The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Ontario's Bass Grounds
Mexico Independent (Mexico, NY), 22 Aug 1888

Full Text
Ontario's Bass Grounds
Great Mexico Bay - Oswego - Picturesque
Fishing - Exquisite Scenery

By Wm. H. Ballou

Great Mexico Bay of Lake Ontario has a surface of about 500 square miles. It is one of the largest bays on the globe. It is certainly one of the most gloriously beautiful; it is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous; it has no rival as the home of that true game - the bass.

Mexico Bay extends from Nine Mile Point, nine miles east of Oswego, to the head of the St. Lawrence river. It is the depository of enormous rocks which are piled in different places nearly to the surface of the water. The vessels, which in storms from the west and northwest, fail to make the harbor at Oswego, usually drift eastward, either upon these rocks, or upon the rock-bound coast and are wrecked. These statements my seem to inveigh against Mexico Bay; I think not. These rocks attract great schools of bass, and we must have bass to fish even if vessels do get wrecked and sailors fail to swim ashore.

Let us start from New York City on the 20th of May and for ten days leisurely kill the trout along the crest of the Catskills. On June 1 we arrive in Oswego. If possible, no, by all means, let us get into the good graces of John A. Barry, the postmaster, better known as the editor of the Daily Palladium, but best known as the veteran angler, or Isaac Walton of Oswego County. Then let us go east 16 miles to Mexico. There we will take a carriage and drive to Mexico Point, five miles north. We are now a the very center of the bay and at the principal home of the bass.

There are several little inns at the Point and plenty of small craft lying in the mouth of Little Salmon River. As a matte of anomaly the little hamlet back of the Point is called Texas and its nearest neighbor is the village of Mexico. If we can, let us invite Henry Humphries, editor of the Mexico Independent. While mine host is preparing our skiff, let us look around.

Mexico Point is a high stretch of ground and on its tip is a beautiful collection of old pines. In the little Wright's inn, which has stood there for a quarter of a century one gets the blending of their odors with that of the great lake, the saw-dust smell of the river, the has of flags of the marsh. It is a delicious breath, continuous and invigorating.

For miles and miles the bay curves away beyond Stony Point. The semi-centenarian light house is visible at Port Ontario and another shaft miles beyond at Stony Point. Lofty hills of sand die the big duck marshes towards Sandy Creek, and at their feet the beach is so hardy, straight and level, that the United States Coast Survey had to acknowledge its supremacy and build its northern base line here. Its two lofty towers, one mile apart, are ever visible.

All along the coast in either direction are little inns where the bass fishers and summer pleasure seekers find shelter, and which add to the picturesqueness of he scene. But that which attracts one's attention for hors and days is the marvelous panorama towards the east. There stretch the Oswego mountains, the very footstools of the Adirondacks and at their feet the enormous curve of the bay.On those grand old hillsides, nature paints an ever shifting scene, with blues of mountain haze, rises of morning suns, resplendent sunsets, gorgeous moonrises, rains, lightnings, farmers ever busy in the fields, greens of spring, golds of summer, blazes of autumn crimson, birds, songs, flowers, poems of nature.

Does the enwrapped spectator pause for breath? There is a bend in the river at this side that would immortalize the brush of any artist - a mass of green ruses studded with wild flowers and overarched with chestnut trees of plant-carpeted groves. For further views are scurrying craft, yachts, frowning rockbound coasts, dunes of sand, greg riparian trees conspicuous with the nests of he eagle and osprey, but lastly, and to me best of all, the unbounded blue of blended water and sky. And here let us be thankful that there are notes and resorts, no booms, no peddling in lots, no fawning agents in real estate, no dress suits, no decollete, nothing but nature, simple, pure, grand and invigorating.

The boat is ready and angler Barry has fixed his position aft. He carries an eight-ounce rod and yards of line. If the boat moves up the river he manages to make long casts into all the corners, and if on the lake he tries to cast across or land his fly on Blue Island, forty miles distant. "Too early for fly casts," he mutters, and settles down to business.

He attaches a minnow to the hook on the end of his line and several flies at distances of one yard apart. The boat moves slowly and noiselessly over the great rocks visible at deep depths. We can see the bass "standing" listlessly as we pass by. We can judge when the baits pass over the school so slowly that the minnows seem to the bass to be leisurely swimming about.

There is a rush. A five pound bass has taken the hook, and as he feels the prick, darts out towards open sea. No use; the angler guides him slowly towards the boat; he comes to the surface with a mad whip of his tail and the wicked oarsman runs out a little net on a long pole and imprisons him. For hours we enjoy the sport, the fleet of anglers in little craft gradually enlarges; it is 11 o'clock and we return to the inn to lunch, enjoy our tobacco - except our country editor, who would not pollute even the columns of his paper with advertisements of the weed - to enjoy the delicious air and scenery from the veranda, or take a sail out on our little sloop until three o'clock, when we will fish until dark.

But who is it that scores the most of finny victims? The veteran, the country editor or your servant? Neither as a rule. It is that cunning oarsman with an ordinary line, who drops a minnow over the side of the boat, and, with jerk after jerk lands the susceptible bass without science and with stolid and indifferent whiffs of his old clay pipe. One of our bass is a world of enjoyment to us, but one of our dollars is the cartwheel on which rolls all his life.

Draw a circle with a radius of 30 miles at Mexico Point and in it is a summer's full play. The sorriest of the little streams running into the lake are prolific in trout. No grander water fall in the world is there than that of the Big Salmon river in the deep ravine far up the crest of those Oswego mountains. There are trout for you and immature scenery of wild grandeur.

Nor must we forget the glorious scenery and fishing on the Oswego river all the way from Oswego to Fulton, 12 miles from the lake. One can almost drive forever and forever be charmed with the driving, in addition to sailing and fishing.

There is one road which leads to Mexico which to me is a five-mile poem painting. You turn to the left at Texas, cross rustic bridges, pass rustic churches and old farm houses, and finally drive under an archway of grand maples, until you have climbed to Mexico, 400 feet above the lake, entertained with those miles of charming views on the Oswego mountains. Mexico is one of the most beautiful villages, and from its aged academy have emanated many famous men.

Oswego itself affords days of pleasure, with its gravel beach drives, broad avenue and river and harbor picturesqueness, Then it has a yacht club, undoubtedly with the best fleet of yachts, steam and sail, on the lakes. These yachts usually rendezvous at Mexico Point on Sundays, or stroll, as it were, toward the westward. The club is splendidly organized and seldom loses any laurels at the many contests among fresh water clubs.

To me, Lake Ontario is sort of mother of waters, she's so beautiful, with eyes of deepest indigo blue, with contour as graceful as the swan's sublime in anger, never petulant and destructive like Lake Erie. - Saturday Evening Herald.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Date of Publication:
22 Aug 1888
Personal Name(s):
Barry, John A. ; Humphries, Henry
Richard Palmer
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.5388734574936 Longitude: -76.2716341796875
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Ontario's Bass Grounds