Kensico and a Passion Rekindled

I’ve developed a special place in my heart for Kensico Reservoir up in Westchester. Now, I live down in Brooklyn in a steel and glass box, but my closet is full of rods and tackle. After too long not fishing, I decided to start fishing again. It started two years back, with a guys-only family fishing trip to Lake Anna, down in Fredericksburg, VA where my brother is sooo lucky to live a mere 30 min. drive from. We got skunked all morning and then hooked-up with a bunch of tasty catfish. That’s pretty much all your gonna catch on a Pontoon boat. When I got back to NY, I realized I needed to bring fishing back into my life. Soon after, after I spent the night at my friends place in Long Beach, I caught my first stripers surf fishing. It was one of those “we weren’t supposed to catch anything” midday activities where you go and pull two +30″ at the wrong time of day–RIGHT in front of his apartment building. Sheer joy.

I grew-up fishing Lake Erie and waters all around the Cuyahoga, which is a spectacular fishery for smallmouth, walleye, perch. I have a fondness for a place called “Shadow Lake” outside of Cleveland, Oh. Not only did I catch my first rainbow there, I caught a dog (our family dog Duke–but that’s a story for another time). So, I’m a freshwater fisherman at heart. I was amazed to learn of all the amazing freshwater fishing within an hour’s drive of Gotham. Kensico, Croton, Armonk–all amazing, beautiful, well-kept secrets. These reservoirs are all state-owned, and incredibly well-regulated by the DEP. They are part of the Catskill Watershed that supply New York with our freshwater supply. There are no power boats allowed, no homes with big ugly docks, and these manmade lakes appear isolated and empty, blessedly devoid of human habitation…and then there are no paths and piers  either. If you want to explore the reservoirs you’ll need to buy and stow a rowboat on them. The permitting process isn’t complicated and I’m seriously considering putting a boat on Kensico. Its just a gorgeous reservoir. Actually, the reservoir was built in 1915, damming the Bronx river. In some places its over 60′ deep. And that means good habitat for Lake and Brown Trout, also, largemouth and smallies. The trout are stocked but the bass population has settled in on their own I think. The remains of the town of Kensico are somewhere at the bottom of my favorite lake.

Kensico Dam this is one of the most impressive dams I’ve ever seen. Also, there’s a lovely little park right in front. On the way up to the reservoir, you start climbing a road up the valley. You get wonderful glimpses of the lake through the woods, and if you look carefully, you’ll see “jonboats” tucked up in the coves. Here’s the dam being built 95 years ago…hmm, the centennial is coming up. Hope they celebrate this amazing work of engineering.

I’ve pulled some gorgeous smallmouth bass out of Kensico, right off the bridge on Rye Lake… the place is flush with smallies and yes, these suckers fight. I hauled in these aggressive ones going after my stickbait as a massive school of shiners was swimming up back and forth. Two of these babies leapt clear out of the water. I did make a mistake with these though–I kept them before the season was open. Some of my fishing buddies scolded me for that one–always check your season dates. I didn’t mean any harm, but there’s a reason for the season, not to mention the DEP could have busted my ass. Oh, and you’ll need a fishing license, AND DEP reservoir permit, if you intend to fish the reservoirs. The DEP really does check. They’ve got powerboats on the water.

It took me three trips to land my first “Laker” (Lake Trout). Kensico isn’t an easy lake to fish, it take patience and getting to know the other fisherman, the holes, the season.

Lately, I’ve been flying up to Boston almost every week for work. Its a 35 min. flight that takes you up the coast over Westchester into Connecticut and into the Boston-area. On a clear day, its quite lovely. I always sit on the left side of the plane so I can get a good look at the reservoirs and lakes from the air. I spot Kensico, note my favorite holes, the bridge and smile. Last week I was up in Boston again for an “offsite”. I brought the rod and my tacklebox. I figured if it sucked I could bolt and maybe throw one in the Charles River, but it was not to be. On the drive home, I realized, however, that my route would take me right by Kensico. I had about thirty minutes before the sun set. I whipped off 684 and high-tailed it down to the bridge. Nine casts later I hooked up with something big. I figured it had to be a carp but as the fish came up I realized I was on to my first Chain Pickerel. Gorgeous. Rows of sharp teeth. Catch and release. I didn’t have my camera, but I’ll never forget it. Here’s a fine example.

3 thoughts on “Kensico and a Passion Rekindled

  1. Carlos

    I caught a 35 pound brown at Kensico, there are monsters in there…There may be some really large muskellunge in that lake. I’ve heard things leap in the water that had to weigh over 100 lbs…I had a nice 14 foot boat there for many years and I would go out a t 5 pm on friday night and leave the lake 5 pm saturday…The most fun is the smallmouth action. If you want some really big largemouths in there go into the dark hollow area…About 40 yards in cast really big baits into the rocky shore at the right side…You’re gonna love that lake.


    1. Carlos, thanks for the comment! I too have seen some epic fish pulled out of Kensico, but 35lbs is just INSANE. I follow the guys on WestchesterFishing forums and they are experts at trolling. I’m looking forward to the fall spawn when they come back up to the shore so I can try to get the browns and lakers on a fly on the surface. I love Kensico, but you definitely have to put the time in.

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