Walleye Fishing on the St. Lawrence River
When walleye season opens on the first Saturday in May, large rivers, like the St. Lawrence River waterfront at Ogdensburg teems with walleyes. This waterfront ranks among the top destinations along the entire length of river for early-season walleye fishing.
Fish numbers are high here at this time of year because the out-flowing Oswegatchie River serves as a major site for walleye spawn in the St. Lawrence River, and post-spawn fish remain in the vicinity where feed is abundant and excellent fish-holding structures and current edges abound. These conditions make finding fish easy despite the seasonal movements of most walleye during the early spring, summer and fall. Public docks present walleye fishing opportunities along the shore, while two free boat launches provide immediate access to more walleye-holding water.
Three Walleye Techniques
Here’s a look at three techniques and five spots that have produced first-rate catches of Ogdensburg waterfront walleye fishing year after year.
Casting bucktail-hair jigs or lead-head jigs tipped with a plastic grub or leech is an angler favorite early-season technique for walleye fishing. Jig fishing offers the flexibility of fishing both in deep water or shallower water. Popular jig sizes for most walleye fishermen vary from 3/8 ounce to one ounce with the heavier sizes used in strong current and in windy conditions.
The basic jigging technique calls for getting the just enough weight on the lure to keep it near bottom and utilizing a lift-and-drop action. Dark colors and natural colors seem to produce best with black and purple combinations being the local favorite. Tipping the jig with a crawler piece or stinger hook guarantees increased hits while walleye fishing along the waterfront.
While down-rigging opportunities exist, many walleye anglers utilize a flat-lining technique because water depths are usually less than 22 feet. Trolling allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of active fish, and trolling is effective in varying wind strengths and wind directions. Like jigging, effective trolling calls for getting the lure near bottom. Lure depth is achieved through a combination of in-line weights, size of lip on lure, and length of line let out.
Most anglers usually troll against the current, and long, slender plugs out-produce short, stubby ones. Again, natural colors work best with black and silver or black and gold being good bets.
Drifting Crawler Harnesses
Drifting crawler harnesses is the number-one, summer walleye technique on the river, but these rigs also produce well while walleye fishing in May. Like trolling, drifting allows for covering a lot of deep water in search of fish. The key to successful walleye fishing is to utilize the current, wind, drift socks, and electric motor to maintain a boat speed that allows for proper presentation of the crawler harness. If the drift speed is too slow, blades will not turn, and the rig will settle on bottom. When the drift speed is too fast, the rig lifts too far off bottom to entice strikes.
Drifting crawler harnesses is most effective in deep water, and anglers get the rigs to desired depths by using bottom bouncers or weights on three-way swivels. Many anglers in search of walleye have success with various colored blades, but gold is the standard river color, especially in low light periods whether during the daylight hours or evening hours, as well as in murky water.
Best Places for Waterfront Fishing
Fishing Above the Pedestrian Bridge
To protect spawning walleyes, the waters of the Oswegatchie River above the Pedestrian Bridge, as well as the waters down to the Vehicular Bridge, are closed to all fishing until the first Saturday in May. Once walleye fishing season opens, though, the shallow water (6-10 feet) stretch above the Pedestrian Bridge holds plenty of fish for the tempted walleye angler. This shallow water is generally murky so the fish bite throughout the day, but early morning, evening, and after-dark offer the best walleye fishing.
With public property on the east side and a marina on the west side, shore-fishing opportunities are good here. For boaters, trolling shallow-diving, minnow plugs is the most productive technique to start fishing walleye in the shallow water.
Fishing Below the Pedestrian Bridge
That stretch of the Oswegatchie River from the Pedestrian Bridge to the shipping channel of the St. Lawrence River is a second popular area for fishing walleye. Water depths here range from 15-25 feet, and favorite walleye hangouts include the area between the Pedestrian Bridge and the Vehicular Bridge, shoreline drop-offs, the deeper water holes just below the Pedestrian Bridge, the current breaks of the Vehicular Bridge piers, and both sides of the dredged channel out to the main river.
To catch walleye most anglers find that casting jigs and trolling minnow plugs are effective techniques here. Although walleyes may be anywhere in this area, the stretch between the two bridges generally offers the best action for catching walleye.
Outer Edge of the Sandbar
Over the years, a vast sandbar has built up in front of the city of Ogdensburg, and the outer edge of that sandbar is another spot to catch walleye. The Sandbar has a depth of six feet or so, but the outer edge drops into 30- to 50-foot depths. This deep water edge offers opportunities for walleye anglers to have success casting jigs, drifting crawler harnesses, or trolling minnow plugs along the entire length in order to catch walleye.
Pockets of more walleye may be found anywhere along the drop-off, but the west or upriver end of the Sandbar seems to hold the most of this fish species.
A combination of public and private docks comprises the Ogdensburg waterfront. The water along these docks is a 22-foot, dredged boating channel that extends to the inside of the Sandbar. Shore-fishing opportunities, including a fishing pier with easy access for everyone wishing to try their hand at fishing for walleye. Boaters have the option of casting jigs, drifting crawler harnesses, or trolling minnow plugs, with the latter two being the most popular techniques to catch walleye.
Like the other areas, fishermen can find walleye anywhere along the waterfront, but the better fishing usually occurs in the western portion from the inactive marina to the Oswegatchie River.
Port Authority Dock
The Port Authority Dock is actually a continuation of the Waterfront Docks, but this dock extends outwards at the lower end of the Sandbar. While no fishing is allowed from the Port Authority Dock, the adjacent waters offer excellent opportunities for boaters to go fishing for walleye. Again, there is a 22-foot dredged area out to the Sandbar, and good spots for finding fish include that dredged area, right along the dock, the inside edge of the Sandbar, the big eddy at the lower end of the dock, the structure around the red buoy, and the deep water (25-40 feet) just downriver from the red buoy.
All three fishing techniques will work to catch walleye here, and their rank in popularity and effectiveness are drifting crawler harnesses, trolling minnow plugs, and casting jigs. Because of the deep, open water below the red buoy, that area lends itself to down-rigging for walleye.
Try Your Luck at Catching Walleye
Anglers can find walleye around the Ogdensburg waterfront throughout the summer months, but fish numbers are significantly lower than in the early spring. While walleye numbers in autumn don’t match the spring population either, late fall is prime time for fishing for walleye along the St. Lawrence River.
Original Article By Mike Seymour
About The Author
Captain Mike Seymour is a licensed Coast Guard Captain and NYS guide who has guided extensively on the St. Lawrence River, Black Lake, and western Alaska. He is a member and former president of the NYS Outdoor Writers’ Association and is an active writer for several publications. In addition to fishing the St. Lawrence River, he is actively fishing Lake Ontario, the Adirondacks, and other waters of the state.