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Exploring Lake Champlain

Part 1 in a 6 part series

By Dale Brown

If I were to say we are going to visit heroes, the Black Robe, and check out a crib or two, where would you say we are?

Our heroes are named North and South or Grand, and The Black Robe was the name of a movie, which told of the early exploration of this area or I could have mentioned an even older flick, called Rogers Rangers, that showed what life was like in this area during colonial times. Have you been able to guessed where we are?

One of the clues is the reference to cribs, not baby cribs, but structure found in lakes. There presence would mean a Northern lake with the capacity for a large mail boat. That's how the mail was delivered to the homes on the large northern lakes. The settlers would build these docks out into the lake, far enough so these large old mail boats could stop by and drop off the mail. The way they built them was to lay logs in a square, like a log cabin under water, and then they'd fill them up with rocks. A lot of work and time just for a dock. The legacy to us, was one of the best fish magnets known to man. You've heard about fish liking structure, like rocks, piers, and docks. Well, there is always something lurking around a crib.

The sixth Great Lake as it is often called is of course, Lake Champlain, which is even great enough to have her own sea serpent, known as Champ. The locals even hold parades to honor him, her, it, whatever, I'm trying to be politically correct. Are sea serpents political? I'll have to check.

In the town of Port Henry, NY on the Fourth of July, they have floats in the parade that look like Champ. I guess that's to appease her, so she won't attacking the town and carry off the maidens. If you're ever out on the lake and see what appears to be three or four humps moving across the lake, Well, who's to say. I know that on a foggy morning, I've done some second guessing, and kept a lookout over my shoulder.

There's a great fort at Crown Point near Port Henry with authentic guards and pageants which are always fun to watch. The greatest fort you'd ever want to see is just a little south of there in Tieconderoga, NY. That's where we usually stay, But I'm getting ahead of myself.

There is a Large bay on this lake, know as Bulwaggen Bay (Bull-Wagon), just behind Crown Point Fort, which is where I first launched old Fambo into this lake just a few years ago. I found myself astounded by the fish population. This was my first visit to a large body of water and I thought that half of the fish in the world had to be under my boats keel. Every where I went there were more fish. I thought I must have died and gone to fishermen's heaven.

It was then that I became hooked on these vast lakes and decided that I could always fish the smaller lakes in the neighborhood on weekends, but when I had the time and money to go on vacation I would never be deterred by these seemingly scary large lakes.

If you look at a map of Champlain you will see that it can be broken up into five vast areas, the northern end, where we find the hero islands, North and South, and Isle of La Mott, also Alburg and St. Albans. But if you look you'll see this area is nothing but a bunch of small lakes connected by canals.

The center, known as the broads is huge, but even that can be looked at as smaller areas, Mallets Bay is an average lake, but with a lot more fish. The area around the Otter Creeks is a weeks worth of exploring. While in the south, from the Champlain bridge to Whitehall is just like any large river. Each of the areas has lots of boat launches and Motels so that you can stay close by and get to the fishing without traveling great distances by boat or car. I put together five features about old Champlain, so lets start to explore the largest lake in the Northeast.

Up north at the border, that's the Canadian border, Mom and I will take a look at the different areas around each launch. But you should first stop at a Marina and pick up a good chart.

In the town of Rouses Point there is a marina with a launch. Also the local fish and game club has a launch, which if you stop by the barber shop and ask they might let you use it, for a small fee. When you use either of these launches, just look behind you. The old train trestle is obvious, good Largemouth, Pike, and Crappie.

Also there is a good launch at Great Chazy River. This river is good for Crappie in the spring. The Crappie run up the rivers in the spring to spawn. Pick a river anywhere on the lake and in the spring as the temperatures change the crappie will come in great numbers. A small black or white Smelly Jelly grub, swimming along the shore lines is about all it takes. Because of the size of Champlain the spawn will start in the south in May and continue to work its way north, so that you could fish spring conditions till the end of June. That's true for most species on this lake. I've seen spawning Bass at Crown Point in early July every year I've been there.

Up at Rouses Point, all along the town shoreline you will find cribs, ruins, and docks. The Northern Pike and Bass are abundant here.

Across the lake is Windmill Point, which stretches of into the lake for a quarter of a mile and is marked with buoys, the Smallmouth here are huge. In the fall Mom caught 40, Three pound fish, in 2 hours. She thought that this qualified as a good chose as a home site. She was just throwing a white and gold Wordens spinner, randomly in all directions. That's an excellent color on this lake. Gold gitzits work well also.

