Adventures While Fishing in Henderson Harbor NY
An early season storm was brewing in the west as we worked feverishly to set planer board rods in the warm waters just off Stony Creek. Stony Creek and the waters surrounding it are legendary for early brown trout fishing and our hopes were high that the bite would be on. The outflow of the creek was four degrees warmer than the adjacent waters and alewife minnows dimpled the surface, prime time for stony creek fishing.
Springtime Fishing Opportunities
A battery of natural colored Michigan Stinger spoons were loaded on the rods and the throttle was increased until the GPS read 2.7 knots. The boat rocked gently on the freshening breeze as anglers waited in anticipation. The inside board dipped into 10 feet of water, and a silver “bullet like” fish leapt from the water with one of our trolling spoons firmly attached to its maw. No sooner had the tension been taken out of that line when two other rods doubled under the pressure of big brown trout. The first fish tipped the scales at just over 15 pounds and the remaining two were 8 ½ and 10 pounds respectively.
Early Season Fishing
This is how many days begin in the month of May near Henderson Harbor NY. Anglers that travel to the eastern Lake Ontario region do so because the action on early season fish is phenomenal. The waters of the eastern Lake Ontario region – also know as the eastern basin- are legendary for big trout and lake trout that invade the shallows during the springtime. These fish hit the shoreline in search of alewife minnows and the burgeoning populations of goby minnows that they find there. While the cold water species can take center stage, anglers should be aware of the incredible potential for warm water trophies during the same time period. In fact, this is where our story takes a turn.
New York State Angling Lands Trophy Fish
In just over an hour the anglers in our story landed 12 beautiful browns. Three of the big brownies were taken to Charles’ Taxidermy, where veteran taxidermist Charlie Rawson works his magic on their mounts. As the storm kicked up its heels, our anglers decided to switch fishing gears. Instead of heading dockside, they headed for the sheltered waters of Henderson Harbor NY.
Early Springtime Fish Species
This trip took place in mid-May and the waters of Henderson Harbor NY were alive with northern pike and walleye. A smattering of floating minnow baits were loaded on the boards, and the fishing commenced well away from the storm raging on the main lake. Pike and pickerel provided continuous action for the remainder of the day and one lucky angler landed an 11 ½ pound walleye.
A Great Eastern Lake Ontario Region Catch
If this sounds amazing – It is! This type of action on big trophy fish is usually reserved for high priced fly-in style trips to Canada or Alaska. The eastern end of Lake Ontario boasts structure that is not found anywhere else on the lake.
This structure is like a magnet to fish during the springtime. It also gives professional fishermen and amateurs the ability to fish it in almost any condition. Make no mistake, this is “World Class” fishing in Henderson Harbor NY.
Gators for the Boys
In 2011 youth anglers competed on the frozen waters in Henderson Harbor NY during the Third Annual Hard Water Challenge ice fishing derby. One of the prizes was an all-day fishing trip with yours truly. Brandon Bolton was one of the winners and he was able to invite an adult chaperone along with two more of his friends. The target species for our day fishing in Henderson Harbor would be northern pike.
Hugging the Shore
The quality of fishing in Henderson Harbor NY is so outstanding that when we left the dock at 6:30 a.m. we never put the boat up on step. We simply trolled off the dock, set lines and began our fishing day. We headed east around Gill House Point and trolled the shoreline towards Westcott Beach State Park. We tagged both pike and pickerel as we made our way along the shoreline in 15 feet of water.
Bait of Choice
Bomber Long A Minnows along with Storm Thundersticks were the baits we had chosen on this day. Silver/Black and Silver/Blue metallic with the red head had been productive all week and today was no different. Our crew swept the pocket in front of the state park and headed north toward Campbell’s Shoal. We were pulling the baits over the eastern edge of the shoal in just 10 feet of water when one of the inside rods bent under incredible pressure.
Reeling in a Big Catch
Hunter Cobb (one of the other young anglers) grabbed the rod and set the hook. The big fish ran sideways slicing the water and heading towards our other planer lines. Chaperone Paul Warneck held the wheel as I cleared lines from the fish’s path.
Hunter deftly played the big fish; and when it surfaced behind the boat, the boy’s eyes went wide with excitement. Nothing stirs a young angler’s soul like the sight of a big northern pike, and this one tipped the scales at 13 ½ pounds. It wasn’t 8 a.m. yet and already the day was shaping up nicely.
The Eastern Lake Ontario Region Delivers
We reset lines and headed back over the same piece of structure. This time two rods doubled with both fish finding the silver/blue baits in our pattern. A 7 lb. pike was released, but a 15 lb. northern found its way into the cooler.
