Adirondack Fish Species

The waters of the Adirondack Coast boast several aquatic species, including a lake monster, Champ, below is some information regarding our most popular species. 

Brook Trout

Average size: 8-10 inches 
Frequently caught: 12 inches 
Trophy: 15 inches 

You’ll see the best action for brook trout in May and June and again in the fall before the close of the season. Brookies favor shoreline cover, gravel bars and mouths of tributaries.  Though trolling is the recommended technique, spincasting or fly fishing can also prove effective when using small spinners, spoons or assorted flies.

Brown Trout

Average size: 10-12 inches 
Frequently caught: 12-16 inches 
Trophy: 2+ pounds 

Try fishing boulder, overhangs and deep pools on the North Branch of the Great Chazy and Saranac rivers, as well as the west branch of the Ausable River.  Fishing holds up in the spring and fall but the best actions occurs on warm summer nights.  However, if the water temps get above 68 degrees, they won’t bite.  Spinfishers find success with spoons, in-line spinners, marbou jigs, worms or minnows while fly fishers may prefer Muddler Minnow and woolly buggers.

Lake Trout

Average size: 3-5 pounds 
Frequently caught: 6-12 pounds 
Trophy: 15-20 pounds

Lake trout thrive in the region due to cool water temperatures and a bounty of bait fish.  Though generally considered a deep-water fish, you’ll find lakers near the surface in the spring and fall – close to the shore and within reach of shore casters.  In the summer, they inhabit deep water near schools of baitfish.  In the fall, they head to rocky shoals for spawning.  Slow trolling between the surface and 40 feet deep is very effective.  Some anglers prefer hand jigging spoons on wire line or fishing baitfish on the bottom.

Landlocked Salmon

Average size: 2-4 pounds 
Frequently caught: 5-9 pounds 
Trophy: 10+ pounds 

Spring and fall are great times to find Salmon in the Bouquet, Ausable and Saranac Rivers as fish migrate from Lake Champlain.  Spincasters experience success with spinners, spoons and worms while fly fishers may prefer smelt-imitation streamers. 

In the lakes, mid-May through the end of June offers the best fishing, when the salmon are at or near the surface.  Salmon in the lake feed primarily on smelt, so lures and flies resembling smelt are generally most effective.  Trollers work between the surface and a depth of about 40 feet, usually with downriggers.  With warmer summer weather, go deeper with downriggers or conventional deep-trolling gear.

Largemouth Bass

Average Size: 2-3 pounds 
Frequently caught: 4-5 pounds 
Trophy: 6+ pounds 

Bass season opens the second Saturday of June and runs through late fall.  The first weeks of bass season are often the best, when bass have just finished spawning and are found in the shallows.  In almost all cases, the best time to fish is in early morning and evening. Earlier in the season, look for largemouth along the edges of lake marshes.  Plugcasters and spin fishermen should match their lures to the kind of waters they’re fishing.  Surface plugs, spinnerbaits, weedless spoons and plastic worms all work well when covering weedy shallows or shore waters.  The southern end of Lake Champlain is renowned for its largemouth population.

Northern Pike

Average size: 3-4 pounds 
Frequently caught: 4-6 pounds 
Trophy: 10-15+ pounds

The season is open all year long on Lake Champlain but you may also want to look to Upper Chateaugay Lake for Northern Pike.  After spawning, some of the best fishing is in May and June when pike are in and around the edges of marshes.  Weeds are the key to locating them.  Pike are also a favorite of ice fishermen and can be caught along with a mixed bag of perch and walleyes.  Large flashy spoons, large minnow-type plugs, weedless spoons and even big streamers on fly rod all prove effective.  Learn more about Adirondack ice fishing.

Rainbow Trout

Average size: 10-12 inches 
Frequently caught: 12-16 inches 
Trophy: 2+ pounds 

A favorite of fly fishers, rainbow trout can be found in the North Branch of the Great Chazy and Ausable rivers.  They like moving water as well as pockets, boulder areas and overhangs.  Any time of day is good in spring and fall.  In the summer, you’ll have the best luck in early morning and evening.  Spinfishers use in-line spinners and small spoons while fly fishers enjoy success with caddis, mayfly and stonefly imitations.

Smallmouth Bass

Average size: 2-3 pounds 
Frequently caught: 4 pounds 
Trophy: 5+ pounds

Though smallmouth bass are Lake Champlain’s premier gamefish, you may also want to try Chazy Lake and Lower Chateaugay Lake where smallmouths frequent rocky shoals, cribbings and points along the shore.  In general, smallmouth bass will hit most of the same lures favored by largemouths, but in smaller sizes. Especially effective are plugs and jigs resembling crayfish.  Also good are smaller Rapala-type plugs and small surface plugs along shorelines in the early morning and late evening as well as after dark in the summer.

Steelhead Trout

Average size: 2-3 pounds 
Frequently caught: 4-6 pounds 
Trophy: 7+ pounds 

These fish are a type of rainbow trout that run the tributaries much like salmon.  The best fishing is usually in those streams holding runs of fish in early spring and late fall.  Weighted spawn sacks or minnows are effective bait if kept along the bottom as steelhead will rarely come off the bottom to hit.  Flies and lures will work with additional weight to keep the fly down.

Walleye

Average size: 1-3 pounds 
Frequently caught: 4-7 pounds 
Trophy: 10+ pounds

One of the best-tasting freshwater fish, walleyes are generally nocturnal so night fishing is usually most productive.  Early-morning and late-evening fishing are often good in the spring and fall.  Daytime trolling can pay off, too, as long as you’re near the bottom.  Walleyes travel in schools, so catching one means you’re likely to catch more.

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