Black Lake ranks as the county’s top warm water lake. This water has received national recognition for its outstanding largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing. Furthermore, the lake has first-rate angling for northern pike and walleye, and the panfishing is superb.
Black Lake, the largest of the Indian River lakes, covers over 8,000 acres and extends for nearly 20 miles along County Route 6. A mixture of marsh, woodland, farmland, and cottage development characterize the 60 miles of shoreline. In addition to shoreline structure, fish-holding habitat includes weedy bays, weed lines, shoals, islands, dropoffs, 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 in 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.
WITH ITS CAMPGROUNDS, COTTAGES, BOAT RENTALS, MARINAS, STORES, BAIT SHOPS, GUIDES, AND DINERS, BLACK LAKE IS AN ANGLER-FRIENDLY COMMUNITY OFFERING A LIFETIME OF FISHING OPPORTUNITIES. Available species include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, black crappies, yellow perch, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, bullheads, catfish, rock bass, muskellunge, and longnose gar. No matter which species an angler targets, he or she is likely to catch a combination of species on any given outing.
NATIONAL PUBLICATIONS HAVE RATED BLACK LAKE AMONG THE TOP-TEN BASS WATERS IN THE COUNTRY. To protect the outstanding quality of bass fishing on Black Lake, special regulations call for a minimum length of 15 inches and a daily limit of three fish for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. A growing catch-and-release ethic among anglers also contributes to the quality of bass fishing.
Black Lake hosts numerous fishing events throughout the year. The four most prominent are the Tagged Panfish Marathon in late spring and early summer, the Annual Chuck Waller Memorial Bass Tournament in July, the Big Bass Dash for Cash in September, and the Black Lake Fish and Game Club’s Annual Ice Fishing Derby the first weekend in February.
Black Lake anglers target largemouth bass more than any other gamefish. These fish inhabit the lake’s entire length and are catchable throughout the legal 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 largemouths 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.
Though not as abundant as largemouths, 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 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.
The northern pike is Black Lake’s “fish for all seasons.” Many small northerns 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 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 weed lines 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 artificials 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.
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 DEC REGION SIX 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.
THE BLACK CRAPPIE RANKS AS THE LAKE’S MOST POPULAR PANFISH. 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 some 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.
Yellow perch populations are abundant in the lake, and ice-out offers some of the year’s best action especially for shore anglers. Popular locations include the State Route 58 causeways and bridges that connect Booth Island to the mainland. Even boaters tend to congregate in these areas. Later in the spring and throughout summer, perch can be found throughout the lake. With a minimal amount of drifting, anglers should be able to locate a school of fish. Since perch tend to run on the small side, fishers face the challenge of finding fish that merit filleting. Some anglers catch keeper-perch throughout the summer by working deeper holes in the main lake. Fall catches occur in deep water off rocky points. Minnows and worms, fished close to the bottom, are the best producers throughout the open-water seasons.
Bluegills and Bullheads
The scrappy bluegill is “the fighter” of the lake’s panfish, and like other species, spring sees gills move to shallow water where they remain until mid-June. Spring bluegills are a favorite of fly fishers. Marshy areas and rocky shorelines with a gradual dropoff are prime locations. In the summer, bluegills school near weed lines, rock piles, and other structures. Autumn can produce some big bluegills especially near shorelines and islands that have a combination of rocks, weeds, and open water.
Just after ice-out in mid-April, massive schools of brown bullhead migrate to the shorelines. Pretty much any shoreline will hold fish. The action remains good for five to six weeks and only eases up when water levels recede, and the fish move out. Bullheads tend to be most active in the evening, but anglers take fish all day long when conditions are windy or overcast. The lake’s bullheads are large ones running 10- to 14-inches.
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. At the lake’s north end where it empties into the Oswegatchie River is a gravel launch at Eel Weir State Park. This ramp is best suited for small boats. Public access also exists at four cartop launch sites. They are on the Indian River at Rossie, on Fish Creek off Route 58, on the Route 58 bridge crossing south of Edwardsville, and on the Lost Village Road to the right of Spile Bridge. In addition to these public launches, dozens of private launches are available to those who stay at cottages and campgrounds along the lake.