New York Has a Plethora of Great Fishing Spots
Some great northern pike were holding on the structure of Campbell’s Shoal and we were the only boat fishing the area. Great warm-water fishing exists throughout the eastern basin, and fishing in Henderson Harbor is just a great place to start your search. Many charter boats and independent anglers were fishing on this day, but they had left for other traditional haunts such as Black River Bay, Chaumont Bay, Three Mile Bay, and the shoreline along Point Peninsula.
We continued to ply the waters near Campbell’s shoal and at day’s end we had lost track of all the fish we had caught and released. We did manage to land nine northern pike between 10 and 15 pounds, clearly illustrating the awesome nature of this warm water fishery. What a fun experience for these young anglers, fishing in Henderson Harbor NY.
Car Salesman Can Fish
The following week my buddy Rick Caskinette showed up to do a little brown trout fishing with the Saiff Fleet. A veteran angler, Rick was excited to show off the fantastic fishery that we have in the eastern Lake Ontario region. Rick runs the Ford dealership in Carthage, NY, and he was bringing two very important customers along with his top salesman to enjoy a day of fishing in Henderson Harbor NY.
The thermocline was starting to push down just a little, and huge stores of alewife minnows were schooling in the trench area just off Henderson. The area known as the “High Rocks” is a bait magnet during the spring, and our sonar was showing that the baitfish were schooled 15 to 30 feet below the surface in 45 feet of water. We were still employing planer board systems to target fish, but we were adding 3 oz. Gibb weights and Big Jon Mini Diver disks to get our lines into the target area. In addition to the planer offerings, two downriggers were set at 18 and 22 feet to round out the presentation.
Lure Color and Trolling Speed
Gold has become a major color in the eastern basin over the last decade, and we selected three baits that would comprise our pattern based on this color. Michigan Stinger spoons in the colors Gold Perch, Gold Tuxedo, and Sodus Point Buckeye were loaded on rods and placed in position. Normally speeds are increased when we fish browns; but because these fish were corralling bait, we chose to slow the presentation to get more hang time around clouds of bait fish.
The speed was set at 2.2 knots, and before we could get the eighth rod set, our group was up on a triple of browns. This first trio was of the smaller variety averaging around the seven pound mark, but calls from several other captains indicated that there were some bruisers in the area.
Quick Rod Reset
The rods were reset and as we approached the area know as the “Pill Boxes,” one of the rigger rods fired with an 11 ½ pound brown that munched a Sodus Point Buckeye set at 18 feet. When the fish was netted, all anglers could see the treble firmly planted in the corner of the fish’s mouth. The amazing addition to this was that three alewife tails were also sticking out of the fish’s mouth. The bite was on! We hurried to reset line and over the next five hours caught and released 38 dandy browns while fishing in Henderson Harbor NY.
Landing a Monster
The highlight of the morning was when the boys hooked three giant browns back-to-back. Mike Lundy took the first fish weighing 16½ pounds followed soon after by Caskinette’s own fish that bottomed the scale squarely at 17 pounds. My good buddy Joe Archer was up next and hooked into a brown that was by all accounts the largest of the day.
We cleared lines to make room for this fish as he insisted on passing the boat on the starboard side. Joe did a great job of maneuvering this fish around the towline on the planer board and brought him to the starboard corner four different times. On the fifth pass, the giant brown rolled on his side; and as I slid the net towards the fish, the hook came free.
I remember every nuance of that moment because the whole scene seemed to slip into slow motion. The big fish paused momentarily on the surface and then slowly disappeared, engulfed by the black water of the trench. I’ve taken thousands of browns over the years and that fish would have weighed between 18 and 20 pounds. We’ll never know the exact weight, but we firmly confirmed that this fishing in Henderson Harbor area is tops for big fish during the month of May.
Stony Creek to Black River Bay
The stories above demonstrate the diversity and texture of Lake Ontario’s eastern end. The month of May is a phenomenal time to experience great fishing in Henderson Harbor NY adventure on both cold and warm water species. Dockside, smiles were wide and lots of pictures were being taken.
When the rest of the boats arrived, I saw great northern pike from Black River Bay. I saw a mix of pike and walleye that came from the waters in front of Long Point State Park. I saw a limit of lake trout with five fish that were over the 30 inch mark that came from 120 feet of water southwest of Stony Point.
These were all great experiences fishing in Henderson Harbor NY, and all took place at the same time. Experiencing the “Best of Both Worlds” is something that Henderson Harbor anglers know well. Join them this spring and tighten your lines on everything from brown trout to northern pike.
Original Article By Captain Bill Saiff III
About The Author
Capt. Bill Saiff III owns and operates the Saiff Charter Fleet in Henderson Harbor, NY. For more information, visit the team online at BillSaiffOutdoors.com.