5/23 – 5/25 Cayuga Lake


Fishing was a bit spottier for us over the past three days.  Surface temps are rising quickly.  Baitfish are abundant and all over the place both shallow and deep.

5/23:  Back out with Mark and Kevin out of Long Point.  We encountered heavy fog on the lake when we started at 8 am.  Given that it was a holiday weekend and there were a bunch of cigar boats and assorted other boaters out there I decided to get the guys away from high traffic areas.  There’s nothing scarier than being out on a lake with 50′ of visibility and hearing some idiot blindly motoring along as if he had the lake to himself/herself.   (Usually it’s a guy.)  On Kevin’s first drop he hooked a nice laker that we got in.  But the bite was spotty for us.  A former client of mine did great fishing in the fog but as I mentioned in my last post, if you aren’t in the right area at the right time, you can miss out this time of year.

Kevin doesn’t do much freshwater fishing at all, so we decided on getting some action with the pickerel up north.  The toothy critters didn’t let us down and we had some good sport with them.  Later on we went back to lake trout and picked up a few more in some different areas.

5/24: Long Point with Rob and Victoria – Had some tougher fishing today (again) with Rob and Victoria.  Rob’s a former fly-fishing student of mine from Cornell.  He does a lot of saltwater fishing all over the place.  Victoria hadn’t freshwater fished before and has been getting into the saltwater fishing with Rob.  We tried shallow for lakers/salmon to start near Long Point with stickbaits and bladebaits.  Rob had a follow or two from salmon. Victoria had a hit or two that were likely lakers but the fishing was a fraction of what it was during the cold water period.

We set up for some jigging around 100′ to 120′ and Rob nabbed a couple solid lakers and Victoria got one.  The bite was slow to start but really picked up just before they had to go.

Solid Laker for Rob

5/25 AM:  Back out with Rob and Victoria – I wasn’t planning on guiding today but Rob wanted to get back out and get Victoria into some more action.  One thing about fishing is that it always keeps me humble.  I would’ve bet the trip fee that we would’ve done well on pickerel today and I would have lost.   I’ve said this before, but any fish can be challenging at times.  People sometimes take pickerel for granted on lakes where they are ubiquitous like on Oneida and Cayuga, but like pike they have their feeding periods and times they slow down.

We checked out a couple laker areas on the way north and Rob nabbed a gorgeous 29″ wild fish.  We went north for pickerel and he landed a smaller one but I couldn’t get Victoria going on any of them.  She had a few hits and follows but nada.  South winds (and likely carp) had really muddied up some areas.  Midday can be slow plus on Memorial Day the boat traffic can put the shallow fishing down at times.  I notice it on holidays like July 4th in the afternoon.   We gave it a great shot and fished a few different areas.

So we went back south for lakers.  Rob managed another great wild fish at 30″ – his personal best.  So all in all it was still a satisfying day, but not what I was hoping for.  I usually try not to change gears on a given 1/2 day.  It can bite you in the butt, because you can miss the bite windows and get impatient, but after Thursday when we were able to hammer pickerel and lake trout on a half day, I figured not much would’ve changed.  I was wrong!

Great Wild Fish for Rob - 29"

30" wild laker on Cayuga

Seneca Derby thoughts:  The laker bite wound up being brutal for people I talked to.  Imagine fishing for three days and not landing a fish!  That’s harsh.  Even last year’s winners went a full day without a fish.   Top lakers didn’t even hit 10lbs, though on the bright side the landlockeds looked great – some 8 to 10lb salmon were weighed in and a salmon wound up taking the grand prize for the first time in derby history.

A friend of mine didn’t think it made sense, that with all of the bait out there (and there’s miles of it) combined with low numbers of lake trout, you’d expect to see some monster lakers.  Many people don’t realize that lake trout are slow growing fish.  I don’t think they are even catchable until they are around 4 years old on Seneca. Of course growth rates vary by the fishery.  Large adult lakers – the old fish that are usually the “bread and butter” of the fishery were mostly killed off by lampreys over the past 5 or 6 years.  People reported seeing lots of dead lakers on the bottom of Seneca Lake’s south end around 4 or 5 years ago.  Some folks thought there was a water chemistry issue or a pollution issue, but what do you think happens when lampreys kill lake trout?   You wind up with hundreds of carcasses on the bottom of the lake.  The fish bodies don’t just vaporize.   And each adult lamprey that spends its year, to year and a half existence on the lake can kill 30lbs worth of trout.   So do the math – 5,000 adult lampreys could wipe out 150,000 pounds of trout in a year and a half.  If the average trout is 3lbs, you’re looking at 50,000 adults gone in 18 months.  Now I have no idea how many lampreys were in Seneca Lake, but whether it was 1,000 or 10,000 you can see the effect that they would have.

Seneca is getting better by the year.  A lot of surplus brown trout were stocked in the lake this year and DEC is talking about upping the salmon stocking.   Browns and salmon grow quickly – a brown trout stocked as a yearling that’s been in a lake for a year is usually around 16″ or better.  The same applies for salmon. A brown or salmon with two years in the lake is usually around 19″ to 22″ or so and it just goes up from there. With all the bait in the lake, you now have a buffer for cormorant predation too.  These browns and salmon (along with rainbows) will help fill the void that we’ll see for lakers this year.  Remember that DEC did find good numbers of hatchery lakers that were maybe two years away from “recruiting” into the fishery a couple years ago.  So hopefully we’ll see better lake trout fishing next year.  It certainly can’t get any or much worse.

Heavy alewife numbers suppress the perch population as well.  So don’t expect any improvement in the perch fishing here any time soon.  But pike and bass should show some good growth rates.  DEC will be doing a lot of netting on the lake this year and they’ll be assessing the bass population for the first time ever (or at least in my lifetime) in order to get some baseline indexing numbers.  It should be interesting!