If you fish, you have a fishing tale. Anglers have a reputation of exaggerating the stories behind their best catches. Sometimes it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Trust me, I know. I’ve been part of many fishing stories. Perhaps that is why I now have a career writing …
Whatever the case, there is one truth that is undeniable, especially in Hamilton County, New York: the fishing is amazing year-round. From cool fall mornings to sunny days on the ice to leisurely summer trips with family, there is nothing better than catching “the big one.” Thankfully, that excitement is not limited to one season here. Winter, spring, summer, fall: the fish are biting, and that’s the reel story.
What to know
Of course, there are basics you need to know before fishing in any season. Except during a select few days, you will need a fishing license. A fishing license is required to fish Adirondack waterways for anyone over 16. You can purchase your license from town clerks, outdoor stores, or online through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). There are also special fishing regulations on some bodies of water in the Adirondacks. The DEC provides that information to anglers in the NYS Freshwater Fishing Guide.
It is also important to know conditions before heading out. In winter, ice thickness is a very important factor to check. In summer, be aware of any potential storms that may roll in; being caught on the water in a thunderstorm is not fun!
Where to go
It’s secret, prized knowledge where the best fishing holes are, but there are a few bodies of water which are commonly fished year-round.
Fourth Lake is huge. It spans 2,137-acres, has almost 18-miles of shoreline, and reaches a maximum depth of 85-feet! With so much space, there are a lot of angling opportunities. Deep water species, like lake trout and Atlantic salmon, thrive in the cooler, deep waters, while warmer water species, like northern pike and yellow perch, can be found in the shallower spots. Lake trout are a popular target in summer and winter. Ice fishing is great on Fourth Lake! Rumor has it some fish have recently been caught measuring in at 30+ inches.
North of Fourth Lake is Raquette Lake, the largest natural lake in the Adirondacks. There are three distinct basins in the lake, creating room for three different types of fishing! In the deep waters near Beecher Island, NYS broodstock lake trout are prime. The middle basin is great for bass, large and smallmouth. In the southern basin, near the mouth of the Marion River, brook trout fishing is especially good. It’s not just summer fishing here: in winter, the ice fishing is so good, there is a derby in January!
Blue Mountain Lake
The average depth of Blue Mountain Lake is 25-feet, but some deep pockets reaching 100-feet have been identified, and this is where the lake trout are. However, rapid changes in bottom depth make trolling a challenge in summer. In winter, ice fishing is very rewarding, with huge lakers lurking beneath the ice.
Unlike the deep, cold lakes elsewhere in Hamilton County, Adirondack Lake is a warm water fishery; the average depth is only 8-feet. Sizeable northern pike and largemouth bass have been taken from here. This lake is located minutes from downtown Indian Lake, so it’s easily accessible in summer and winter.
In a quiet corner of Hamilton County, the community of Wells is home to picturesque Lake Algonquin. Here, you'll find yellow perch, pumpkinseeds, walleye, and chain pickerel. The waters are very shallow, with an average depth of 6-feet, but there are still fish in this small town lake. Because of the shallow depth, weeds are abundant (shallow waters mean more sunlight reaches the bottom which means more plants can grow). In winter, take care to stay away from the dam. The current creates streams under the ice, making it thin. Parking at the boat launch and accessing the lake from there, in any season, is the best bet. In summer, if you want to fish while your family plays in the sand, the Wells Public Beach is fantastic and right on the shores of Lake Algonquin.
Hear me out: Lake Durant may not be the most active fishery in the Adirondacks (a lot of people recommend bringing a good book if you ice fish here), but the waters hold tiger muskies, so you may want to test your luck for this unique species in any season! Winter reports are slow, but summer can be very productive with largemouth bass and tiger muskies. Be aware: Lake Durant is not deep and there are many stumps and rocks (and weeds) throughout the shallow lake.
If you're looking for good fishing nearby, Indian Lake is another great option in warm and cold weather!
Lake Eaton may require a bit more of a walk (or snowmobile) in winter, but it’s totally worth every step! Smelt, lake whitefish, lake trout, landlocked salmon, yellow perch, rainbow trout, and brown trout all call these waters home. In summer, a soft launch is open at the DEC campground named after the lake.
Lake Pleasant and Sacandaga Lake
These two connected lakes near Speculator are a lot of fun to fish in any season. Walleye populations have declined, but efforts are being made to stock fingerlings. (We’re sure trophy fish are still down there!) Smelt are very abundant, especially on Lake Pleasant, and are popular with ice fishermen and women. Sacandaga Lake stocks brown and rainbow trout.
A tip for planning
Is this a comprehensive list of all the year-round fishing spots in Hamilton County? Absolutely not! There is plenty of water to choose from and lots of fish to find. You can fish from shore, from a boat, from the ice, from a canoe, with a fly rod. This is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss book, but it's all true: the options are plentiful. Between the fishing, the scenery, and the amenities (great food nearby and comfortable lodging), you’ll surely be hooked in no time! And if you don’t catch anything on your first day out, just remember that fishing is practicing the art of patience and the greatest fishing tales are just a cast away.
Just remember: it's important to clean all fishing equipment gear to be free and clear of non-native aquatic invasive species! This is the best way to ensure fisheries stay healthy and intact.
If you need a little more convincing before you book your next fishing trip, the state record for brook trout was caught in Hamilton County in 2013, weighing in at 6-lbs and 22.6-inches long. Now, catching that is a story worth telling!