St. Lawrence River
There is truly no place I'd rather be than in a boat on the St. Lawrence--who, at times, is both serene and turbulent...a unique creature that can soothe and excite you in the same breath. Fishing is our heritage here. - Deanna Shampine, Waddington, NY (from WFN)
The St. Lawrence River is famous for smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike and muskellunge fishing. As for Muskies, the 69 pound, 15 ounce world record was taken from the St. Lawrence River in 1957, and fish up to 40 pounds are taken each year. Northern pike commonly exceed 10 pounds.
Panfish, including yellow perch, bullheads, pumpkinseeds, bluegill, black crappies and rock bass provide fine eating and fast fishing, even for the beginner. Ice-fishing for northern pike and yellow perch is a St. Lawrence tradition.
Outstanding scenery, unique attractions, the finest accommodations and recreational facilities assure you of an outstanding fishing vacation.
Flowing for 700 miles from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Lawrence River is truly one of Nature’s wonders. The majestic river ranks as the largest east-west river in North America, and the scenery alone makes any outing here a worthwhile venture. Flowing across the top of St. Lawrence County, this river forms the border between New York State and the Province of Ontario. Contrary to popular belief, though, the border does not run through the middle of the river. The International Border is very irregular, and at times actually extends very close to the U.S. or Canadian mainland.
Since a Canadian license is required to fish Ontario waters, boaters are advised to consult river charts which have the border clearly marked. The charts also serve as a safety device since they indicate the location of shoals and other navigational hazards.
THE ST. LAWRENCE IS AN ANGLER’S PARADISE. OPPORTUNITIES EXIST FOR ANGLERS OF ALL LEVELS AND INTERESTS, FROM THOSE WHO WANT TO CATCH A FEW PANFISH FOR DINNER TO THOSE WHO WANT TO PURSUE WORLD-CLASS MUSKIES.
The river’s personality varies from narrow, currented stretches to wide, lake-like expanses, and prime fish-holding structures abound along the entire river. Popular species among anglers include northern pike, walleyes, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, muskies, carp, yellow perch, and bullheads, but the river also has crappies, pumpkinseeds, rock bass, catfish, coho salmon, chinook salmon, lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, eels, suckers, drum, and others.
THE NORTHERN PIKE IS THE RIVER’S “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. Popular offerings include a minnow below a bobber, bucktail jigs with a minnow or plastic tipping, spoons, spinners, and minnow plugs. A slow presentation is critical to early-season success. 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 plugs are the most effective techniques. Three prime locations for autumn pike are points, weedlines, and openings in the weeds.
Pike hotspots include Chippewa Bay and the bay at Jacques Cartier State Park near Morristown, Wheathouse Bay and the enclosed bays at the head of Galop Island near Ogdensburg, Whitehouse Bay and Coles Creek Bay near Waddington, and Wilson Hill Island bays and the bay at Massena Town Beach near Massena.
WALLEYES RANK NEAR THE TOP OF THE RIVER’S MOST-POPULAR-SPECIES LIST. The walleye population has increased dramatically the past two decades thanks to habitat improvements at Hoople Creek in Ontario and a stocking program undertaken jointly by the St. Lawrence Valley Sportsmen’s Club in Odgensburg and Region Six DEC fisheries personnel. Over the course of the season, schools of walleyes migrate from location to location in search of feed. Any bait shop should have information on current hotspots. May walleyes are typically found near spawning tributaries and on adjacent structure in the main river. Summer walleyes favor mainland points and dropoffs, island points and dropoffs, and mid-river shoals. Autumn fish gather in large schools in deep water adjacent to summer structures. Productive techniques include drifting crawler harnesses, casting tipped jigs, and trolling deep-diving plugs. Trollers often experience their best fishing after dark.
Traditional walleye haunts include Chippewa Point, American Island, Ogdensburg International Bridge, Iroquois Dam, Ogden Island, Croil Islands, Long Sault Islands, and Robert Moses Power Dam.
SMALLMOUTH BASS 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. 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. Either way, 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.
