Lake Champlain, Raystown Lake, Kennebec River, Eastern Lake Ontario, Upper Chesapeake Bay
Vermont and New York
Smallmouth and largemouth bass, lake and brown trout, steelhead, landlocked salmon, northern pike, pickerel, walleye
21 When the first B.A.S.S. tournament was held on Lake Champlain, daily five-fish limits weighing 15 to 20 pounds had the biggest names in bassdom gushing with praise for the long, lovely lake of the North.
“Lake Champlain has to be one of the best bass fisheries in the country,” says Roland Martin, who turned in a final-day bag of largemouths averaging 41/2 pounds to win the inaugural Lake Champlain Top 100. “It’s got a ton of fish.”
What sets Lake Champlain apart is its vast size and diverse mix of rocky points; gravelly shoals; and shallow, weedy bays and river mouths-to say nothing of countless log cribs, docks, bridge pilings, and other man-made structures. With a surface area of 435 square miles and almost 600 miles of shoreline, it has tens of thousands of acres of prime cover for both smallmouths and largemouths, some of which is seldom fished.
The big lake also has a mix of other warmwater favorites, as well as a promising trout and salmon fishery that should only get better, thanks to a renewed sea lamprey control program.
Sweet Spots: **Missisquoi, Bulwagga, and Mallets Bays
**What’s Hot: Spinnerbaits, jig-and-pigs, plastic worms and lizards, tube baits
Local Advice: “A lot of guys get overwhelmed by the size of Lake Champlain, and they run around and catch squat,” says Gilly Gagner of Bronzeback Guide Service. “You’ve got to break the lake down into sections, and stay in one section and learn it.”
Prime Time: May through October
Record Fish: Vermont state records for landlocked salmon (12.65 pounds) and smallmouth bass (6.75 pounds)
**More Info: **Bronzeback Guide Service, 802-868-4459
Striped, largemouth, and smallmouth bass; lake and brown trout; walleye; muskie
22 Raystown Lake, a serpentine, 28-mile-long impoundment, offers a heady array of prize catches-from 40-pound stripers to 6-pound smallmouths-but they do not come easily. Pennsylvania’s largest inland lake is steep, deep, and hard to fish.
“What makes it worth the effort is it produces more big fish of all species than any lake I’ve ever seen,” says Sparky Price of Trophy Guide Service.
Striped bass that routinely weigh 20 pounds and hefty smallmouth and largemouth bass are the main draw. But the 8,300-acre lake also has trophy muskies, abundant lake trout, and an excellent fishery for walleyes that average 7 pounds.
Sweet Spots: Brumbaugh Bay and Aitch Cove for black bass and crappies
What’s Hot: Stickbaits and bucktails for stripers in spring and fall
Local Advice: **”Guys who come to Raystown and flip the banks for bass like they see on TV are going to be in for a long day,” Price says. “You have to develop a mind-set that you’re going to fish deeper than you’ve ever fished before.”
**Prime Time: April through October
Record Fish: 53-pound 12-ounce state-record landlocked striped bass
More Info: Trophy Guide Service, 814-627-5231; www.trophyguide.com
Brook, rainbow, and brown trout; landlocked salmon; smallmouth bass; shad; striped bass
23Fans of the Kennebec like to call it the Yellowstone of the East. They may be selling the Maine river short. To be sure, it has excellent hatches and superb big-river fishing for browns and rainbows, but that’s just for starters.
“The beauty of the Kennebec is that from beginning to end there’s something for everyone,” says local guide Carroll Ware. “Bass or trout, salmon or stripers, wade fishing or float trips, you can do it all.”
Sweet Spots: **Wyman Dam in Bingham downstream to Gadabout Gaddis Airport for rainbows, brookies, salmon, whitefish, and bass. Phippsburg to Popham Beach for stripers
**What’s Hot: Caddis and bluewing olive imitations for trout. Bucktails, plastic-tailed jigs, and Clouser Minnows for stripers
Local Advice: “The Kennebec is basically a series of tailwaters, so if you don’t want to go for a swim while wading, keep an eye over your shoulder to watch for rising water,” Ware says.
Prime Time: May through July, September through October
More Info: Guide Carroll Ware, 207-474-5430. Fishing reports: www.flyfishinginmaine.com
Eastern Lake Ontario
Chinook, coho, and landlocked Atlantic salmon; lake, brown, and rainbow trout; steelhead; smallmouth and largemouth bass; northern pike; walleye
24The record books say it all. Eastern Lake Ontario and its tributaries make up the finest, most easily accessible trophy trout and salmon fishery in North America. Home to 10 current world records and three state records, the Big O’s eastern basin is like no other fishery in the East.
“I’ve fished here 30 years, and I’m still amazed,” says Capt. Ernie Lantiegne of Fish Doctor Charters. “Where else do you regularly see 20-pound browns and steelhead, and 30-pound chinook salmon that at times are so thick they practically swim between your legs?”
Sweet Spots: Off the Oswego and Salmon Rivers for chinooks
What’s Hot: M-2 Flatfish and chunks of skein for river chinooks. Oswego and Salmon Rivers for huge walleyes and browns
Local Advice: **”The Oswego and Salmon Rivers can be crowded,” Capt. Lantiegne says. “Weekdays are best.”
**Prime Time: March through December, depending on species
Record Fish: **Ten line-class world records, and three all-tackle state records for chinook salmon (47 pounds 13 ounces), coho salmon (33 pounds 7 ounces), and brown trout (33 pounds 2 ounces)
**More Info: Fish Doctor Charters, 315-963-8403; www.fishdoctorcharters.com
Upper Chesapeake Bay **
Striped, largemouth, and smallmouth bass; walleye
25 Upper Chesapeake Bay has a one-two bass punch that is a spring knockout. Striped bass flood onto the Susquehanna Flats in early April, and in early May, fishing for tidal black bass heats up.
The striper fishery is the marquee attraction. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to catch lots of 16- to 24-inch stripers on flies and light tackle,” says Martin Gary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “Forty-pounders aren’t unusual, and 100-fish days can be routine.”
Sweet Spots: **For stripers, fish channel edges and on top in 2 to 6 feet of water during overcast days
**What’s Hot: Chug Bugs
Local Advice: **”It’s very easy to run aground. You want to have a good chart, follow the channels, and watch what other boats are doing,” says Joe Bruce of Fishermen’s Edge in Catonsville.
**Prime Time: March through May
More Info: Fish Hawk Guide Service, 410-557-8801; email@example.com. Capt. Norm Bartlett, 410-679-8790