, although bluegills, yellow perch, pumpkinseeds, and bullheads thrive here, too.  After ice-out, crappies migrate into marshy bays where the fish remain through April and early May.  These shallow-water crappies offer some of the best fishing of the year as large schools hold tight to brush or other cover.  During the spawning period of late May and early June, crappies congregate on rocky points, and the fishing remains first-rate.  Summer angling becomes more challenging as fish move to deeper water and disperse throughout the lake.  Successful outings require more searching on the part of anglers, but two prime locations to check out are shoals and weed edges.  The lake sees minimal crappie pressure in autumn, a time when the most productive spots are mid-lake shoals and rock piles.

Access
Black Lake’s primary access is a state boat launch off County Route 6, about a mile and a half southwest of Edwardsville.  This launch has parking for 75 trailers, but it can get crowded on weekends and holidays.  Most cottages and campgrounds, however, have launches for their customers.

Captain Mike Seymour is a U.S.C.G. and NYS licensed guide who offers fishing trips on the St. Lawrence River, Black Lake, and other St. Lawrence County waters.  He is a member and past president of the NYS Outdoor Writers’ Association and member of Outdoor Writers’ Association of America.  He writes a weekly newspaper column and contributes to several magazines.  He enjoys all types of fishing, and you might also see him fly fishing for brook trout on an Adirondack stream or trolling for trout and salmon on Lake Ontario.  Contact Mike at (315) 379-0235 or fishmike@twcny.rr.com.

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