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Van Cortlandt Lake

Van Cortlandt Lake and the surrounding forests

While the forest of Van Cortlandt Park is known for its high tree density, the lake is known for its high density of yellow perch. If yellow perch are not your first fishing choice, don't worry; - this lake offers at least eight other species of fish for your angling enjoyment.

Physical Features:

Elevation: 15 feet
Area: 18 acres
Shoreline Length: 0.81 miles
Approximate average depth: 4 - 8 feet


Shoreline access varies from flat grassy areas to steeper-sloped wooded areas. While the latter may be more challenging for first-time anglers your efforts to reach these areas could be rewarded with the catch of a decent-sized fish. For public transportation directions to Van Cortlandt and other New York City lakes see the related link, "Getting to NYC Freshwater Fishing Locations."

Getting to Van Cortlandt Lake via Mass Transit
Take the 1 train to 242nd St and walk east into the park; the lake is located adjacent to the public golf course.
Take the BxM3 or Bx10 bus to Van Cortlandt Park S and Van Cortlandt Ave W. Walk north into the park; the lake is next to the public golf course

Fish Species:

Largemouth bass, Black crappie, Brown bullhead, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Golden shiner, Common carp, White sucker, Yellow perch


To catch yellow perch and sunfish, use a bobber, bait (worms and hotdogs work well) and small hook (size 8) suspended in the water column. The large brown bullhead catfish of Van Cortlandt Lake can be caught with worms or hotdogs placed at the lake's bottom. Try using chartreuse-colored lures like spinners for largemouth bass and crappies.


Special fishing regulations apply (leaving DEC website to official Fishing Regulations Guide vendor website).

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation rules require the use of non-lead weights and barbless hooks.

Fisheries Survey:

A DEC electrofishing survey performed in mid-April, 2009, yielded a large number of young yellow perch from Van Cortlandt Lake. Without significant competition and predation and with enough available prey, these fish could grow into a large year-class of quality-sized yellow perch in three to four years. Another significant finding was several large (12 - 14 inches in length) brown bullhead catfish, some of the largest we have found while surveying New York City lakes. One disappointing survey finding was a low catch rate for largemouth bass. The electrofishing catch per hour for this species was the lowest of the six New York City waterbodies listed below. Water temperature at the time of the survey was less than ideal and might have contributed to the low catch rates. A follow-up survey will help to better characterize the warmwater fish population of this lake.

Largemouth Bass Catch/Hour for Eight New York City Water Bodies (table updated 2016)
Waterbody 8" and over 12" and over 15" and over
Baisley Pond 23 19 10
Central Park Lake 18 15 9
Harlem Meer 106 54 9
Indian Lake 20 20 1
Kissena Lake 12 6 4
Oakland Lake 14 4 0
Prospect Park Lake 53 53 13
Van Cortlandt Lake 47 19 6
Willowbrook Lake 108 15 6