I first fished Black Lake in the early 1970s after moving to the Southern Tier in August of 1969. My next door neighbor Bob, who quickly became my long time fishing and hunting buddy, had a place on the lake in Edwardsville, and I was more than a little excited the first time he asked me if I’d like to go fishing with him over a July weekend. My prior bass fishing experience was limited to catching smallmouths on natural bait mainly in the Susquehanna river. Black lake fishing would be a new experience for me.
As anyone who fishes the lake knows, it is a fairly shallow body of water and it’s home to more than a dozen species of fish from bass to bow fin. Largemouth bass were the species we were mostly after and if anyone knew how to fish the lake and where to find bass it was Bob. I’ve always said fishing is easy once someone shows you how and Bob did just that.
The bays and shallow shoreline of Black Lake feature extensive areas of shallow vegetation that include water lilies, duckweed, milfoil and a variety of filamentous algae that form thick mats that many small birds hunting for a meal can easily walk across. It was precisely in this “slop” where Bob said we would fish for bass. It seems bass, and in many cases pike, brown bullheads and ling, found this thick cover ideally suited to their needs.
“I love seeing a largemouth come to the surface to take a top water lure,” my mentor said as he tied on a Hula Popper. Following suit, I snapped one on to the end of my line as well and we began throwing our offerings into the open patches of water between the lily pads. It wasn’t long before I heard a splash of water and saw Bob’s rod bent from the weight of what seemed like a good fish.
Fishing in thick vegetation means there is little fight in the fish because they immediately become tangled in the dense undergrowth. Boating one usually means rowing over to the spot the fish hit the lure and simply scooping it into the boat with a net.
The fish he had on was barely a foot long, but it came with about three pounds of weeds entangled around the line. This was my first experience fishing for bass in thick mats of green goop. It was fun seeing the hit, but the fight was a little disappointing.
On days the bass weren’t in the mood to hit a surface lure, flipping or dropping a heavily weighted soft bait like a rubber worm in the small open areas between lily pads or holes in the thick mat of vegetation often produced results. The only problem was we never knew what we would catch. Along with the bass, northern pike were often hiding in the depths below the weeds and how they could cut a line without us feeling a hit was amazing. I can’t count the number of jigs and rubber worms we lost to the razor-sharp teeth of the pike. Nevertheless, this technique produced fish when weather or wind put a damper on our surface fishing.
Fishing with top water lures we could cast our offerings from a distance into the open areas, but dropping our weighted lures into holes in the vegetation meant we had to row the boat right into the thickest part of the mat. Hit a few spots, row a few feet and repeat the process. This got us fish when other methods failed. Both methods were new to me then, and I learned a lot about bass fishing I never knew before. As I said, “fishing is easy once someone shows you how.” I had a good teacher.