Here’s a little riddle for you: What’s massive, teeming with life, largely overlooked and flows right through the heart of the Capital Region…oh, and has been a world-class fishing destination for decades? That would be the one and only Hudson River and all of its tributaries. This 315-mile river that’s so historically significant to our region is also a freshwater fishing wonderland, rich with opportunities for anglers of all kinds. From spring’s migratory striped bass fishing to fall’s smallmouth bass bonanza, there’s always something willing to “stretch your line” when you’re fishing the Hudson.
Nothing attracts anglers from all over the east coast like our spring striped bass run, which takes place during the months of April and May and into early June. The massive striped bass follow the herring into the river during spawning season and feed on them—and that’s where us anglers come into play. We can experience some success with a variety of fishing methods, but the most common techniques are “trolling,” when a baited fishing line is drawn through the water via a moving boat; or you just bait your line with live or dead herring cut into chunks. Usually by late April, the smaller males will be the first to arrive, and later in the spring, as the water warms, the larger females (a.k.a. “cows”) will start to appear. These are the big breeders and will generally be larger, weighing as much as 60 pounds (!) in some cases. The potential for catching a 20- to 30-pound fish is not uncommon during this time of year—but practicing catch and release with these trophy fish is a good idea to ensure a healthy population for future anglers to enjoy.
The striper run, although absolutely world-class, provides a relatively short window of action, and anglers need to learn to time the migration to experience the best fishing. If you miss out, fear not! The Hudson’s waters also play host to smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye and catfish. Smallmouth bass fishing is gaining popularity, and it’s no surprise why, as it’s become common for anglers to reel in these acrobatic “bronze backs,” which can weigh up to six pounds. The perfect set-up for action that will produce bass, walleye and an occasional pike is a simple jig and a spinning rod. Find a dam, spillway, rocky shoreline or even a deep swirling pool, and you will generally find fish in close proximity.
For the business end of things, it’s going to be a game of jigs—jigs of many sizes and colors—that provide you with a very simple approach to fishing. I will typically start by running a quarter-ounce white lead jig head for a variety of applications. Tip this jig with a live minnow or a variety of plastics. I like Berkley Gulp! baits, paddle tail swim style baits and B Fish N Tackle Pulse-R Paddle Tails. Depending on depth and how fast the current is, you can try using a lighter or heavier jig to get a good feeling of what the bait is doing as you retrieve it. Make these adjustments until you can “feel” the jig skip over rocks and occasionally touch bottom on the retrieve.
If you haven’t had the chance to get out and fish the Hudson, I’d highly recommend it. Whether you’re trolling for striped bass or another species, I’m sure there will be a fish or two nearby for the taking. Come enjoy more than 300 miles of breathtaking views, fantastic fishing and numerous public access points. I’m sure you’ll be “hooked” on fishing in no time.