Multi-species Fishing on the Napanee River

The Napanee River is where some of my earliest fishing experiences took place many years ago. I was born and raised in the area and still visit frequently to enjoy the multi-species fishing opportunities on the Napanee River. The River is located in Lennox & Addington County beginning at Camden Lake, passing through the communities of Yarker, Camden East, Newburg and Napanee. The river eventually empties into the Bay of Quinte, a tributary of Lake Ontario.

Exploring the River

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Anticipating the next bite.

The majority of my adventures on the River have taken place below the waterfall at Springside Park Falls and throughout the winding River heading southwest towards the mouth. Over the years I’ve shore-fished from the banks of the park and covered plenty of miles wetting a line by kayak, or by joining friends aboard their boats. Now as a boat owner myself, I enjoy getting out with friends and family in pursuit of the variety of species the river offers. Although I’ve spent so much time on the water here over the years, it’s still one of my favourite spots to explore.

A New Project

This spring and summer I’ll be working with Lennox & Addington County blogging about a few of my favourite bodies of water in the region and also exploring some new locations. With the Napanee River being so close to my heart, I figure it is the perfect place to start with my first blog in this series!

Spring on the River

Spring is easily my favourite time of year on the river surrounding walleye and pike opener, but there are so many other species to enjoy! I set out two weekends ago on a mission to check off a few of these species for this blog post. Launching at the Municipal Boat Launch Parking Lot, Eric and I began making our way down the river. It didn’t take long for me to pick up the first walleye of the trip on a 1/4-ounce VMC Moon Eye Jig with a 3″ Yum Walleye Grub.

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A Napanee River walleye chomped down on a 1/4-ounce VMC Moon Eye Jig with a 3″ Yum Walleye Grub.

Positioning our boat adjacent to weed lines, we casted along the edges and into the weeds. The key is ensuring the jig connects with bottom. I’ll cast out, let it sink, pick up the slack line and hop/snap the jig allowing it to touch bottom again. I continue this as I work it back to the boat. We both got into a few nice walleye this way, typically getting our strikes when the jig was dropping.

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My nicest walleye of the weekend.

A Variety of Catches

In addition to the walleye, Eric picked up a nice channel cat on his jig. We also got into a hot freshwater drum (AKA sheepshead) pattern and some white bass too!

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Eric’s beauty channel cat.
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Eric threw a Rippin’ Rap in the channel and the drum were loving it!

Drum are quite underrated but they grow HUGE and are so strong as they have such giant fins to propel themselves. I lost count on how many we landed but I’ve included some images of the larger ones we boated. It was a riot getting into so many drum and by mid-day our arms were sore.

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One of my biggest drum of the weekend.
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Eric’s big-bellied drum.

We noticed white bass were feeding on fry at the surface so we spent some time chasing these beautiful feisty fish as well. Some other species landed included perch, pumpkinseeds, and I lost a nice black crappie at the side of the boat. The variety is incredible here!

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A beautiful white bass. They were loving the jigs, too!

Water Clarity

As with any river, water clarity changes depending on the weather (rainfalls and water levels). The water was stained during our visit so we focused on bright-coloured presentations for better visibility and contrast. In addition to the jigs and Rippin’ Raps, we also threw bright spinner baits for pike along the edges and overtop of weeds. I picked up a couple more walleye on a spinnerbait as well which is a common occurrence here.

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Eric’s spinnerbait northern pike.

Longnose Gar

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Longnose gar – such a unique and prehistoric fish!

Growing up with a lot of time spent on the river, I have been fortunate to check a few species off my bucket list here. The most unique one has to be the longnose gar. My very first time landing a gar was from my kayak when I was able to sight-fish for them in the shallows on a sandy flat. Since then, I aim to chase gar on the river every spring when they stack up on and nearby the shallows. If you keep an eye out for them on the river you’ll often see them cruising in small schools or surfacing. I was thrilled when we began spotting some gar surfacing, and tied on a small jerkbait (the Rapala X-Rap in a size 4).

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My favourite for gar is a small Rapala X-Rap (in either size 4 or size 6).

This presentation has been my go-to for gar as the small hooks work well in penetrating their narrow mouths. Gar often go absolutely bananas when hooked and can be tricky to not only hook, but also to land. My advice is to set the hook hard and keep the pressure on (not allowing any slack line). A landing glove can be handy for handling these toothy creatures as they do have very sharp teeth.

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Eric loves gar, too!

Beyond Spring

These are just a few species I love to chase during spring, but the river is also home to largemouth and smallmouth bass, common carp and more. Rainbow trout have been stocked in the river, and chinook salmon make their way up to the falls to spawn during autumn. This fishery is certainly diverse and it’s no wonder it keeps me coming back for more! To learn more about Lennox and Addington County, visit: http://www.naturallyla.ca/

If you’re thinking on fishing the Napanee River this season, feel free to reach out with any questions. Please subscribe to my blog below and future posts will be delivered to your inbox.

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