Raquette River Reservoirs
The construction of hydroelectric dams on the Raquette River created a series of eight reservoirs called the Upper Impoundments. Carry Falls, Stark Falls, Black Falls, Rainbow Falls, Five Falls, South Colton, Higley Flow, and Colton Flow reservoirs comprise this 30-mile stretch of “river.”
The reservoirs vary in size from 100 to 3,000 acres, and shorelines vary in appearance from developments to wilderness. WALLEYES ARE THE MOST SOUGHT-AFTER SPECIES IN THE IMPOUNDMENTS, BUT SMALLMOUTH BASS, NORTHERN PIKE, AND YELLOW PERCH ARE ALSO POPLAR AMONG ANGLERS. Other possibilities include tiger muskies, largemouth bass, pumpkinseeds, brown bullheads, rock bass, and fallfish.
Public access and shore fishing are available at each reservoir. Established campgrounds and primitive camping are also available along the Upper Impoundments.
CARRY FALLS, A 3000-ACRE RESERVOIR IN THE ADIRONDACK PARK, OFFERS ANGLING OPPORTUNITIES IN A WILDERNESS SETTING. Most anglers target walleyes here, and prime spots from spring through fall include the Raquette River, the shoreline and shoals where the river widens into the reservoir, the mouth of the Jordan River, Maple Island, and the drop-offs along the reservoir’s western shoreline. Effective techniques include trolling minnow plugs or spinner-and-worm rigs and casting crankbaits or crawler-tipped jigs. Smallmouths are an overlooked species here. Look for bronzebacks along the 29 miles of shoreline, around islands, and on flats especially where boulders and current or wave action are present. DEC has been stocking tiger muskies annually in Carry since 1997, and this species along with northern pike are the reservoir’s “big fish.” Few anglers target tigers or pike. For the most part, these fish are the incidental catches of walleye anglers. As the uppermost impoundment in the system, Carry Falls Reservoir is used to capture the heavy spring runoff, and this water is used to regulate flows to five downstream hydro projects. As a result, Carry sees a significant fluctuation in seasonal water levels with fall levels typically 20 feet lower than spring ones. Boaters will find access from public launches at either end of the reservoir, and a 16-site campground exists near the southern launch.
STARK FALLS COVERS NEARLY 600 ACRES, AND THIS RESERVOIR IS THE MOST POPULAR WALLEYE DESTINATION OF THE UPPER IMPOUNDMENTS. Stark has minimal development along the northeast shoreline, and, for the most part, a shoreline of cedar, poplar, pine, and hardwoods will greet anglers. The most popular and productive area for walleyes is just below the dam at the reservoir’s south end. Deep holes, strong currents, humps, boulders, and shoreline dropoffs attract walleyes to this area. Other walleye-holding habitat throughout Stark includes points, shoreline dropoffs, flats, and off-shore humps. Casting a bucktail jig or plain jig with a twister tail is the favored technique. Tipping the jig with a piece of crawler will improve the catch rate. Though less popular, trolling minnow plugs or spinner and worm rigs works well here. No matter what technique a walleye angler uses, he is likely to catch a variety of species including perch, smallmouths, rock bass, and fallfish. When targeting smallmouth bass, anglers should concentrate their efforts along dropoffs. Stark Falls has been stocked with tiger muskies since 1997, and, like Carry Falls, the majority of muskie and pike catches occur incidentally by anglers pursuing walleyes. Boaters will find developed public access at the north end and undeveloped access at the south end of the reservoir which experiences minimal fluctuation in water levels.
