Ice cover disappeared early in 2021 along eastern Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, meaning spring fishing season is upon us! Here’s where and how to take advantage of our prime, low-fishing-pressure season.
March and April on the St. Lawrence River
Early spring along the river is all about those tasty perch. Our perch density is so high here that northeastern Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River – think Cape Vincent through Chippewa Bay – is the only place in New York without a daily limit! In spring, anglers-in-the-know head to shallow bays of 15 feet and less to fill buckets of post-spawned jack perch. A pail full of nothing under 10 inches is the norm and some of these light-rod benders are in excess of 13 inches! Serious perch anglers visit annually from New York and Pennsylvania to fil coolers and it’s a great time to get kids hooked due to all of the action. Find a map of lake and river boat launches with our friends over at Lake Ontario Fishing.
Check with local bait stores for the latest hot spots, layer up the clothing since days can fluctuate from cool to downright hot and have your filet knives sharp because a lot of work is in store once you get ashore.
Walleyes and Northern pike
The pike season starts May 1 on the New York side, and a couple of spots here are legendary for spring walleyes, so much so that the current state record for walleye – 18 pounds, 2 ounces, — was caught spring fishing along the river. One of the top spots for spring ‘eyes in all of New York is northeastern Lake Ontario out of Henderson Harbor. The walleyes are so plentiful here that some charter captains exclusively focus on spring walleyes with great success. We won’t name names but there are some easily recognizable New Yorkers who come north to Henderson Harbor each spring to load up on walleyes with our charter captains. If you’re looking to launch yourself, check out the ramps map and directory at Lake Ontario Fishing.
Another popular spot is Wheathouse Bay near the Ogdensburg-Prescott international bridge. The walleyes are drawn by the warmer water and an armada of small fishing boats will signal where to go. Some absolute monsters are lurking here, and walleye anglers who know their stuff have spring fishing this section of the St. Lawrence River atop their lists. Anglers headed here for the season opener and subsequent days often stay in hotels and motels – as well as cottages and private campgrounds that open early – near the Alexandria Bay area and then shoot up Route 12 toward Ogdensburg in the early mornings.
Fishing the big water in spring
April 1 is the opening of salmon and trout season in New York, which means you’re headed to the open waters of Lake Ontario out of places like Henderson Harbor and Sackets Harbor. While both salmon and trout are a possibility, spring here is mostly about the browns and lake trout. Best to hook up with a charter captain if you’ve never gone because these fish can be a challenge to track based on water temperatures. They’ll get you rigged and ready but it’s up to you to reel ‘em in. While you’re here, make a date for a summer return to pursue salmon. Plenty of low-key places to stay await in and around Henderson Harbor though there’s some full-service places in Sackets Harbor and nearby Watertown if that’s more your thing.