Ontario. Erie. St. Lawrence River. Champlain. Oneida. Seneca. Cayuga. These are the names you hear thrown around when people talk about monster smallmouth bass in NY. What if there was another name that belonged in that group, an overlooked body of water that went unappreciated? What if I said come to NY and we will catch 5 and 6 pound smallmouth all day long.
Oh, and we’re gonna do it between Binghamton and Owego in the Susquehanna River.
Most people would think that was crazy. But in all honesty, people who know that river and have had the kind of days that I’ve had will forgo the long rides to any of the aforementioned bodies of water, trading it for the solitude and pure awesomeness that the Sus provides. Not only are the fish big and strong, but add a little current to a five pound smallmouth, and you’ll find yourself chasing it on your trolling motor. What’s great about this river is that it’s surprisingly clean (at least to look at, I’m not a biologist by any means), vast, deep, has plenty of access points, and there aren’t tons of guys fishing it which is really what I like the most. On any day of the week you can pull into a parking lot at Oneida and find at least 10 other boats, and there are multiple lots. Chances are really good you’ll be alone at the Sus. The less fishing pressure, the more likely you’ll be successful without having to work too hard to find them. There’s also been a lot of flooding over the past 4 or 5 years in Upstate NY, which has undoubtedly pushed large numbers of fish from the smaller rivers to the deeper holes in the Sus.
If you’re the type of angler who likes structure, this has it all: eddys, bridges both current and broken, old road beds, pea gravel, boulders, bends, deep pools, points, submerged vegetation, slow water, fast water. This wide open variety of habitat really allows people to target fish in many different areas, so you can focus on your strengths or use it to increase your knowledge and ability in areas or tactics that you’re not as strong in, or that maybe you just haven’t tried. For instance, on my last trip there I caught fish on the remnants of an old bridge as well as on a new bridge, off a point, on a bank, and on a ledge. I caught them cranking, on a jerkbait, and ripping a Rat-L-Trap through the grass flats. In just under 3 hours, we caught over 40 fish. Many of those fish were at and above the 4lb mark.
I highly recommend people give this river a shot. I know people in PA rave about it, and it really is a tremendous fishery. I haven’t even touched on the largemouth, walleye, pike, musky, and other species there. My advice is to talk to some local bait shops in the Southern Tier. They’re very knowledgeable about where to launch and where you can run and where you can’t, that way you can get a little help before you launch and find yourself in hazardous waters. Like all rivers, it’s really important that you navigate unknown waters cautiously.
And for what it’s worth, it gets even better in the fall…