Blake Falls has a large, lake-like look as it covers over 700 acres and extends for nearly four miles. THIS RESERVOIR HAS MINIMAL SHORELINE DEVELOPMENT, BUT THE MCNEIL CAMPGROUND MAKES BLAKE A POPULAR DESTINATION FOR FAMILY CAMPING, SWIMMING, PICNICKING, BOATING, AND WATER SKIING. Despite this activity, anglers can always find quiet places to fish. While walleyes are the most targeted species here, smallmouths, yellow perch, and northern pike also receive significant attention. Prime walleye locations include the waters below the Raquetter River Inlet, the bay off the north shore of McNeil Campground, the old river channel east of McNeil, and the deep-water section between Whispering Pines Point and Joe Indian Outlet. Look for smallmouths on points, along gravel shorelines, in boulder-strewn areas, along shoreline dropoffs, in necked-down areas, and wherever there is a current flow. Yellow perch exist throughout the reservoir, but look for larger perch along weeds in the open area at Blake’s southern end or the points and bays east of the campground. Good bets for finding northern pike are the weed edges and shorelines of the bays in the northern half of the reservoir. Anglers commonly see loons and bald eagles at Blake where quality public access is available at two launch sites.
Rainbow Falls, like Blake Falls, covers over 700 acres and extends for four miles. This reservoir has significant development along the south shore, but the north shore, which offers better fishing, is almost entirely wooded. DESPITE GOOD POPULATIONS OF WALLEYES, SMALLMOUTHS, NORTHERN PIKE, AND YELLOW PERCH, RAINBOW SEES RELATIVELY LIGHT ANGLING PRESSURE. To locate walleyes, check out traditional features such as points, shoreline breaks, deep holes, shoals, and necked-down areas. Work the point just northwest of Campbell Island, the deep water around the rock piles where the unnamed creek enters, and the upper end where the reservoir narrows and makes a 90-degree turn. When looking for smallmouth bass, check out the points, rocky shorelines, boulders in mid-reservoir, and the narrow, upper reaches. Rainbow has fairly extensive weed growth, a feature that attracts northern pike and yellow perch. Anglers will find pike in all of the bays and in the vicinity of the numerous weedbeds. Look for perch in the deeper water adjacent to weedbeds and shallow flats. Public access to Rainbow is gained at a concrete ramp in the reservoir’s western end.
Five Falls, covering 122 acres and extending less than two miles, is the smallest of the Upper Impoundments. The shoreline here is undeveloped so anglers can pursue northern pike, walleyes, and smallmouths in a scenic setting. Look for pike in the shallow areas, along shoreline weedbeds, and shoreline dropoffs. The northern half of Five Falls contains water in the 10- to 40-foot range, and this is the place to seek out walleyes and bronzebacks especially along the shoreline and island dropoffs. A developed launch site provides public access.
South Colton covers 230 acres over its 2.2-mile length, and the reservoir holds populations of walleyes, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and panfish. Yet, South Colton receives minimal public use because the reservoir’s shoreline is privately owned and significantly developed. A boat launch at the western end provides access as does a carry-down site on the north shore.
HIGLEY FLOW, COVERING 1,135 ACRES AND EXTENDING FOR 4.4 MILES, BOASTS OF HIGLEY FLOW STATE PARK. Campers at the park plus the heavy development around the reservoir translate to significant activity here during the summer. Marshy areas and shallow bays in the southern half of Higley Flow make prime pike habitat, and the excellent structure in the reservoir’s northern half holds walleyes, smallmouth, and pike especially along points and dropoffs. In addition to catching perch, pumpkinseeds, and bullheads throughout Higley, panfishers also have the opportunity to catch black crappies. Developed public access is available at the State Park and at the flow’s northern end near the dam.
COLTON FLOW, covering 154 acres and extending for 2.4 miles, has deep pools at each end, but the majority of the reservoir has a slow-moving, river-like character with depths ranging to 10 feet. These shallows make Colton Flow a favorite of panfishers and youth who catch a mixed bag of perch, pumpkinseeds, rock bass, bullheads, and fallfish. The two pools and shoreline cover are the places to take pike, bass, and walleyes. This reservoir has moderate development, and access exists at a developed launch on the northwest shore and a carry-down site on the northeast shore.