Hot weather action, floating the Schoharie Creek

Capt. Steve George with a nice Schoharie smallmouth. (Photo courtesy of Steve George )

While our bigger waters get most of the attention in the summer, there is a jewel tucked away just to the south that is rich in both history and fish.

The Schoharie Creek gets overlooked as a source of good walleye and smallmouth bass. In the upper reaches and in some of its tributaries, trout are stocked and hold throughout the year. The Schoharie Creek flows northward from Indian Head Mountain in the Catskills and empties into the Mohawk River at Fort Hunter. Numerous tributaries feed the creek as it snakes its way through the Schoharie Valley.

The history of the Schoharie Valley during the Revolutionary War is well documented locally and as one fishes the creek, it’s easy to imagine some of the history that played out along its banks. Both settlers and Native Americans called the Schoharie Valley and the Schoharie Creek home. As tensions rose, there was not a lot of harmony between the people along this slow moving water.

The Schoharie Creek above the Schoharie Reservoir is considered a cold water fishery and it is stocked with both rainbow and brown trout. Occasionally brook trout from some of the upper reaches and the tributaries there are caught. Below the reservoir, its considered a warm water fishery with walleye, smallmouth bass, and carp as the dominant species. The river is subject to flooding and rapid fluctuations in water velocity, temperature, water levels, and clarity (if that even is a thing in the Schoharie) so monitoring weather patterns is critical to know what to expect when planning a trip.

Access onto the creek is provided by numerous DEC access and parking areas. I have used many of these areas and there is always ample parking. There is a boat ramp at the conveyance of the two waterways but the Schoharie is shallow and not suited for large motor boats. To navigate the numerous riffles and pools, kayaks, canoes, and float tubes are recommended. Launching a kayak or canoe is easy at any location. The DEC has great information and mapping of location to access the river (www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/pfrschoharie.pdf).

The view of Route 88 and the boulders that held a lot of bass. Below, Jeri Kiburtz with a Schoharie smallmouth. (Photos courtesy of Steve George)

My last voyage onto the creek was from the access under Route. 88. From here, large pools and fast water can be found so there is a variety of water to fish.

My species “du jour” for this outing was smallmouth bass. I chose a 4-weight St. Croix fly rod with a 4-weight double taper fly line. As leader, I used about eight feet of 6-pound fluorocarbon line. This combination presents small flies, floating bass poppers, and streamers very well and the rod has enough backbone to handle larger fish.

Since I grew up as a dry fly guy, I started off the day using a small white deer hair popper and targeted boulders, fast moving riffles, and downed logs hoping a bass or walleye would be hiding nearby. Once the popper hit the water, I used small (6 to 8 inch) strips and twitches to imitate a struggling bug and to ignite the strike.

I soon found out that the creek holds a lot of fish and a wide range of age classes. While young fish are not a hard fighters, it’s encouraging to know there is a ample breeding and recruitment of fish.

In the deeper pools, I switched from top water floating bugs to streamers and crayfish patterns. All of the flies I used produced fish, which is encouraging and a great confidence builder.

Jeri Kiburtz with a Schoharie smallmouth. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)

In some of the larger pools I stripped a streamer along the banks and also near larger boulder and other structure. Floating around the larger pools and below fast moving water proved to be fruitful and the rewards were immediate. Larger bass were holding in the deeper pockets of the creek. Between boulders in fast current, I selected a #10 custom AWGS crawfish and it produced several fish. As evening came, the bite picked up and bass could be found actively feeding along the vegetated shoreline.

While the Schoharie didn’t produce any “lunkers”, the action was hot on a lazy summer day and it was a very enjoyable fishing trip. The Schoharie abounds with wildlife and beaver, muskrat, mink, red fox, deer, osprey, eagle, red-winged black birds, eastern bluebirds, wild turkey, cedar waxwings, and numerous warblers were all seen in a matter of 4 to 5 hours. Since fishing isn’t all about catching fish, the experience on the quiet slow water filled with wildlife was worth the effort. The Schoharie is a great choice for anyone fishing with kids and a boat is not necessary because the shoreline is rocky and walk able.

Good to see the “youngsters out playing.” (Photo courtesy of Steve George)