Watch for breaks in the bottom conditions. What I mean is, when the bottom changes, like from rock to sand or sand to grass or vise versa. The fish patrol this line where the change is. Sometimes they'll set in the rocks and watch the sand, or in the grass and watch the rocks.

A new style of fishing has come to light in the past few years. Split shotting, as its called, is the art of putting your lure on the line, say a Powerbait grub and then place a 1/4 oz split shot on the line about 18 inches up. So what's so new about that? Any kid can tell you that's how you fish an earth worm for Trout in a stream. Well the Lake Trout fishermen up north here on Champlain have taken this art to the limit. They take a 3 inch McKnight spoon and put it on the end of the line and about 30 inches up they attach it to a 8 pound, that's right, 8 pound down rigger ball and drag the ball along the bottom. Sometimes they bounce it. This is all done in 80 to 100 feet of water. The idea is to stir up the bottom, and make noise, the Lake Trout will come to investigate. The ball of course is hung on the down rigger cable, and the line is clipped to it. Whether you are fishing an earth worm , a grub, or spoon the technique is the same. Drag the shot on the bottom, and the fish will hear and see the commotion and come to eat.

For lake Trout in the spring, troll a copper Wob-Lure spoon on the surface. Then as the seasons change, go down with the spoons as the fish follow the cooler water temperatures down. These techniques work from the Crown Bridge North. There are a few Rainbows and Brown around but the Lake Trout, are what the quest is for. The Laker's are found in the deeper reaches south of the Isle of LaMott and over on the Vermont side around St.Albans. You can launch at St.Albans Point.

Well you folks will have to wait for a moment. Mom wants to stop for a coffee Float. According to my Timex, she's right.

A coffee float? That's what she calls a coffee break on the boat. She brings the coffee, black, in the thermos and mixes it the way I like it. Usually she keeps the sugar, which is for me, in a Tupper ware salt shaker, and measures it out as best she can. Well one time she grabbed the real salt shaker. That gulp, erupted from me like a whale spouting, and sounded, about the same. Every now and then I still make that sound, just to see her eyes bug out. She brings pastry and fruit. That's what's fun about having Mom along. She adds some class. Mom is my fishin buddy, my... Well you know.

On to Sandy Point, that's where the bridge crosses from Alburg to Hog Island. The launch next to the bridge is very good, this spot has so many fish.

City Ledge, to McGregor Point ledge, line the buoy markers up and just throw your spinnerbait around. I also like to use a Sluggo here. This bait is fantastic over the cribs.

Speaking of cribs. Right next to the bridge is a train trestle, fish it. And next to the trestle, if you look very carefully you will find a crib, one on each shoreline and if you line them up there is a crib every 100 feet crossing from one shore to the other. They hold down the phone line.

Off Hog Island point are rock piles, they're all over the point and marked with milk bottles by the local fishermen.

The Alburg Passage has a weed line on both sides just jumping with Bass and Pike. The Family Boat, Mom and I live on the tongue of land that separates this passage from the La Motte Passage. It's called point of tongue. Maybe you'll see old Fambo tied up at our dock. Say hello.

Carry Bay is good everywhere, just spinnerbait the weeds. A black jig with Super Pork is great in the weeds here. The campgrounds in Carry Bay has a launch.

Gull Island Reef, unbelievable. Cloak Island, there's a hump near the point.

Here's a spot for you to go looking for, on the south end of Isle La Motte is a rock with a red paint mark on it, don't miss it, just fish straight out from there. You'll have to go out about 40 yards and you'll find huge rocks and Smallmouth Bass.

The Gut, lots of Pike and Bass. Fish the edges of the weed lines. This spot is big enough for you to spend the day here. There's a boat launch at the marina. Some of the largest limits ever entered in a tournament come from here. Competitors will run all the way from Tieconderoga just for a days catch.

Ladd point, this spot can be hot, Mom fished a white Poe's crankbait here and almost broke her Windmill point record. The next day we stopped by and couldn't catch a single fish there. I guess she must have wounded them all, or else they saw Fambo and knew better then to bit anything.

I can't stand it any longer. I'm going fishing, see you in the next Episode. Yo, Mom pack a lunch, and don't forget the coffee sugar/salt shaker.

Lake Champlain - Part 2
Lake Champlain - Part 3
Lake Champlain - Part 4
Lake Champlain - Part 5

Lake Champlain - Part 6

If you found this article helpful, go to www.thefamilyboat.com and get all of Dale’s 30 years of experience fishing Lake Champlain in Bass Fishing 101 - Lake Champlain

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