Having been an avid angler my whole life, and now in my 50s, I always thought I had the month of August dialed in for the best place to be in America for quality fishing. I always thought, without question, a man need to be on the Columbia River in Oregon. The combination of smallmouth bass fishing in the Columbia Gorge, the iconic Buoy 10 salmon fishery near Astoria and near-perfect pleasant weather always made the Columbia River the place to be in August in my mind. And then I went to upstate New York.
During the past two weeks this August, the Bassmaster Elite Series visited the St. Lawrence River and Cayuga Lake, both in upstate New York. The fishing, the people, and the weather were all just magical. Upstate New York has the best bass fishing in the nation in August, hands down.
The smallmouth fishing in the St. Lawrence River is arguably the best in the world. At the very least, it ranks right up there with Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. The river is full of 4- and 5-pound smallmouth, and the strong current has them in good condition to fight hard. What impressed me most about the St. Lawrence though, was the fact that every place that looked like it should hold fish did. There weren’t big ones everywhere, but if you pulled up to a spot and it looked halfway decent, you’d catch a smallmouth. It was that way for 100 miles up and down that river. That’s how bass fishing is supposed to be.
New York isn’t just about world class smallmouth fishing though. The largemouth bass thrives in upstate New York as well. The Elite Series visited Cayuga Lake the week after the St. Lawrence, and the largemouth fishing was fantastic. Multiple bags over 20 pounds were caught each day, and Jeff Gustafson scored a 25-pound limit on Day 2 of the event. Those weights will rival or beat most any lake down South in August for largemouth. Cayuga was a much harder fishery to find the fish on than the St. Lawrence, but once you found them, there were big schools of largemouth.
Why is the bass fishing so good in New York in August? The short answer is there is tons of food for the bass. Thanks to the goby and zebra mussels (which crawdads eat), which were not in New York waters 15 years ago. There are other factors as well, like abundant vegetation and catch-and-release efforts by New York anglers. It's so cool to see our fisheries get exponentially better over time.
So, I have a new favorite place to fish in August. Upstate New York is my destination of choice now for bass. Of course, those who know me well know I would still spend half of August in Astoria if I could.