Smallmouth abound throughout the river system, and among the more popular locations are the islands at Chippewa Bay, American and Old Man Islands at Morristown, Galop Island at Ogdensburg, Ogden Island at Waddington, and Wilson Hill, Croil, and Long Sault islands at Massena.
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. Still, largemouths are present in the system, and they are generally an overlooked species. Bucketmouths can be found in the backwaters of most large bays. Traditional offerings such as the plastic worm, jig and pig, and surface baits work well. The early morning hours offer the best action during the summer, but autumn is the most productive time of the year for largemouths.
Muskellunge and Carp
MUSKIES AND CARP ARE THE ST. LAWRENCE’S “BIG FISH,” AND THE RIVER OFFERS WORLD-CLASS ANGLING FOR BOTH SPECIES. Every year anglers catch muskies and carp that attain weights in the 30- and 40-pound classes. Fifty-plus pounders of each species are known to swim in the river. For more information on muskie fishing, see pages a-z of this guide. Likewise, for information on carp angling, consult pages a-z of the guide.
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. The most popular perch bays are Chippewa, Terrace Park, Morley’s, Wheathouse, Coles Creek, Wilson Hill, and Massena Town Beach.
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. The Waddington to Massena stretch of river offers first-rate bullhead fishing. Prime spots include Whitehouse Bay, Coles Creek, and Wilson Hill.
Camping, Access, and Shorefishing
Camping opportunities exist along the river at Cedar Island State Park in Chippewa Bay, at Jacques Cartier State Park near Morristown, the Town of Lisbon Recreation Area east of Ogdensburg, Coles Creek State Park at Waddington, and Robert Moses State Park at Massena. The campgrounds have ramps for boat access as well as docks and river frontage for shore angling. Boat ramps and shorefishing opportunities are also available in all communities along the river.
Where to fish the St. Lawrence River:
- Cape Vincent Village Dock – Off Route 12E, multiple concrete ramps. 30 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Burnham Point State Park – On Route 12 E, 3.5 miles northeast of the Village of Cape Vincent. Gravel ramp. 10 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Cedar point State Park – Off Route 12E, 6 miles west of the Village of Clayton. Concrete ramp. 15 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Clayton Municipal Dock – concrete ramp
- Grass Point State Park – Off Route 12, 1 mile east of Fisher's landing, concrete ramp. 10 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- DeWolf State Park – On Wellesley Island, 4 miles north of the Thousand Islands Bridge. Hard surface ramp. 10 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Wellesley Island State Park – On Wellesley Island off Route I-81, 2 miles north of the Thousand Islands Bridge. Two concrete ramps. 60 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Keewaydin State Park – Off Route 12, 1 mile west of Alexandria Bay. Concrete ramp. 50 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Alexandria Bay Village Docks – concrete ramps, one on Holland Street, one on Crossman Street.
- Kring Point State Park – off Route 12, 8.5 miles northeast of Alexandria Bay. Hard surface ramp. 10 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Goose Bay Municipal Launch Ramp
- Chippewa Bay Municipal Boat Launch Ramp
- Jacques Cartier State Park – On River Road, 2.5 miles south of Morristown. Hard surface ramp. 10 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Morristown Village Dock – concrete ramp
- City of Ogdensburg Municipal Ramp – Franklin Street. Multiple concrete ramps.
- Brandy Brook – Off Route 37 at Brandy Brook, 3 miles north of Waddington. Hard surface ramp. 10 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Coles Creek State Park Marina – Off Route 37, between the Villages of Waddington and Massena. Hard surface ramp. 15 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area Boat Launch – On Route 131, 1 mile north of Route 37. Hard surface ramp. 50 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Massena Municipal Boat Launch – at Massena intake, off Route 131, via Old River Rd. 1.5 Miles northwest of the City of Massena. Multiple concrete ramps. 30 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593
- Massena Municipal Boat Launch – North of route 37, east of Massena, below Moses- Saunders Power Dam
Robert Moses State Park Marina – Barnhart Island , just north of the Village of Massena. Hard surface ramp. 15 cars and trailers. 315-482-2593